(A 12 minute read)
You are still riding the high of Christmas and enjoying your vacation from school. It feels like it’s been ages since you were sitting at your desk in the classroom taking spelling tests and solving long division problems. It is an exciting night because unlike any other night of the year (aside from slumber parties) you get to stay up really late, way past your bedtime. Your family goes over to your parents’ friends house and they have kids close to your age. It’s awkward at first since you hardly know the kids. But with all the parents in the living room, laughing, and doing whatever grownups do, you kids in the den quickly become fast friends over board games, foosball, spoons, murder in the dark, and hide ‘n seek. The night stretches out long. You eat more snacks of junk food than you are ever allowed to at home, especially so late at night. The laughing from the living room grows louder. Then you hear someone shout, “It’s almost time!” All the kids drop everything and run into the room with the grown ups, just as a television set in the corner shows a countdown of giant numbers that take up the whole screen. The crowd inside the room hollers out the numbers, and you join in. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…Happy New Years!” All the moms and dads give kisses and dance around. Some have wooden spoons and pots they start banging. Then one of the older kids runs out the sliding glass door and shouts at the top of his lungs, “Happy New Year!” You squeal with delight and run outside to the cool air under the starry sky of midnight and skip in a circle with the other kids yelling with gusto, without a care in the world or concern about waking the neighborhood. Dogs in the distance answer your calls with barks and howls.
Journey is blasting from giant stereo speakers in the corner of the dark living room. The furniture is pushed aside and everyone is dancing. The tv screen has the Dick Clark New Year’s Eve countdown show on. You cannot hear it but you see the time showing only 6 minutes before the stroke of midnight. You run to the hallway bathroom and there is a line. So instead you go into the dining room and check yourself out in the mirror on the wall. You smooth out your monogram sweater, turn and check out your butt in your ditto jeans, then lean in close to the mirror and flash a toothy smile (to make sure nothing is in your braces). You hear a girl from the other room call out, “It’s almost midnight everyone!” You give one last look, twist the front curls of your hair back in the way you’d set them hours earlier with your curling iron. You cup your hand over your mouth and check your breath, then apply some cherry Lip Smacker lip gloss. The room is crowded and loud. You cannot find him as you scan the sea of bobbing heads. Someone cuts off the music and the tv volume is turned up. Dick Clark tells you all that you have two minutes to get near your sweethearts. Where did he go? You find your way over to your friends huddled near the tv. “Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…Happy New Years!” Couples around you start making out. You hug your best friend. And your other best friend. Then you look around the room, a bit too eagerly. You are relieved to see that he is not in this dark room full of teenagers kissing another girl for New Years, he is not even here. The knot of nerves and anticipation that had tangled up all night long suddenly unravelled. There is no time to wrestle with the disappointment or solving the mystery of where he disappeared to. You and your friends have to leave now, you don’t want to be late for curfew.
You can hardly keep your eyes open. You are sober, not drinking because you are pregnant. Very pregnant. You love munching on all of the delicious food around the buffet at the party. Spinach dip with bread chunks, seven layered taco dip and chips, pinwheels, meatballs, platters of meat and cheese, dessert trays of cookies and cupcakes. You eat until you are stuffed and your heartburn starts acting up. Your husband is outside by the makeshift bar having a grand old time, feeling festive and loudly telling stories and laughing. You find a comfy spot on the sofa, to slip off your tight ballet flats since your feet are swelling like the rest of your body. You watch Carson Daily on the MTV New Years Eve special. Another pregnant friend sits nearby and you two swap stories. Tipsy non pregnant friends, with drinks in their hands, listen with fascination and fear about the discomforts of carrying a baby for months. An older guest at the party comes stumbling over and regales you with her delivery stories with more details than you needed. You yawn and glance at your swatch. “Only ten o’clock?” Somehow you survive the next two hours of MC Hammer, Milli Vanilli, and Madonna blaring on the surround sound. The non-pregnant, non-driving partiers celebrate the end of another year. Horns and hats are handed out. Your husband finds you, pulls you up onto your feet and holds you close while the room cheers in unison, “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…Happy New Years!” You kiss the man you love, your husband of four years, and soon to be father. Then you grab your coat and his arm, “We are ready to go home now,” you say as you place your hand on your protruding belly.
“Party like it’s 1999,” were lyrics to the Prince song you listened to in high school, which seemed like so distant. And here you are partying and it is 1999 about to move into 2000, the New Millennium. Every newspaper, magazine and tv news channel has been fixated on this upcoming New Years event, referring to it as the Y2K, and all the anxiety it is causing. Some people worry it is the end of the world. What will happen with the clocks, the computers, the banks, and the airlines? Most people are concerned about how their lives will change from 1999 to 2000. You are optimistic. You just gave birth a few months ago to your fourth child. Life is good. Busy, exhausting, but good. This New Years Eve you are at home with the family. Your husband decorated the house with streamers, and bought hats and horns. The two older kids are excited about the party atmosphere and love the idea of counting backwards like a missile launch. The toddler mimics his older siblings with spastic energy. The baby just sleeps and eats. You are in your stretchy maternity pants, a sweatshirt and slippers. The tv is on with England’s New Year’s Eve countdown (5 hours ahead of New York). The kids are jumping up and down, counting “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…Happy New Years!” They blow horns and dance around the room. Then it is their bedtime. After tucking them in, you and your husband come downstairs and watch Dick Clark in New York Times Square. You both can hardly believe it is the turn of the century. The idea that you will be writing “2000” on your checks is surreal. Or that your baby will be graduating college around 2020. Isn’t that the future time period that Marty McFly travels to? Experts fear that the switch from the two-digit year ’99 to ’00 will wreak havoc on computer systems. Since part of the world has already changed over to 2000 and nothing bad has happened, you are relaxed. Comfortable on the sofa next to your husband, you watch the craziness of the crowded New York streets on tv. Then the ball drops and the east coast crowd counts down, “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…Happy New Years! Happy 2000!” You toast with champagne as you enter into the New Millennium. Your husband turns off the tv and you both go off to bed. You are up fours hours later to feed the baby.
The house is decorated with gold streamers. Music thumps from the bluetooth speaker, the bar is fully stocked, and the kitchen is crowded with people. The adults, including your kids, their cousins, and other families are wearing party hats and beaded necklaces. A spread of potluck appetizers covers the kitchen island. Bottles of champagne and Martinelli’s are chilling on ice. Everyone is in festive moods, the college kids teaching the parents beer pong with red solo cups and ping pong balls, then the parents artfully bouncing quarters into glasses from their college days. No time during this celebration do you ponder the upcoming slate-cleaning of December 31. You did that earlier in the day. You thought of new year’s resolutions (dieting or joining a gym). The year before it was Oprah’s Gratitude Journal. The year before you reorganized your whole house with Marie Condo. Maybe it will be to use the Bullet Journal. Or the new gym membership. Those things begin in the morning (or maybe a few days later since you still have all of the football bowl games to watch and football snacks that accompany those games). Those resolutions will start in a few days, and with any luck, continue past February. For now, it’s time to turn up Ryan Seacrest and Dick Clark, “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…Happy New Years!” Nobody goes to bed, the music turns back up.
It is New Years Eve and you are content to have no plans of hosting or going anywhere. Just a couple of empty-nesters relaxing in a quiet house that remains littered with gift wrapping and ribbons underneath a lit up Christmas tree . Your kids are off celebrating (with husband, fiancé, girlfriend, and college friends). You two are eating a nice prime rib dinner at home. Football bowl games are rolling one after the other on the big screen tv. The dogs are sprawled out on the sofa after a long New Years Eve two mile walk. The cats are sleeping like every other day of their lives. You look outside the window as the darkness moves in on the last day of the year, and you reflect on the last twelve months. Some memories are so fantastic that no amount of time passing will remove their luster (weddings, vacations, time with family and friends, farm animals, writing conference, etc), while others you are ready to kick out the back door and leave in the dust (COVID, politics, senseless crimes, losses of life). You take stock in the balance of things and feel grateful for your blessings. Are you making New Year’s Resolutions this year? You think about what you learned in a workshop you took over the summer called “A Spark for Compassionate Change.” Something inside of you did change in that zoom workshop led by two enthusiastic life coach trained millennials. A tiny spark, which led to more change. They referenced the book by James Clear, “Atomic Habits” and you read it the next week. You learned that change starts with micro habits, then habit stacking and all with granting yourself grace and compassion that change can be messy and is not always easy. (There was a whole lot more in that highly recommended popular book). So on this New Year’s Eve you are not choosing to tackle big resolutions, you are thinking of some small tweaks in your life that will lead to bigger changes that will bring you more happiness and better health. Cheers to that. Grab your glass, it is almost time, “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one…Happy New Years!”
*You actually did not watch Ryan Seacrest or any other countdown. You were on the edge of your seat in the final seconds of a close playoff football game. Instead of a ball dropping in Times Square, it was a ball being snapped and then a kicker missing the field goal. One team wins, another loses, down to one small thing. As you brush your teeth before bed you think again, “It is about the little things.”
Happy New Years! May you find the little things to alter to make the most of each day of your life in 2023!