New Year’s Eve is another holiday which has evolved through the years, but the changes don’t bother me as much as Christmas. I think it is because I still think of the New Year as the first day of school. The changes on that day are much more pronounced, but January 1 is still the day of resolutions and new beginnings.
I first turned to my fifth grade diary to see how I rang in the new year as a kid.
Today at midnight Billy shot off some “bombs” with confetti. We watched a little more TV and then went to bed.
This morning we went to church. We came home and had a turkey dinner. I read a little of the book “In Good Old Colonial Times” and finished my mystery.
After dinner I fell asleep. Later, we watched movies. Then Janice and I played with the tape recorder.
Clearly, my celebrations were quite uneventful, so when I fast forward 25-30 years when you were all little, you will see a marked difference. We began our celebrations in the driveway around 10:00 when the three of you wished our poor neighbors Happy New Year with the banging of pots and pans. It was a wonderful scam Dad and I pulled on you that ceased once you learned to tell time.
When Aunt Linda visited, you would all spend the afternoon making confetti to toss in the air on our front walkway—probably at midnight. Dad would then travel around town picking up our traditional New Year’s Eve dinner—take-out from an assortment of local restaurants which changed as your pallets became more sophisticated.
In the early years, it may have been a Big Mac from McDonald’s, dumplings from your favorite Chinese restaurant, and chicken from a place in Caldwell (Chicken-N-Stuff?) Later, it was shrimp in green sauce from Don Pepe’s. That was the one day of the year that you each could get whatever you wanted. Dad would call in the order, plan out the most efficient route, and hit the road early.
After moving to Chapel Hill, we returned to New Jersey for two particularly memorable celebrations. The first was our New Year’s Cruise with the Cohen’s. We knew we were in trouble when we arrived at the airport in Florida and saw the men unloading our luggage wearing ski hats. Brrr! It did not warm up until we were south of the Bahamas. We discovered that Rich Cohen was a wonderful cruise companion since he had traveled the world in his youth and could converse with all the employees on the ship about their countries of origin. Not only would he be familiar with their country and hometown, but who can forget his line, “What street did you live on,” and he would know the specific location! How much fun it was to ring in 2005 on a cruise ship whose main street was configured to resemble Times Square, but with more balloons than confetti.
This brings me to New Year’s Eve 2006. The year before, we celebrated Kelly’s 21st birthday in New York City, and we had so much fun being tourists in the Big Apple around Christmas that we decided to return. You asked if we could celebrate in Times Square, and I said absolutely not. I had read about the need to arrive VERY early, and all my research said there were no bathrooms available. That was the deal breaker for me.
I compromised by agreeing to dinner in the vicinity of Times Square. I found a nice Italian restaurant but then discovered it was on the other side of Broadway from our hotel. My panic was calmed when I learned that a written confirmation from the restaurant would help. So early in the day, we walked there to scope out the route and secure our written reservation—the golden ticket it turned out.
That evening, we set out on our journey, and as we headed toward Broadway, I recall thinking we were in big trouble when I noticed the barricaded streets manned by the NYPD. When we explained where we were going and presented our reservation, we were magically permitted to continue on our journey. We were ushered past all the revelers penned in like animals at the zoo and were able to literally run past everyone. Aunt Ar and Uncle Paul were with us, having met us at the hotel earlier.
We had a wonderful dinner followed by dancing in the bar, and then around 11:30, we noticed a steady line of people heading toward the door. We followed and were shocked to see that we were just a short walk away from the famous New Year’s Eve Ball. The countdown began followed by the tons of confetti. What a wonderful surprise! It was the best party of my life. Unfortunately, Aunt Ar and Uncle Paul left early to beat the traffic. Bad decision, Ar! Sometimes, the best moments are the unexpected!
P.S. Dad reminded me to mention that the building in Times Square where the ball drops each year–the building with the electronic billboards and news ticker–was once owned by Allied Chemical, which was Grandpa’s employer for thirty-five years. This is just a piece of family trivia.