We'd started dating in January and had been married in June, a rush job, you might say, without the shotgun, both of us old enough and, well, passionate enough to know what it was we wanted. Thus read the calendar, so we were already married six months when we spent our very first New Years' Eve together.
And we were strangers in a strange land of cacti. I'd gone swimming on Christmas Day in the apartment complex pool just to say I'd gone swimming in Christmas, because in August we'd moved from Wisconsin to Arizona, where I was in grad school and my wife was a second-grade teacher. In truth, we hadn't established all that many good friendships in the Valley of the Sun, so when an New Year's Eve invite came we said yes and off we went, our very first New Year's party as a couple.
Some party. I was young. I'm sure I had in mind some rip-snortin' bacchanalia, party hats and clear plastic glasses sloshing with the devil's brew. I'm sure I was thinking that sometime, late, my new wife, dreamy-eyed, would fall into my arms and the two of us, still newlyweds really, would engage in some memorable marital rollicking.
Didn't happen. Oddly enough, that first New Years Eve we sat at a Formica-topped kitchen table I can still see in my mind almost 40 years later, the two of us quietly listening to a woman lament the sad state of her marriage, a union that seemed to us destined to failure. Her husband was working, as I remember--out. The story went on and on, an almost endless narration of neglect and unhappiness, just the three of us, nary a smile, paralyzed, dismally partying the night away.
And thus began an honored tradition we've lugged along painfully for most all of our 38 years of married life--a long line of undistinguished, eighth-rate New Years Eve partying. We've not progressed much since that dirge we listened too all night long years ago in Arizona.
It might be difficult, I think, to find people as destined for a lousy time on New Years Eve as we are. Maybe not. Maybe the whole bacchanalia thing is hype. I don't know that I've sung "Auld Lang Syne" swaying erratically, arms interlocked. I don't know that I've ever had much to drink for that matter.
Big deal. What is New Years Eve anyway but a pair of rumpled, dirty socks left behind on the family room rug? Tonight, you gracelessly throw them into the laundry tub and tomorrow reach in the drawer for something clean and white and new. Really, what's the big deal?
But you can bet I'll stay the heck away from Formica-topped kitchen tables, and I don't think it's necessarily against the law for me to hope for a couple of clear plastic glasses or a bit of late evening gymnastics.
Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, right?
By the way, that pitiable marriage?--it's still humming, thank the Lord, as is ours.
And there it is--hope's shining silver thread in this otherwise doleful New Years Eve tale.