Christmas and Hanukkah are over. End-of-the-year sales extravaganzas are taking place even as — can you believe? — retailers start to put out Valentine’s Day candy and cards. And people around the nation and around the globe are planning on ringing in yet another new year.
When I was a kid, I used to think I was always missing out on some magical New Year’s Eve excitement. The year that sticks out most in my mind was when I was 12, going on 13. My parents were separated, planning on divorce, and my mother was an entire continent away on the east coast. Right after Christmas, my father took my sisters and me to Sun Valley, Idaho, with our friends the Skulasons for a few days of skiing and to ring in the new year.
I’m one of those crazy people who never really liked skiing much. I hate being cold, and as I was the least skilled skier among my family and the friends mentioned above, whom we skied with frequently, I usually ended up skiing by myself. I also resented having to go skiing every Saturday and Sunday in the winter — living in Reno meant that great skiing was close by — unless I was sick, which wasn’t very often.
Needless to say, going to Sun Valley wasn’t exactly my dream come true that year. And what made it worse was having to sit in the condo and watch Dick Clark on television with my little sister while my older sister and her friend Ingrid went with the Skulason boys to a party, while the adults went somewhere else.
Nothing is worse for a 12-year-old than thinking you are the only one not included in the fun.
So imagine the thrill I had some years later when I went to my first real New Year’s Eve party. Not a gathering at a friend’s house, but one of those package deals at a club, complete with party hats and a champagne toast at midnight. I went with the man who is now my husband and another couple with whom we were close. What ensued was one of the most miserable nights of my life. The noise was dreadful, the place was packed so that you could barely move, drunken idiots were everywhere, and, worse, I couldn’t light up because I’d quit smoking earlier that year and John would have had a fit. This was what I was missing? What a lot of hype about nothing.
And having worked in New York City for a couple of years, navigating the puddles of vomit and extra piles of garbage on January 1 doesn’t recommend heading into Times Square to fight the crowds there, either.
These days, New Year’s Eve is usually a quiet affair, spent either at home with the kids or at a friend’s house. We pop in a movie and enjoy the fact that we don’t have to worry about traffic, drunk drivers, and obnoxiously loud crowds. (My oldest will be graduating high school in less than two years, so I am keenly aware that our cozy New Year’s Eves with the whole family are not long for this world.) And no Rockin’ New Year’s Eve on the television, either, because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s not about the forced jollity and false camaraderie that accompany these events, but being close to the ones you love and reflecting upon one’s many blessings that count the most.
For as much as I complain year in and year out about this and that, I know I am fortunate to live in the greatest nation on earth. I have the freedom to say and do just about anything I want. Compared to many around the world, I lead an extremely comfortable life, and not being able to afford a flat-screen television or the latest cell phone with a million gadgets isn’t exactly what defines hardship. It’s difficult, sometimes, to remember your blessings — but as we head into 2009, look around you and see if you don’t agree that there is more to be grateful for than to complain about.
So to all of Pajamas Media’s readers, I wish you the very happiest of New Years. See you on the flip side.