New Year's

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

The holiday season has always been one of my favorite times of year for three reasons–generosity, happiness and revelry. What’s not to like about two months of eating, drinking, family, presents and kindness. It starts with a feast on Thanksgiving and culminates with a giant party to say goodbye to the old, and hello to the new. It is the season of beginnings and endings.

I remember the first time I begged to stay up until midnight to watch the ball drop. I was nine at the time and convinced my grandma to let me invite my two best friends, Dawn and Bertha to come and celebrate the new year. 

It is the first New Year’s Eve party I would throw. I made sure that we were stocked up on snacks–cheese and crackers, popcorn, chocolate chip cookies that I made earlier in the day, and of course a can of red Hi-C that I poured into a decanter to serve in some tiny wine glasses I had found at a garage sale with my Aunt Shirley. 

Of course I had entertained before, I had a kitchen and dining area set up in the basement, but a New Year’s Eve party seemed so grown up. I had all my snacks spread out on the table when Dawn and Bert arrived with their sleeping gear.

My Uncle George had popped in for a cup of coffee that evening, which he did frequently, much to the chagrin of my grandma. But she always served him up a “half a cup” at a time, just as he liked. He saw my set up of the Hi-C decanter and said, “I see you aren’t giving up drinking for the new year.” 

I remember looking at him in a confused manner. He looked at me and said, “I’m just kidding, I knew it was juice.” All the adults chuckled. I was not amused.

Then I asked him, “Why would I give anything up?” He replied that that’s what people do on New Year’s Eve, make resolutions. Then he asked if I intended to give up something. I thought about it for a second and vowed to give up eating liver and onions, which I never ate anyway. They all laughed and I went about my business getting ready for my party, but I couldn’t help but think about resolutions and how it added another strange wrinkle to an already strange holiday. A holiday that featured things like a disco ball that fell to the ground, father time, a new year’s baby and a countdown. It was a lot for a nine-year-old to wrap her head around. 

When Dawn and Bert arrived, we went to my room to drop their things off. Dawn’s mom had put noisemakers in her bag and we were delighted to run around the house blowing paper horns and spinning colorful metal boxes that made a sort of grinding noise. The three of us marching down the hallway in a circle through the living room several times until my grandpa exclaimed that we should save the noisemakers until midnight because, “you don’t want to break them before New Year’s.”

We put down the noisemakers and scuttled off to the dining room for snacks, then set about putting on makeup from my Barbie styling head, a Christmas gift that season. Of course Barbie was not left out, and we made her up, too. We looked like a troupe of clowns. Heavy blue eyeshadow and misshapen dots of red rouge on our cheeks. Looking back now, I wish there were a photo because I am sure we were a sight.

We spent hours playing board games, playing with toys, recording our voices on my grandpa’s tape recorder and playing with, looking back what may be the greatest gift of all time, my new label maker. This now arcane device was a plastic gun with a rotary wheel marked with numbers and letters. It held this thick, sticky “tape,” and made the impression of the letter or number aligned with an arrow when you pulled the trigger. 

We labeled everything that night. We started out color coding things until we ran out of blue tape, then it became more random. We even put a label on the Bassett hound’s collar that identified her as “Sadie.”

We all made it to see Dick Clark lead the countdown in Times Square in New York City. I remember the excitement as we counted with him, “Three…two…one. Happy New Year!”

“Auld Lang Syne” played at a slow tempo in the background and we worked our noisemakers with great fervor, dancing around the room. 

It was, and is still, my favorite New Year’s Eve memory.

When I set about writing a column for the new year, I wanted to talk about a milestone year, 2020 is a good example, not only a new year, but a new decade. As I thought about the holiday, this childhood New Year’s Eve keep recurring in my mind. For, in fact, it was a milestone year because it was my first New Year’s Eve party. The first time I learned about resolutions and the first time I watched Dick Clark ring in the new year with millions of people around the country.

Happy New Year! May 2020 be the start of a great year and a great decade.

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