Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Early Bird Special

 My wife and I are, to put it in the kindest terms, nocturnally challenged. As winter descends,  the early bird special, to our thinking, is akin to midnight madness. Our goal each evening is to stay downstairs long enough to watch the 6:30 news before turning in. So, you can imagine that keeping our eyes pried open to see the ball drop on New Year's Eve is not high on our list of annual priorities.

That being said, we have always joined up with friends in acknowledgement of the end of one year's tale and the anticipation of the next. Has there ever been a year on this planet where we were collectively more anxious to bid so long, farewell to the past 365 days? I mean, if we could all head to Tonga, the country where the calendar first turns over, who wouldn't want to be there to have 2020 in the rear view mirror? Our 2020 vision can only be described as dismal and distorted.

My recollection of December 31's past is dosed out in small snippets. Of the year my dad passed away in mid-December and friends shifted their plans to dine near my wife and me, so we could be close enough to "pop in" for a little; of decades gathered around a dinner table with the same group, with the same assortment of offerings, in our version of Yogi's deja vu all over again; of later years congregating around the kitchen table of dear friends with a disabled daughter who became the centerpiece of our evening; and in recent times at a home where two other couples attempt to outdo each other with culinary skills before the Rod Serling Twilight Zone marathon begins.

Never a big party, not at a restaurant in nearly four decades, decidedly low key. And with those in our company being fully aware that the possibility of our counting down the seconds, first with Dick Clark and later with, well I couldn't tell you, was virtually non-existent.

But no one seemed to mind, or at least the jokes at our expense have been minimal. And the truth is that with each passing year, the importance of staying up to say goodbye and hello in consecutive breaths seemed less critical to many of those closest to us.

This year, we will not gather together. This year we will not be leaving somewhere and hurrying home for our early bedtime. This year we will not be traveling on quiet roads, passing houses and restaurants filled with those who are only beginning to party when we are looking to turn in for the night.

This year is unlike all others. To be remembered not for what happens on this December 31 but what does not. Not to be recalled in later times for its revelry but for consideration of everything that went so horribly wrong. Not a place for easy laughs but of somber reflection. In the company this time only of our thoughts.
But this may be the most important New Year's Eve of all. The moment when we as one count backwards from ten to tomorrow, when we can finally usher in the possibilities and leave behind everything that has held us in its vice-like grip. 

Almost 250 years ago, Robert Burns wrote "Auld Lang Syne", a poem that has become a song which is an integral part of our New Year's lexicon. "We'll drink a cup of kindness yet", a tribute to old friends and long forgotten ties. This time there is a distance between us as never before. And in that space which separates us, a closeness  that likely we never before fully appreciated.

I am quite certain that the stroke of midnight this year will find my wife and me as have so many in the past: fast asleep, long since having given up the possibility of greeting the New Year head on. But if there was ever a reason, ever a season, to embrace the new in person, this is it. So, if I can set an alarm for just before that ball begins its descent and be there as we begin our ascent from the hell hole that 2020 dug for humanity, that would be special.

But, who am I fooling? 2021 will just have to start without my wife and me. Unless of course I can interest it in the early bird special.


ASK said...

Don’t worry I’ll call you at 11:55 to wake you up OR bang some drums outside your window. Your choice!

Harvey F Leeds said...

We will still be cooking the same amount of food but just for us!!! And damn Zack and frankly all of us are going to miss out annual bowling festivus on New years Eve or as Monica used to call it Old Years Eve. Happy Happy!

Anonymous said...

I just walk up from my usual afternoon nap. Funny, an afternooner used to have a different meaning. Anyway, am I reading between the lines of today’s missive that there are people who actually stay awake on New Year’s Eve ? Past 10 pm? There must be a whole world out there that I don’t know about.