Is it just me? Am I the only one who doesn’t feel excited as New Year’s approaches? Am I alone in the fact that the hours spent before counting down those ten seconds until we enter a new year don’t fill me with joy but instead a sinking sense of sadness?
Granted, I do spend every New Year’s Eve watching at least twelve hours of The Twilight Zone, which isn’t exactly uplifting, but it must be more than that.
Because it wasn’t always this way.
Party All the Time
Growing up, New Year’s Eve was one of the most fun celebrations for my family. Filling the long rectangle of my aunt and uncle’s dining room, we ate and laughed and sang and cheered. My uncle always brought out his karaoke machine and we passed the black microphone around the table singing Frank Sinatra, Sonny and Cher, and Billy Joel. I can still picture my little grandmother, the mic in her sweet, wrinkled hand as she sang “Where Or When”, her voice a little shaky, but still filled with the talent of her youth.
By the end of the night, the other children and I always performed some sort of musical number. Our first ever was “Just a Gigolo”; my sister Kristen wore a plastic New Year’s hat to play the main role. I was one of the girls on her arm. But my favorite of all time was “Copacabana.” I can still remember the joy that filled my chest when I picked Lola’s name out of the hat and knew I would be the star of our little show. A half hour later, I danced around the blue carpet of my aunt’s den trying to move as a showgirl would. Kristen and Fannie fought over me as Ricky and Tony, poor Kristen falling dead after that fatal gunshot. Our family exploded in applause.
New Year’s Eve was a blast then and well into my teenage years.
The More Things Change
I know the change must have begun when my father died. The first New Year’s after that, we simply pretended it wasn’t New Year’s at all. We spent the night together but Dick Clark stayed off our televisions and no countdown was shouted out loud at midnight. Of course we were sad that year. We were distraught. Our loss was only four months old. We hadn’t even begun to grieve yet.
The next year, we celebrated mostly for the sake of the children. At my aunt’s house, we laid bubble wrap along the floor. When midnight hit, the kids jumped up and down in glee popping the bubbles with their tiny feet.
But the sadness was still there. And midnight came with just as many tears as it did smiles.
I suppose every year it got a little bit easier. As more babies were born, the more fun and joy returned to our New Year’s Eves. And for the past several years, even though we could feel the void of my father’s presence, we had a good time. My mother’s house was often crowded with family and friends. Some years, we munched on fried rice and egg rolls. Others, we snacked on spicy chicken wings and slathered ribs. We drank and talked and laughed and cheered.
But no matter how much fun we had, that melancholy mood still lingered within me. Each year, at some point in the night, I found my way to the couch in the den, curling up to watch some more of Rod Sterling’s chilling stories.
This year, I didn’t even make the effort to make sure we had any real plans for the Eve. With Anthony working and most of our normal companions having other plans, we ended up with midnight bells of no more than five people.
I know it’s my fault. I didn’t plan because I don’t really care about celebrating on New Year’s but I don’t believe my father’s death is the only reason for my aversion to the last night of the year.
Because for me, New Year’s is a unique holiday in this way. I think of him on every holiday and every day of every year and there are moments when his death hits me all over again, but I am still able to feel the joy of special moments. I was elated watching Rosemarie make the sign of the cross during Grace on Thanksgiving, seeing her press her small palms together as she said “Amen.” I felt true joy on Christmas morning as she ripped the wrapping paper off her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and yelled “Meeska, Mooska, Mickey Mouse!”
But New Year’s still brings that pit in my stomach, the kind you feel on a Sunday night as a child when school looms the next morning.
What is it about New Year’s then? I know I am not the only one who feels this way. I have friends who also admit to feeling down on December 31st every year. And these friends don’t all have a loss they consider to be life-changing in their past that could be the reason for their melancholy.
Is it just the fear of getting older? Is it the unavoidable pang of sadness we feel when we realize how quickly our children are growing?
Let’s Get This Party Started
Whatever the reason, I’ve decided it’s time to shake that sadness off and bring the joy back to New Year’s. I don’t want Rosemarie growing up with a New Year’s celebration that’s tainted with her mother’s sulkiness.
Next New Year’s, I have to find a way to cheer myself up and jazz up our night. Maybe I need to fill the night with more friends and family. Maybe I need to plan activities ahead of time. Maybe I just need to psyche myself up for that night.
The good news is that I have a whole year to figure out how I can make this change. And there I have my first resolution for 2014. Somehow, someway, I will give Rosemarie a New year’s Eve that’s filled with the fun and joy that I remember feeling as I danced around with yellow feathers in my hair, as I counted down with a sparkling sip of champagne in a plastic glass. Rosemarie will have New Year’s celebrations to remember. I resolve to make it happen.