Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Ghost of New Years Past

"It’s not a caste system,” my son sputtered incredulously.

“It’s our lot, Buddy,” I said, reiterating my unsympathetic response to his long-winded lament about a lifetime of ho-hum New Years Eves. “Did I ever tell you about 1984?” I continued, referencing the oft-told account of the year my sister and I sat in the un-decorated livingroom of the house into which our family had just moved, watching hour after hour of “Kate and Ali” reruns while our parents—who never went out—had somehow scored an invitation to a holiday gathering despite the fact that we’d been in town mere weeks.

“We can do better,” he countered. “It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“It’s the best we can do,” I insisted.

Indeed, our dull New Years Eves have been a well documented source of conversation, wonder, and resignation over the years, as the only improvement we have made to our lot has been adding more would-be revelers to our number. Our respective husbands now sit alongside us as we watch slightly more current television, and leave our young to fend for themselves with preselected videos at a satellite location of the home. It’s a cycle we’ve tried halfheartedly to crack without success over the years, finally accepting it as the way things are.

I’ve always known there was last-minute fun to be had upon the year’s sunset, but we’ve never quite been able to find it. Fresh from the Christmas whirlwind, travel seems daunting. Funds are low. And the weather? Hardly something around which you’d want to plan an evening. So we’ve taken the evening-at-home approach, hoping that somehow the fact that we now number eight to-ten--depending on the occasional addition of a child’s friend—constitutes a party. Which could be fine, if the whole evening didn’t somehow manage to take on a desperate sort of Kate and Ali feel, every single year. And the kids know it, and, evidently view it as some kind of generational curse.

My son went off in an exasperated pseudo-huff, reemerging at the piano an hour later to deliver his message musically.

In case you missed the lyrics, he wrote them out and distributed them liberally:

New Years Eve is really lame
Every year is all the same
Yeah…we need change
to rearrange new years eve.
Each year we sit and watch Star Wars for the sixth time
Oh, it never stops.
My mom and aunt they whine, oh, they pine
about 1984--
but that year is nothing more than a memory.
My mom is stuck in a mental state,
She says that it’s a little too late to enjoy
the holiday.
Each year they send us upstairs and drink some wine
And watch a lame movie.
It’s never enjoyable,
It’s like eating a Lunchable.
We watch the movie, I know it too well,
The experience was none too swell.
I fell asleep in 2008 and awoke in 2009
only to find that I had missed the dropping of the New Years ball.
Oh the shame of it all.

I didn’t let on that that kid was getting to me. But his constant needling—the song was anything but the end of the matter—had sparked an unstoppable urge to find a solution to the decades-old problem. There really was no reason for it—after all, the same eight people anticipate Thanksgiving every year with an enthusiasm that is simply unnatural. What was missing just weeks later?

It was clear, from our Thanksgiving success, that all the ingredients were there for a memorable holiday—we had each other, and food wasn’t the problem, but the fun, where was the fun?

I remembered a truth I discovered at work during a slump years back when I felt bored. Bored! As an art teacher, bored stiff. I could find no excuse for that other than the truth: work was only boring when I was boring. Work became a drudgery when I coasted, when I refused to put the effort into the creative process that invariably breeds discovery, life, and dare I say, fun?

I idly thumbed through some tomes on the creative section of by bookshelf for inspiration. The difference, I knew, between thanksgiving and New Years was tradition. Thanksgiving is loaded with events we’ve come to anticipate year after year: the pumpkin carving, the feathers, the cooking--bad pie crusts and all.
And it suddenly the idea came. Who knows what sparked it—perhaps a picture, maybe a line of text, probably some wonderful combination of imagination, memory , and stimulus. But it came, in the way that all the good ideas do: suddenly, without a doubt, and at just the right time.

It’s been a busy and exciting week of planning—but tonight will see the first annual murder mystery party play out at my sister's abode. As a band of amazingly well-dressed pirates in thrift store finds, we’ll be at a jig—a jig!--participating in treachery, mayhem, and intrigue.

And the ghost of 1984? Not on the guest list.


nooshling said...

Ooooo...this sounds like fun! I can't wait to hear how it plays out. With a son creative enough to compose a lament for New Year's Ghosts, your clan will surely get into the creative spirit with gusto.

Julie Schuler said...

I hope it works out! I never really liked New Year's Eve. The parties always seemed so seedy. This is the first year my son has asked to stay up until midnight, I wonder if he'll make it! I'd rather just crawl into bed and watch the Twilight Zone marathon.

Pines Lake Redhead said...

Oh, how I wish you had posted this a week ago! Then I would have had time to plan a mystery party too!

I hope you have a great time!

PS - I found you through Gropius.

Gropius said...

How can you top Kate and Ali? I remember loving that show. Our home is always dull on New Year's as well. We live in fear of all of the drunks driving around after the party. I like to think that New Year's Eve is best spent reflecting on the memorable times from the past year, mapping major things for the coming year and what I hope to change, accomplish or look forward to. (Admittedly, I usually don't do this...even at home!!!) Will look forward to the new celebration at your sister's house.

Kathleen said...

So? How was it?

I love this post! I laughed out loud at your son's lyrics!! That would give me the kick in the pants I needed to re-evaluate also.

I love how this lesson can apply to other areas of life too. Take homeschooling, for example. Often, a few months in, we're all BORED. I hope I will remember this post around March, so that I will re-evaluate myself instead of blaming it on the kids' attitude or on the curriculum!

Thanks for the deep post! :)

Cynthia@RunningWithLetters said...

Thanks for the comments, guys :) I've missed blogging regularly and it's good to know there are still good people with me!

Welcome Lake Pines Redhead...and I so wish I HAD posted this earlier--that was actually the plan...I'll have to make a note of that for next year because... was awesome, to answer your question, Kathleen! I am so glad that we did it. Glad also that the deeper levels of the post resonated with you. Putting in the effort to make our ordinary lives as meaningful as they can be is always worth the effort--but it takes a lot for us to embrace the effort. I think it is our nature to cling to status quo...

Holly said...

Sounds like fun. We have the same issues with New Years...but they don't bother me anymore...the kids are still too young to give me grief! Although I always do something special for the kids.
Happy New Year!


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