December 30, 2012

Maine Observer: New Year's Eve with warmth but sans sequins

Pets, babies and friends are the preferred companions as one prepares for the joy and promise of the next 365 days.

Reveling on New Year's Eve is not my style. For me, the night is one for quiet celebration and reflection.

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So in keeping with how I like to ring in the new year, this year I plan to invite a friend over to have appetizers and spend a quiet evening playing a Russian fortune-telling game, hoping that our prophecies will come true (only, of course, if they're favorable).

Earlier in the day, I will make up list of resolutions, some of which are the same every year. "Lose weight." Accomplished this year. "Cook and entertain more." Didn't happen.

Over the years I have celebrated in different ways: at parties, at a neighbor's for eggnog after solitary sledding, on a double date to the Holiday Inn for a real gala and at New Year's Portland.

Many years I spent at my parents'. Tradionally I'd put party hats on the family cats and read aloud a poem I'd written. Actually, it was doggerel about family shenanigans that year. I'd laugh so hard reading it my parents couldn't hear the words, which I'd have to repeat. Then we'd have a toast of sparkling cider, a prelude to our cheese fondue dinner.

When I was in my 20s, three separate years, young men I'd been dating asked what my plans were for New Year's Eve, only to tell me their already made plans -- which didn't include me. In fact, one's included the girl back home.

However bad, these slights weren't as awful as my friend Nancy's. She had two suitors say "adieu" in two years. Callous young men!

The one memory I hold most dear was from the early '70s. That New Year's Eve, my friend and neighbor Megan, whose husband, Bob, was a resident at Maine Med working that night, invited me over. She put party hats on her two dogs, and before the stroke of midnight woke up her baby Noah to ring in his first new year with us as we had a toast in front of the fireplace.

Although I have photos, I don't need to look at them to remember. That night the wonder of a new baby seemed to capture what New Year's Eve is all about: the possibility of joy and promise in the year ahead.

Many New Year's Eves have passed. I've spent some alone, eating cheese fondue and watching a movie. I rarely stay up until midnight, unlike my mother, who used to go to bed but set the alarm so she wouldn't miss the new year.

And one good thing about being a certain age is that I'm not embarrassed to admit I'm not out partying.

Probably I have many more New Year's Eves left. I will want to ring them in with no noise, no hoopla and no sequins.

This holiday season, I heard a male crooner over a loudspeaker sing, "What are you doing New Year's Eve?"

I smiled and thought to myself: "What I like to do."

Vicki Sullivan of South Portland teaches English at Southern Maine Community College.


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