I do not love the fanfare of New Year’s Eve. For many, it is a time to dress up and be grand. But for me, New Year’s Eve has, over time, become a night for quiet reflection, a night to appreciate the subtleties and nuances in my life that have brought me to this day yet another year later.
At one extreme, New Year’s Eve has served as the marker for monumental change in my life. It was on this night back in 1987 when I went out on my first date with the 17 year-old high school boy who would eight years later become my husband. It was also New Year’s Eve 24 years later that would mark the last night we would spend together as husband and wife. But perhaps most poignantly, New Year’s Eve was the night back in 2002 when my husband and I watched the ball drop in Hong Kong, both of us bleary-eyed as our two and three year-old daughters played blissfully with their toys just feet away, jetlagged and confused that night was now day, while we contemplated, with what felt like the weight of the world on our shoulders, whether or not we should move to Asia. I believe it was this night that ultimately directed the course of our marriage, setting it on a path toward its eventual dissolution.
At the other extreme, New Year’s Eve was simply another time I stayed up all night ill with the stomach flu. It was likewise a night of dancing and fun as my husband and I celebrated my college friend’s wedding, just four months after our own. Or the night we hosted a dinner party for close family and friends in our new home.
For me, however, it was always the simplest moments in life that created my most vivid memories. As a little girl, I remember well the cloth calendar that always hung in our kitchen. My mother bought the same one each year at a stationery store we used to frequent, and together my mother, brother and I would pick out a new pattern every December. When my mother brought the calendar home, she would always hang the new one behind the old. And every year that I could remember, just after the clock struck 12 on New Year’s Eve, my little brother would run excitedly to the kitchen and take down the old calendar to reveal the new one behind it. Always flashing a bright smile from ear to ear, always hopeful the coming year would be better than the one before it.
When my father passed away unexpectedly in December of 1985, most of the month became a blur. Hanukkah came and went without much notice as we sat Shiva for my father through most of the holiday. When all of the Shiva visits abruptly came to a stop, and the platters of food stopped arriving bountifully to the front door each day, the silence in my house became deafening, and my outlook equally dismal.
That New Year’s Eve was spent at home, just the three of us, watching the ball drop with Dick Clark on TV. The weather was brutally cold and unwelcoming, and our house felt uninviting, no longer a home. To a young adolescent girl, there did not seem to be very much to look forward to.
When the clock struck midnight on that particular New Year’s Eve, my mother instinctively turned to kiss each of us. But when she looked for my brother, he was gone from the room. As we called out to him throughout the house, we finally found him in the kitchen, standing beside the calendar, happily discarding the old for the new. It was a new year, and my 10 year-old brother still recognized enough hope around him to look forward to the coming year, in spite of how hopeless things seemed that day.
Last New Year’s Eve was my first without my husband. I chose to spend the night in my mother’s home, back in my old teenage bedroom, despite having the opportunity to spend the evening with a man who I knew was not right for me and I not for him. Doing so meant that it marked the first New Year’s Eve in 25 years of having no one to kiss me at midnight.
This year I am enjoying a quiet New Year’s Eve at home with my mother, stepfather and three children. I know I am so lucky to be surrounded by people who I love and who love and support me. That I have no significant other in my life to kiss me this night, however, does disappoint me. Maybe that makes me selfish because I already have so much and yet still want more. But I cannot help it. I still believe the right person is out there for me.
So tonight, in my mind’s eye, I will change that old kitchen calendar as my little brother did years ago and welcome in a new year, one filled with appreciation for the blessings I already have and hope for the New Year’s Eve kiss I desire.