New Year’s Eve is steadily approaching. People all over the world will gather in homes and parks and clubs and restaurants to ring in the new year together. Joyfully they will say goodbye to 2021 and will greet 2022 with hope and with enthusiastic anticipation. It is a tradition that began back in ancient Babylon some four millennia ago and celebration has long been the focus. What will you celebrate tonight?
My New Year’s Eve tradition as a teenager and young adult was to spend it with a boy I’d cared for since he was born. His parents would go out and we would stay home to celebrate together. It was filled with macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, blankets and pillows piled high in the living room to make a nest, books and games to share, and lots of snuggles. When he got older & I’d moved away, my first New Year’s Eve without him left me a bit melancholy. I had been so blessed for a very long time to celebrate with him and be filled with joy.
Through the many years since that time, New Year’s Eve has not held the same excitement for me. I’ve never been out on New Year’s Eve, or to a house party. It was typically a quiet night at home. I always stayed up to watch the NYC ball drop in Time Square, but I was often alone or with someone who didn’t find this night all that special. I grew to dislike New Year’s Eve and all the false promise it came with. More accurately, I grew apathetic toward the day and any meaning it could hold. It was not a night that felt celebratory.
When my son was five years old I asked if he wanted to stay up for our own special New Year’s Eve celebration. He was a good sleeper so I wasn’t sure he would agree to this plan – or if he’d make it until midnight without falling asleep. I wanted this New Year’s Eve to be special. It was our first without his father in our house. It was our first since he started ‘big kid’ school. It was our first after a rocky year accented by too many tears. I wanted a night to celebrate. I needed a night to celebrate.
He did stay up that night. We played our made-up rooster ball game (a sort of volleyball w/an inflated rubber glove – which looked like the comb of a rooster, giving the game its name). He changed the boundaries, adjusted the number of hits we were allowed to get the ‘ball’ to the other side, and called ‘time out’ often, ensuring he would win every game. We had chocolate milkshakes and for one night I didn’t care what he ate. I tried to just let him be his wild, silly, marvelous self. We turned out all the lights and got out the Hess trucks and turned on their headlights. We built much-to-tall towers with blocks. We laughed, we read books, and we snuggled. We celebrated everything that night.
Since he was born I have spent every New Year’s Eve with him. He will soon be 17 and this year will be different. He doesn’t want a living room sleepover. He doesn’t want to eat junk food and hang out with his mom. He wants to play his video games with his friends around the world and celebrate one-by-one as midnight reaches each of their countries. This is what I will celebrate tonight.
Once upon a time I didn’t know if I’d ever bring him home from the hospital.
Once upon a time I wasn’t sure he’d thrive in a traditional school.
Once upon a time I didn’t know if his friend circle would ever grow.
Once upon a time he couldn’t leave my side.
Once upon a time is only for story books. This is real life, and we write our own adventures here. And he is writing a beautiful one. This is what I will celebrate tonight.
He is staying home tonight and I am going out. This is our first since he’s claimed his independence. This is our first since I started a new relationship. This is our first after an amazing year filled with new experiences for both of us. We will each play our games. We will laugh and not care about what we eat. We will make this night special in our own ways. We will celebrate.
I am typically not one for New Year’s Resolutions. I am not someone who uses this night to mark a big change. I tend to do better allowing this to be just another midnight. I will reflect on what has passed. I will consider goals for what is to come. But the ticking of the clock is not my motivator. Time once held me captive, but this year it has no power over me. I am not racing against some arbitrary date. I am not tied to some deadline. I am happy in my life as it is. Today I feel joy over the people in my life and the journeys I am on. Tomorrow I will feel joy over the people in my life and the journeys I am on. This is just another midnight.
And that is precisely what I will celebrate tonight!
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