When I was young, it was a really big deal to stay up until midnight to bring in the New Year. Our family of four had a tradition of opening a large jigsaw puzzle of about 1,000 pieces and challenging ourselves to complete it by midnight. We ate snacks, watched television or listened to music while taking turns working on the puzzle. Sometimes we beat the clock and sometimes not. This tradition ended with my parents’ divorce and, aside from a pair of parties in my military days that involved too much drinking, so did my celebrating of New Year’s Eve.
For a long time, I found that the turning of the year made me very melancholy, though I always tried to hide these feelings from everyone. All the year-in-review type of programs got me thinking about my own personal year in review. Somehow, my end of the year countdown seemed to have me making a list of all the things I hadn’t accomplished or hadn’t acquired. I would think about all the people who had passed away, whether they were loved ones I had lost or celebrities who somehow had an impact on me. All this remembering seemed to do was lead me down a path of pessimism and grieving that didn’t make me feel much like celebrating.
Maybe this seems strange to the many people who enjoy dressing up and going out to a New Year’s Eve party. They eat hors d’oeuvres, dance and drink the hours away until it’s time for the champagne toast at midnight. The confetti falls, the party horns blow,
kisses are shared and then the lyrics of Auld Lang
Syne, themselves reminiscent and somewhat somber in nature, bid farewell to
time gone by.
While I’m not a teetotaler, I’m also not one who believes alcohol is necessary to have a good time. I lack skill on the dance floor and often find that the music played in most establishments is amplified to such volume that you can’t have a conversation with anyone who isn’t screaming within a foot of your ear. Consider me old and boring if you must, but I don’t find that environment very pleasant and I left behind the clubs and party scenes of youth years ago for a more mellow and responsible lifestyle.
Some of that responsibility involved raising children. Most of us have been through the New Year’s Eve with a child who begs to stay up until midnight only to watch them fall asleep an hour or so before the ball falls. Sometimes we wake them up saying, “It’s time; it’s the New Year.”, only to have their sleepy little head nod off again without any real comprehension of the event. We cover them up and let them sleep on the couch for the night or carry their little bodies off to bed. We’ll be up to make breakfast for those same tired bodies in a few more hours, so there’ll be no sleeping off last night’s indulgences for us.
Before long, the kids are grown and on their own. The only party horns blowing in your home are the resonating nostrils of your spouse in the recliner next to yours. You watch rerun marathons on television and change the channel just before midnight to watch the young revelers in Times Square countdown the seconds as the ball drops. You wake your spouse with a soft “Happy New Year, Dear.”, and give him a kiss and head to bed while tripping over the dog that is afraid of the popping fireworks outside. Another new year arrives regardless of the celebration or lack thereof, because time travels in but one direction.
For the first time in quite a while, I am actually excited by the turning of the calendar. It’s 2013! I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail in 2013 and now it’s finally here! I’m now one day closer to my goal. Yes, time will continue moving forward as it always has and I would be wise to learn the lesson that it teaches…keep moving forward. That is how we will arrive at the next New Year, by moving forward; minute by minute, day by day. It’s how I’ll get to the top of Mt. Katahdin; step by step; day by day; moving forward.