When I was a boy, I wasn't allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. In fact, the holiday wasn't really much at our house--though we usually did have special meals and even guests on New Year's Day. But New Year's Eve? I just don't remember much. My mother was the daughter and brother of ordained Disciples of Christ ministers; my father was an ordained Disciples of Christ minister. So ... you can imagine the party atmosphere in the Dyers' house.
In junior high and high school, though, things ... loosened, though not a lot. The church youth groups (Chi Rho--for junior high, Christian Youth Fellowship (CYF) for high schoolers) sponsored the New Year's Eve parties, which featured lots of red punch and white cookies and unsatisfied yearning. I never let foul alcohol touch my lips until spring break of my freshman year at Hiram College when my girlfriend from high school came home from college (elsewhere) to inform me she'd moved on. I raged, raged against the dying of the light and did not go gentle into that good night. I drove straight to find a couple of former Hiram High friends, and they took me out to "The Road" (a bar just outside dry Hiram Township), where I sipped my first beer. I was 18. I hated it. But drank it anyway--eventually.
And then ... decades of New Year's Eve parties. College, teaching career, marriage ... Joyce and I spent our first New Year's Eve as a married couple on December 31, 1969 (we'd been married eleven days). The venue? Her parents' home on Evergreen Avenue in Firestone Park. Where we played bridge with her parents and some other relatives--drank red punch, ate white cookies ... but no more yearning.
As the decades rolled on, both of us became less and less interested in New Year's Eve. I stopped drinking, Cold Turkey, in 1993 when I started training to climb the Chilkoot Pass in Alaska (part of my Jack London Research), and I have not touched a drop since. That makes me, in some circles, Boring. Joyce hardly ever touches alcohol, either. A toast now and then at an event. A sip of wine every six months or so.
While one or the other of us (or both) was teaching at Western Reserve Academy, we sometimes joined the various faculty parties on New Year's Eve. But then, gradually, I realized I'd rather be asleep. I haven't seen the New Year change since 1999-2000, when I stayed up to see what Y2K would do, which, of course, was virtually nothing.
Here's our template now for New Year's Eve. We go about 5:30 or 6 to a nearby restaurant (lately, it's been the Cafe Tandoor in Aurora); we enjoy a good meal and great talk with each other. We then go to a 7 p.m.-ish movie (convenient in Aurora--the Cinemark is in the same complex as the restaurant). After that, we drive home, watch some PBS series we like on Netflix and are Long Gone by midnight.
This New Year's Eve was even more ... pathetic? We went to the Cafe Tandoor, but Joyce has been battling a cold, so we decided not to go to the movie (we'd planned to see The Hobbit). Instead, we drove home, wrapped ourselves in a Pendleton blanket downstairs and watched (DVR) the final two episodes of The Colbert Report (the last one is a dazzler). Then we headed upstairs, where we finished (Amazon Fire TV) a fantastic PBS documentary on the Freedom Riders. May 1961. I was about to finish my junior year in high school when all of it happened. Watching that documentary, I realized I'd not known then--and did not know now--a lot about that phenomenon--and I also thought that every American should watch it. The courage of those riders; the brutality of those folks in Alabama and Mississippi the cravenness of so many politicians and public officials--on all levels ...
Afterwards, we watched a little bit of a comedian (Netflix) whose name I can't remember, but I kind of liked him--or was liking him as I drifted off about, oh, 10:00.
Oh, one other nerdy thing I did on New Year's Eve. I decided I wanted to memorize one more poem this year, so I spent some time during the day learning Emily Dickinson's amazing "A narrow fellow in the grass."
|A NARROW fellow in the grass|
|You may have met him,—did you not?|
|His notice sudden is.|
|The grass divides as with a comb,||5|
|A spotted shaft is seen;|
|And then it closes at your feet|
|And opens further on.|
|He likes a boggy acre,|
|A floor too cool for corn.||10|
|Yet when a child, and barefoot,|
|I more than once, at noon,|
|Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash|
|Unbraiding in the sun,—|
|When, stooping to secure it,||15|
|It wrinkled, and was gone.|
|Several of nature’s people|
|I know, and they know me;|
|I feel for them a transport|
|But never met this fellow,|
|Attended or alone,|
|Without a tighter breathing,|
|And zero at the bone.|
Zero at the bone--one of my favorite phrases in all the world's literature.