I'm not going to drag my feet this year. I promised myself I'm going to be on time, even if I'm the first one there and my hosts are still getting dressed when I arrive. New Year's Eve is a variation of one of those anniversaries I wrote about before. I mean, who doesn't have New Year's Eve memories, right? Not really an anniversary, but a night that marks certain times in our lives like no other.
When I was a kid I remember staying home with my grandma and watching the glittery ball come down in exotic New York City--hell, any city was exotic to me. And the next morning I would get up and there would be confetti strewn from the back door through my parents' bedroom to their bed, where they were sleeping much later than usual. Obviously they'd been someplace exotic too, to come home with confetti in their clothes and hair.
As I got older, I went to parties of my own. Some of them I even remember. Then, when the kids were growing up, it was hard to get a babysitter so if LtColEx was in the country, we usually spent the night at home--no grandmas to watch the kids and no confetti. When the kids were older, we'd all go to a party at our church where we played games, sang karaoke, danced, and toasted the new year in with champagne and good friends.
Then came a few bad years--although it only takes one really. My marriage had already been flushed. I was just watching it go down the toilet. LtColEx informed me he had plans for the evening. He didn't tell me what he was doing, just that it wasn't with me. I wasn't about to ask, but I knew with whom. Elvira wanted to have a party so I told her she could. I couldn't go to the church party by myself and answer a bunch of questions with equivocations. Nobody else knew about the flushing....yet.
So a couple of Elvira's friends came over and they were playing pool or watching movies, eating popcorn and drinking fake champagne in the family room. I was sitting in front of the TV in the living room, not really seeing or hearing whatever was on the screen. I was feeling sorry for myself. Really sorry. I would still feel sorry for myself except for what happened about 10:30 that night.
The phone rang. It was one of my besties G. "Where the hell are you? We've been waiting for you to get to the church. It's boring here." I told her I'd let Elvira have a party and I was staying home. I could hear her relaying to her husband J. "If you're not coming here, then can we come there? We've got the girls with us." Their two daughters are a year older than Elvira and they grew up together.
I could have said no, but I didn't want to spend the rest of the night feeling sorry for myself and trying not to cry in case the girls walked into the room. LtColEx was going to be mad because I wouldn't be able to explain his absence. I told them to come on over. They were already in their car by the time I said yes.
So they got there, and their girls joined the other girls in the family room. I grabbed a bottle of wine for us ..... And waited for the question. Finally it came. "Where's LtColEx?" G asked. "He's out," I said. "Out? Where? What do you mean he's out?" I couldn't look at them. "I don't know where he is. I know who he's with, but I don't know where he went." ...... ........ ...... The girls were laughing in the other room. I was trying not to cry, but having little success. "That's why you didn't come to the church? You're here alone? Why didn't you tell us?" They were shocked. We'd all been friends for years. "I couldn't," I said. "And I can't really talk about it now." I still couldn't look at them. Tears were hitting the carpet. They got it. They both came and put their arms around me.
"I brought my guitar," J said. "Let's just play some music." I nodded. We played some music. We drank a bunch of wine and ate popcorn. And talked but not about that. The girls came in and out, laughing and cracking jokes. We all watched the ball come down at midnight with our arms around each other. And then they stayed for a couple hours longer, and we sang along to some music videos with the girls and drank some more wine and played some more music. When they left, I felt almost OK.
I don't believe in either heaven or hell, but if there are angels, they are the people who love us and who show up at just the right time, not even knowing they're needed. They got me through it, and I doubt I've ever been more grateful for two people in my life. It almost makes me believe in a benevolent, interfering deity.
But New Year's Eve has still been difficult--in my head. After all of those years decades of marriage, it's still .... I don't know. Awkward when the ball goes down and all the couples turn to each other and kiss and hug. Even though I have several parties to choose from this year, and lots of people who want to spend the evening with me now, I'll have trouble getting out the door. Again. I know it's silly. Silly and even ungrateful. And it's not that I want to be married. Emphatic no to that. It's just one of those nights when it's hard to be alone, and that mostly has to do with history, so I don't give in, but I struggle. Last year I didn't show up until almost 10:00, and people were getting concerned, which was then embarrassing. One guest shouted out, "Reticula's here. Now the party can start!" I felt like a dick. (And she probably said that to everybody.) I had a great time for the hours I was there. It still felt awkward at midnight, but I'm a good actor. It didn't show.
But I'm feeling it again this year--the reluctance. It's one of those things I don't want to give in to though. Really don't. I want to go to the parties I'm going to--hell, I wish I could hit all of them--and I always have fun once I get there. So I'll go heat up my curling iron and get dressed up and go out. And midnight will be awkward, but many moments are awkward. It won't be the most awkward moment of this week, that's for sure!
What did you do for New Year's Eve? Do you have a tradition? Has your tradition changed over the years?
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