There are some New Years Eves that I remember distinctly. The turn of the year from 1989 into 1990 is my oldest memory. I was nearly a decade old and it was the first decade turn that I had ever experienced. I spent the evening reading on the fold-out sofa bed in the living room with my mom next to me, who was probably grading papers (she was always grading papers), but I kept glancing at the clock as it inched closer and closer to midnight. I was finishing up the fourth book of Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness quartet for the first time, reaching that final scene where the earth itself begins to break apart. I don’t think there has ever been another series of books quite so influential on me as that one and I’m sure that reading that scene at that moment is why I remember that New Year so well. There is a new generation that sees the characters of Harry Potter that way — that find themselves in Hermione or Ron or Harry — but for me, it was always Alanna of Trebond, who disguised herself as a boy so that she could go off and have adventures. There’s a pretty close connection to what I did with my own life. I often wonder if I would have chosen the same path if I hadn’t wanted so badly to be Alanna.
Another New Years Eve — a little over a decade later. I can’t seem to remember any in between, though there must have been some good times. I had just moved — or perhaps was just about to move — to New York and couldn’t have been much older than 23. I was dating a socialite and we hopped from one party to another, all hosted by people I had never met before. I talked to so many different kinds of people that night and was bedazzled by the New York scene, where everyone knows their focaccia from their semolina and kisses in the European style. I am not a very touchy person, particularly with strangers, but I liked the casual intimacy. It smacked of the sophistication that I love so much about this city — the small touches of a different culture that are there to embrace if you want to.
The next one that sticks out in infamy. It was the first year I was dating my Beloved and he enjoyed going into Manhattan to be near the Times Square Madness. I am not that type, so I wished him well and invited a few friends over my house instead for a quiet evening of wine and movies. We were settling down when he showed up on my doorstep like an oversized manic elf in a striped knit hat, carrying a case of champagne and a gallon of orange juice. Given the total party attendance of five and the six new bottles of champagne, things quickly went downhill, as the Times Square Madness transcended to my living room. Bonds were forged through alcohol-induced illness, one maybe-not-so-good-friendship ended and my new back yard was christened after my one bathroom was taken over by an overindulger that refused to be parted from the refreshing coolness of the tile floor. Infamy. We emerged the next morning like gladiators that had run the gauntlet — exhausted and bruised, but triumphant. The next summer, my Beloved installed a second bathroom.
The last one that I remember and, perhaps, the most important one of my life, involved a Spanish restaurant in Dublin, tapas, friends, a bridge, a very shiny ring and one Beloved Elf that forgot to get on one knee first. When the fireworks went off at midnight, five hours before my East Coast, one of my new brothers hugged me and called me his new sister, which I think I will remember forever. Then we ate white grapes in the Spanish style, quickly as we could, trying not to choke on the sweetness of the night.
Tonight we have plans that involve none of those things — it is a fresh start, as the end of a year ought to be. I have been talked into staying in Manhattan for the New Year, relatively close to where the Times Square Madness is happening. (Actually, somehow that didn’t occur to me until I just thought about it now…my Beloved is a trixsy elf.) One of my Beloved’s many BFFs has a spouse that is playing a show at a bar and we’re going to join them. Given the general madness of the transit system on New Years Eve, we’ve also treated ourselves to a hotel room within stumbling distance. This works out well, as one of my BFFs is meeting me in the morning — a rare treat, as she moved to the West Coast a number of years back and I don’t see her often. I can’t think of a better way to begin the new year than a day spent with one of my oldest and dearest friends. My bag is packed for our little adventure and I find myself feeling carefree and joyous, which is the whole point, isn’t it?
To all the revelers, the nondrinkers, the stay home wine-and-movie-watchers, the people who find themselves alone on International Party Night, the workers, the bed-by-niners and those that are just drunk-people-phobic — I wish you all a beautiful New Years Evening. It is one of the few times nearly the whole world comes together to celebrate hope – and that alone is something that is worth celebrating, no matter how you find yourself doing it.