Happy New Year
The earliest New Years of my memory was on the birth of my sister, in 1971. I was eight and awakened just before midnight on the 31st by the scent of grandma’s Virginia Slims floating up the tiny hallway, banking a left corner into my room to tickle my nose. There was a family baby-pool that consisted of a case of beer and a 50/50 payout to the one who guessed the correct sex and closest to the date and time of the arrival. Out of the four grandchildren already born to the twins, three were girls. And since this was my parent’s third (and last) child following two girls, my father guessed girl, while most others checked the optimism box investing in the hope for a male child. I can see my father bounding into the house, arms waving in air, with the jubilation of a lottery winner…”It’s a girl, it’s a girl and she was born before midnight, I just knew it. And with the bonus of being able to claim a tax deduction in the final hours. I’ll drink to that. Cheers!” Her doctor had recommended she not have a third child, due to her fragile mental condition, and precautions were taken, as reported by mother. But forty-five years ago disquiet was impassioned.
I recall flashes of New Year’s Eve celebrations at Grandma’s house with all the aunts, uncles and cousins. We played Battling Tops, Rock-em-Sock-em Robots and uncle’s old Monopoly game with wooden play pieces, while the adults washed blood pressure pills and personal differences with Manhattans and Grasshoppers served from the TV-room bar. There were sparkly paper hats, streamers and whistle blowers. My favorite was the paper blower with the little balloon on the end. Inhaling deep into my chest, with eyes shut tight to inflate the balloon with one quick blow, I pulled the soggy tube from my lips releasing a deflating rush of peppermint candy breath through the whistle. The five of us turned it into a competitive sport of skill and speed that also included releasing the wands directly from our mouths as projectiles, spit flying, towards the faces of our challengers. Despite adult differences throughout the remaining 364 days of the year, for one evening, that wasn’t a wake, with the many woolen coats laid together on grandma’s bed, they made a toast to auld lang syne hoping in a year’s return to raise their glasses one more time.
The New Years of my twenties were decorated with friends, kegs and early morning lounges on napping trains in underground city tunnels. Life moved like a jet-stream rush, traveling through time on exhilarating winds of hope and dreams. Tearing through the calendar pages, the party lightened as friends got real jobs, married, had kids and moved out of town. We were carefree, in love and married midway through that decade, and hoped the spirit shared those nights could remain within us long after the train left.
Y2K arrived on the tail of a year-long, media-fueled panacea that threatened to expunge the tech-dependent exigencies of the modern world, leaving us all in unlit dark rooms with defunct ATM cards. A media hyper-storm… proclaiming that the computerized data by which the world was ordered was not designed to read years with double zeros… converged as we began to count and wait. So on the eve of my sister’s twenty-eighth birthday the next gen-family gathered in the red house of my girlhood galas. From a bistro table set in place of the old bar, we raised our glasses in a memory of old reverie. With grandma, mother, aunts and uncles passed, faint echoes played in my ears, from the stills behind the glass. Embracing over-tired kids in winter pajamas and balancing sparkly hats on our heads, we raised our glasses to the hope that the lights would remain on into the next century and we would remain, on the outside of the glossy pane. Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two…one. Happy New Year!
2001 into 2002 was fuzzy for me. Alone, in our cozy island home, the boys and I ate pizza. I went into the attic and carried down the cardboard box of sparkly hats and noise makers. Minutes felt longer than hours. Wrapped in a blanket we watched the ball descend on Times Square emceed by an aging legend. Now we were three. One of us a reflection in the glass.
2009 marked a new chapter in our life as a blended family of five with new friends and a change in geography. We welcomed the new year from the top of a snowy mountain in Vermont. Sugar on snow and sparkling cider toasts, secure in his arms on the cannon lit slopes, I said my goodbyes and felt glad to get to be around.
This year’s canon howls to a wolf moon. The midwinter cold and deep snows fracture brittle limbs, and I fold into the dim. The walls are too few to hold all the frames, for the loves I have cherished, I’m glad that they came. I remember the kisses, the laughter, the conversations, and all that’s gone away. All the days that have turned into years offer shiny reflections in which I cannot stay. Each year rolls like the surge of the ocean. It comes from the distance, growing loud in the flow. Then recedes back to the sea in silent reverie. I thank the old years for all they have brought with no mention of the things they’ve taken away. I pull up a blanket, turn down the light, hoping to be around to see another spring arrive on the quay.
© Deborah Garcia, 2018