I’m sure every family has traditions they adhere to on New Year’s Eve. My family had one that we kept up for over 20 years. It started out so much fun and so hilarious that we could hardly get through it with dry eyes. As years passed, it became more and more difficult to get through the evening with dry eyes, however, not from laughter. Eventually, we just stopped doing it.
As I write this, I’m not sure at all where it will go. I know how I feel about what we did and what it became, but I have, as of late, been trying to find a positive way to spin it if only in my mind for my own purposes.
I don’t remember whose idea it was or where we got it from but it started small, and grew each year into, well, something we didn’t want to do anymore. My mom and dad own land on the river with a cabin and a floating dock. Incredible place to grow up. My siblings and I were true river rats. Swimming, sailing, fishing, water skiing, roasting weenies, melting marshmallows, playing Capture The Flag… this list could go on for days, so yeah, you get the idea. We spent every weekend there over the summer and ALWAYS on New Year’s Eve.
When the evening would begin, sheets of blank paper were handed out to each arrivee. Between that time and midnight, each person in attendance was to jot down 3 things:
- Their New Year’s resolution
- A wish for the New Year
- A prediction for the New Year
At midnight all the notes were folded, wadded, origami’d up and placed inside a large manilla envelope labeled, “Do Not Open ‘Til New Year’s Eve 1993” (of course, the year was the one about to arrive. I was, for some reason (probably because my husband had a gun safe) put in charge of guarding “the envelope” until the next New Year’s Eve gathering.
After midnight, after the fireworks over the river, and the sipping of champagne and sparkling grape juice, we all gathered around for “the reading of the papers” from last year. There were serious, meaningful responses and silly, jokey answers. The reading was always a riot of laughter amid exclamations of “good answer” and such.
For years and years we did this. It slowly grew with the additions of formal forms to fill out complete with fancy artwork and graphics. The manilla envelope earned a wax seal. The group was always the same plus or minus a best buddy, girl or boyfriend, a neighbor who had nothing to do. The “extra” folks came and went and we read their papers in their absence the next year. Then the “additions” began. Mates, children, grandchildren… and we kept going. It was still so much fun.
Patterns emerged. There was the running gag that my younger, somewhat lanky, brother would “wish for large pectoral muscles” every year. Daddy’s answers were always completely practical. Short and concise. “Talk more at family gatherings” was one my mom always “wished” he’d resolve. Then there were the occasional outrageous predictions that proved accurate and the delight at someone’s wildest wish that actually came true!
The “old” notes always went back in their envelopes and were “archived” in my dresser drawer. Opening the drawer, catching a glimpse of the ever growing stash of “papers” always made me happy. Watching the kids’ handwriting and spelling improve with each passing year was heartwarming.
The change happened gradually. There wasn’t “that one year” when the game suddenly flipped on it’s head. Instead, it slowly began to roll over.
Amid the riotous silliness, there would be that moment when everyone suddenly stopped laughing and stared at each other, lips frozen in a silent smile over the previous answer. Those smiling faces would melt into something different, faces we had never seen at our gatherings. Answers never brought sadness before. But then, my sister’s husband had never cheated on her before, never caused a nasty, painful divorce before. An excitedly “predicted” gender guess had never culmenated with a miscarriage before. My granddaddy’s “resolve” to “eat better and exercise more” so he and grandma could “go on a cruise” the coming summer was never read before to an audience who had just last March attended his funeral. Daddy’s concise answers had never become gibberish before as his oncoming dementia introduced itself.
So, you see how it happened, and how our beloved game became a source of dismay, re-opened wounds, and unwanted reminders. One year, we just didn’t do it. In fact, there is an envelope that was never opened. There are “papers” that were never read. We just stopped.
And, here, my friend, is where I am. I know, we all KNOW, that this is how life goes. People grow apart, get old, get sick, leave us. I am not whining that it happened. Of course, it was going to happen! My struggle is simply this: Was all the fun, joy, and happiness of our game ruined by how it ended? Did its demise just cancel out all the good times, the great moments, the laughs, the love?
. . . . . . . . .
No. It did not. Of course, it did not. I see now how this will go. In a circle. Our silly game is the human condition. Several clichéd ideas come to mind. Nothing wrong with that though, clichés are just truths that became commonplace.
- Don’t put all the photos in the album. Just the good ones. Put the rest in a box under the bed.
- Like a sculptor, chip away and remove bits you don’t want while keeping the stone you do like. You will end up with a work of art!
- Don’t regret that it ended. Be happy that it happened at all. (grin)
Be. Happy. That it happened. At all. (smile)
Yeah. That’s it. Be happy that it happened at all. (giggle)
Think I’m gonna move the envelopes stashed in my dresser drawer to a box under my bed.
Happy New Year. (cheer)