Ghosts of New Year’s Eve Past


It’s New Year’s Eve again. From year to year it may find us anywhere, and with anyone. We celebrate with an “end of an era” attitude, as we sum up our year and move forward with a clean slate. We like that sort of thing.

In my earliest memories New Year’s Eve was a night of challenge, barely keeping my eyes open until the midnight hour. The evening was always spent at home, and mostly consisted of family, snacks- and at least once, a toboggan ride at midnight. It has evolved only slightly over the decades. As I got older, New Year’s Eve became an ideal opportunity for sleepovers. Movies, Truth or Dare….maybe some prank phone calls. And staying up all night was easy.

New Year’s took a turn toward romance during my teenage years. Maybe it’s that cliche kiss at midnight, but I have always found New Year’s Eve to be a far better date night than Valentine’s Day. Co-ed parties were the place to be during those high school years, and there can be no early curfew on New Year’s Eve. My first truly passionate kiss happened while ringing in 1991. Which makes sense, since 1991 also goes down in history as my most complicated year in love.

It’s funny how time slips away from us. My first New Year’s Eve as an adult was spent with high school friends in 1994. We were all on break from our new adventures in life, and our different paths were emerging for the very first time. I was in the middle of my wacky year on the road. I documented the evening in a journal I received for Christmas. A journal I will eventually burn. I spent most of the night talking about the new love of my life that I wanted them all to meet. Later they were bridesmaids at our wedding.

New Year’s Eve 1995 found me blissfully engaged and hosting a party in Michigan. We were about to board 1996; the year we would get married, and I would move to Illinois for the first time. There I was, surrounded by high school friends (most of whom I haven’t seen in many years) all sleeping on Dave’s small apartment floor. Around four in the morning there was a call from our friends in Seattle letting us know they had just become engaged, too. They knew us well enough to know we would be the only friends still awake in the eastern time zone. Today they are married with three kids I have never met, and we are all currently residing in the central time zone.

Once we moved to Illinois, New Year’s Eve was always spent with friends. Mostly small parties or rock shows. Too many New Year’s stories to tell or remember. Our twenties were spent with many of the same people we are heading into our forties with, which reminds me again of how glad I am that we moved back to Illinois this year.

Was New Year’s Eve 1999 as exciting as you anticipated? Let’s all take a moment and recognize that this happened fifteen years ago. Fifteen! I had spent some time that year delivering The wall Street Journal overnight, and I may have listened to one too many Art Bell episodes. So December 31st found me a bit uneasy about the amount of canned goods I had not been storing (proving that procrastination really will kill me in an apocalypse situation). Dave’s aunt bought a house in the wilderness for the event, and I couldn’t even set aside a few gallons of water. At least ringing in (and surviving) an uneventful new millennium took away my failure complex. For a little while.

The most intoxicated I have ever been happened on New Year’s Eve. I don’t remember the year, I only remember life or death wrestling with my friend Chris, and spending some time on his bathroom floor. I didn’t puke. And for those of you who know me, that’s important.

In 2007 we had a newborn baby in the house. My in-laws were in town, but I am certain they were asleep at midnight. My best guess is that I rang in 2008 feeding a baby. Or crying. Or both. But I was probably awake for it.

In spite of our age, we still have quite a few childless friends. So unlike some of you we are not overwhelmed by family friendly parties. It’s a relief, really. In theory it is a great plan; parents get to hang out while the kids keep each other distracted. Everyone is happy. That doesn’t work out for us, but I appreciate the idea. If my kid would play with other children I would appreciate it more, of course.

Tonight I am going back to my New Year’s Eve roots. There will be snacks, movies, and even a little romance- but prank calls and that midnight toboggan ride are iffy. Teghan won’t make it to midnight. We have been working hard this week to rid ourselves of the vacation monster we created last week by letting her sleep in. We got greedy, and now Teghan’s bed time has become the worst way to spend an evening. Oops.

Looking back over the last twelve months, there is no doubt that 2014 was far better than 2013. Looking back over the last thirty to forty years….there have been some real ups and downs, but mostly a lot of in-betweens. Which is how life works.  People have come in and out of our lives, and some are sticking it out for the long haul. Every year I believe I am embarking on the best year yet. Occasionally I get it right.

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