When my children were small, my husband John and I would let them ‘stay up til midnight’, which was Big excitement for them!! What they didn’t know was that we set our clocks ahead, and ‘midnight’ was really about 9 pm, when we would serve them ginger ale when they were really young, and later non-alcoholic champagne. They would blow horns and rattle noise-makers, jump around and ‘celebrate’, and by 10 pm (for real, although they thought it was 1 am), we would get them all in bed, and then he and I would happily fall into bed in our pajamas, eat popcorn and watch old movies on TV, and finish off the ginger ale (neither of us drank alcohol). I had absolutely no desire to get dressed up, go out, or dance the new year in. I was totally happy at home with my husband and kids. New Year’s had never been a night that particularly appealed to me. With drunk drivers on the roads, rowdy people partying, it just never seemed like much fun to me, and I was much happier at home.
Fast forward the film by a few years, a divorce, some time alone, with quiet New Year’s Eves alone with my kids, and then I remarried, and my new husband and I began giving small elegant dinners on New Year’s Eve. We would have 20 friends in black tie and evening gowns for dinner at our house. A DJ or a few musicians to dance after dinner. The kids were old enough to be with their own friends by then, or have a pajama party in sleeping bags in our playroom. But our adult New Year’s Eves were very elegant and dignified for a number of years.
Fast forward the film again, and in the game of marital or romantic musical chairs, I wound up without a seat, and was alone again. And I continued the elegant black tie New Year’s Eve dinners for a number of years on my own. It wasn’t much fun at midnight when everybody kissed, but it was nicer spending the night with friends, than alone watching TV. So I soldiered on. And then one New Year’s Eve, there was a big storm in San Francisco, floods in neighbouring counties, and roads became impassable into the city. At 6 pm, the cook who was going to come and prepare our dinner called to tell me that he couldn’t come into the city to cook my New Year’s Eve dinner. Uh oh. Major Dilemma. At 6 pm, what do you do? Call everyone and cancel? But that would leave them all dressed up with nothing to do, which seemed mean. I hated to disappoint my friends on a night like New Year’s Eve. But I could hardly expect them to show up and not give them dinner. I make great French toast, pretty good tacos, and food that most 5 year olds will eat, but I’m no genius in the kitchen, and somehow I didn’t think they’d be thrilled with peanut butter sandwiches for dinner. Mmmm…..By then it was 7 pm, and they were due to arrive an hour later, and the old proverb came to mind “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The table was set, I had a few musicians hired so we could dance after dinner, we had everything we needed, but….ooops, no food. And there was no hope of producing a fancy dinner for my guests, on an hour’s notice, in a storm, with no one to cook it. So I got in my car and drove around to all the fast food places I could think of: pizza, Chinese take-out, McDonald’s for burgers and fries, corn dogs, I think I bought tacos and burritos. I bought a mountain of food, and weird desserts, and rushed home to dress. When the guests arrived, I explained what had happened and said we were going to have a fast food picnic in black tie——and it was one of the most fun, ridiculous, funny evenings we ever had. Everyone was in evening gowns, wearing the paper top hats and tiaras I had on the table, eating hot dogs and hamburgers, dripping sweet and sour sauce, or eating tacos, calling down the table about who had the mustard, ketchup or curly fries. It was ridiculous, but a lot of fun. It was like going to a kids’ birthday party all dressed up, and we all agreed we loved it. (Personally, I’d rather eat a hot dog any day than a fancy dinner!!! Among my ‘celebrity dinners’, I had hot dogs for lunch at Whoopi Goldberg’s house once when she invited me to lunch, and Southern Fried Chicken and meat loaf at Dolly Parton’s for dinner. They were the two best meals I ever had dining with major stars, and I remember those two meals distinctly and none of the others. I like simple food much more than fancy food, so our dinner on New Year’s Eve that year was right up my alley!!). We all loved it so much, that our fast food New Year’s Eve dinners, in black tie and evening gowns, became a tradition for many years. We ALL loved it, and I loved the incongruousness of a friend in a tuxedo or evening gown eating curly fries, with ketchup dribbling down their chin. It always made me laugh. Those evenings were really fun, and were instantly relaxed, as we passed around the corn dogs, tacos, and pizza. Great stuff!!
Fast forward the film again, and I finally decided that it wasn’t so much fun not getting kissed at midnight (I never seemed to have a date for those events. Bad planning, or bad luck, or something), so I decided we needed some other distraction, and I LOVE to play poker. So New Year’s Eve became a poker night, still in black tie/evening gowns, with the same fast food menu, and a little dancing after for those who wanted to. On a good night, I would win $20.00, and had a ball playing poker, after eating hot dogs.
And in the last couple of years, I’ve begun to wonder if all the fuss is really worth it. If it wouldn’t just be simpler to go to bed early, and watch movies, or even work that night. I began to think that I had done New Year’s Eve enough different ways to come full circle, and maybe I would skip it. I worried that I might regret it, and that doing nothing on New Year’s Eve might be depressing. It’s an expensive night to have a caterer or a band, and I just figured maybe I would finally give up on New Year’s Eve and do nothing. I’m not sure what the best way is to spend it, but this year I’ve decided no poker, no dancing, and not even fast food, and not in black tie. This year, 5 of my old friends (not in age, but in longevity of our friendship) are going to come over for a simple dinner, hang out together until midnight, and then they’ll go home. And maybe, probably, since I’m a night owl, I might even work for a while, writing, after everyone goes home right after midnight. Maybe we’ll play a little poker after dinner and before midnight, or just laugh and talk. They can wear whatever they want. It’s an experiment. If it’s fun, we’ll do it again. If not, we’ll try something else next year, or reinstate the poker game and hot dogs. It’s not an easy evening to plan or figure out in advance. If you’re married or in a relationship, it’s a lot easier to plan. You know who you want to be with, whatever you decide to do. It’s not quite as easy if you’re single.
So whatever you decide to do on New Year’s Eve, and whoever you spend it with, I hope you have a wonderful time on New Year’s Eve, that it lives up to your expectations, and that when midnight rolls around, I hope it’s exactly what you want it to be. Maybe what I have learned over these various New Year’s Eves, is that you have to be flexible, have a sense of humor about it, and try different things. I’ll let you know how it turns out. And however you spend the night, as 2013 dawns, I hope that the New Year will bring you, health, peace, joy, great times, good friends, success, and sees all your dreams come true. I hope that 2013 will be the best year ever, for all of you!!!