Monday, January 14, 2013
It’s the day after Christmas and I’m surrounded by crumpled wrapping paper, cookie crumbs, clutter, crooked wreaths, a sinkful of greasy dishes and so many leftovers we may have to buy a new fridge.
My only goal is to get everything tidy by New Year’s Eve. Oh, joy—New Year’s Eve.
Okay, somebody has to say it: The only thing more over-rated than New Year’s Eve is bacon. Bacon is a tough, too-salty strip of fat, and New Year’s Eve is too drunk, too cold and too loud for my taste.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some good NYE’s. Parties at the river are always fun. So was a bonfire in Jedburg, surrounded by the nicest strangers I’d never met. One year I went to a club with friends and had a midnight breakfast. (If you want to feel like a total loser, try ordering oatmeal at a champagne breakfast.)
Then there were other, not-great nights. You know what I mean:
• You’re surrounded by boisterous drunks when you’d rather be reading a good book.
• There’s no-one sober enough to have a conversation with.
• It’s freezing, you have a sinus infection and you long to be in bed with the cat.
• And, my personal favorite, when the “party” consists of half-a-dozen women weeping over recent breakups. (I was one of them, but it was still awful.)
My idea of the perfect NYE is a long run followed by a hot bath and red wine. Falling asleep by 10 p.m. is perfect—and I’ve done it more than once. I’m grateful to see another year, but confetti and noisemakers? Not so much.
Now, let me share another NYE story.
In college I lived in a huge apartment complex across from the university. So did my brother T-Bob, but we had no classes together. He was (and is) very social, and I was always studying to keep my scholarship. Thus we seldom saw each other, except at the Kroger’s around the corner.
In the winter of 1980, I came down with bronchitis that promptly morphed into pneumonia. I had enough sense to go to the doctor, who prescribed antibiotics and sent me home with stern instructions for bed rest. That was on Dec. 29.
Two days later, death was looking good. At 8 p.m. on New Year’s Eve I was in bed, sweating, shaking and listening to my lungs rattle. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and could barely totter to the bathroom.
My sweet roommate, Elizabeth, offered to stay home, but why should both of us be miserable? I told her to go out and have fun. Then I lay there in the dark, listening to the sounds of celebration outside my window: People whooping, car horns blaring, laughing couples on the sidewalk.
Hours later, the front door opened and footsteps came down the hall. I thought it was Elizabeth, but in popped T-Bob, with a party hat on his head and a noisemaker in his mouth.
“You shouldn’t keep your spare key under the welcome mat,” he said. Then, “I heard you were sick.”
“I think I’m dying,” I croaked.
“Don’t be stupid,” he snorted, settling into the ratty chair by my bed. We talked for a few moments until—praise God—I dozed off. I dimly recall him hissing, “Happy New Year!” at some point.
He stayed in that chair until 5:30 a.m., when I awoke feeling better—and without a fever. I looked at him with his eyes shut, head tilted back and feet propped on the bed.
“Wake up,” I said.
“I am,” he said. “I have been the whole time.”
That, my friends, is a special New Year’s Eve.
Julie R. Smith, who will happily toast 2013, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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