It’s quiet here. Very quiet. It is the third New Year’s Eve since my husband died. What is it about death that restarts all calendars? He died on October 17, 2011. Then there was the first Thanksgiving, then the first Christmas, then the first New Year’s and so on. It’s almost as if the days, months and years preceding his death were lost in this foggy, mental haze of a time when happy was more common than sad.
The first year, thanks to an incredibly generous gift from a friend, my daughter and I spent the holidays in Key West. Seemed like a great idea at the time, but have you ever been to Key West? Not exactly an ideal destination for a mother/17 year old daughter getaway. She wasn’t old enough to be legally served alcohol and I was afraid if I started drinking I would never stop. And Key West is all about the party. Key West is indeed Margaritaville.
We were both still in shock from his passing. We hadn’t quite figured out how to move through our own day and deal with our own feelings much less deal with each other. We tried a few activities the island had to offer that did not involve alcohol (snuba, sight seeing, tour to the Dry Tortugas, etc ) but we were both so stressed out trying to be careful around each other and to each other that the trip was a bust. I have never longed for home more than I did on that trip.
So the second year, that would be last year, we stayed home. My daughter went out to dinner with friends and a friend of mine came here to our house and we were all going to gather here in time for the ball to drop at midnight. Grand plan except my daughter’s dinner was at a (usually) lovely Japanese restaurant. That was not the problem. The bad sushi was the problem. The poor kid was barely in the door when she was running to the bathroom. Have you seen the movie “Bridesmaids”? If not, you really should. There is a scene in the movie when the ladies had an unfortunate reaction to some bad Mexican food. While the situation here was not quite so dire, you get the picture … or will if you watch this:
So New Year’s Eve was, again, not exactly the holiday we (I) had hoped for.
That brings us to tonight. My daughter is camping in the Everglades for a college environmental science project. I brought her to the airport at 5:15 this morning and five hours later she was in a van heading towards Everglades National Park . I am so very proud of her for going. We are not campers so this is a very exciting, and very frightening, endeavor for her. And by “not campers” I am not exaggerating. Last year her idea of spring break was a week in a friend’s apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The year before we were in Paris. We like cities. Big cities. Lots of amenities. Cabs, restaurants, theatres. Snakes, bugs and alligators do not fit in that picture. But she had an opportunity and she took it. I think the stories are going to keep us laughing for quite some time.
But tonight, the eve of the New Year, I am alone. This is the first time in the 19 years since she was born that we have not spent New Year’s Eve together. Oh, I missed a point of reference … it’s also the eve of my birthday. I am a New Year’s baby. No, not the first baby of that year. I have to wonder if every person born on the first of the year gets to field that same question every single time this birthday is mentioned — “Oh, were you the first of the year?” Every single time, never fail, the question is asked right after I admit that January 1 is my birthday. I have never actually met a “first baby of the year”. I think I will put that on my “to do” list. I would like to know if it really is the big deal everyone makes it sound like it should be. Cash, prizes, photo in the paper? I wonder.
Anyway, I was not the first baby of the year. Not even close. 2 p.m. on January 1, 1958 in Miami Beach, Florida. I’m quite confident that were many others born that day in Miami. However, while I was not the first I have always enjoyed the notoriety of sharing this world holiday with the masses, Guy Lombardo, and Dick Clark. But I liked doing this “sharing” from my own home. A night at home with my own family was all I really wanted. OK, my own family at home, some lobster, some champagne and some presents. And the tv on at midnight and phone calls from friends. That’s all I really wanted (nod to Steve Martin routine from “The Jerk”).
10/17/11 took that away from me. Joe, my husband, wasn’t going to be in bed asleep until we jumped up and down to let him know “IT’S TIME!” He wasn’t a late night kind of guy so after the lobster and the champagne and some board games, he packed it in until we woke him up before the clock struck twelve. I loved those nights. He always got right up and came out to the living room and celebrated along with us. Just the three of us. Countdown, 3-2-1 … Ball falls in Times Square… Cue “Auld Lang Syne” ….. Hugs, kisses, more hugs, more kisses …clinking glasses ….Then the phone would start ringing from our family and friends with birthday and New Year wishes. This was his “all ok” sign to head back to bed.
But this year, it’s quiet. So very, very quiet. My husband is dead. My daughter has grown up. I sit here typing as if waiting for them to come in the back door in time to celebrate. But it’s not going to happen. He won’t be back. And she needs to get on with her own life. So, I will wait for the clock to advance. And I will turn the tv on when it gets closer to midnight. And I will try really, really hard to sound ok when the phone starts to ring …. But this year, this third year, this is the hardest yet.