I do not remember what, if anything, we did for New Year’s Eve 2019. I know what my expectations were. I thought the year would be about my son and his turning 13 and his bar mitzvah.
For a while, it was. My daughter was halfway through her freshman year in high school and doing great. I had given notice at a job that was stressing me out. The focus was all on the bar mitzvah. Then, there was a polar freeze of February. It was so cold that my hand momentarily stuck to the inside handle of our screen door. The polar freeze caused the pipes to burst at the restaurant that was supposed to cater my son’s bar mitzvah. The owner, a young woman, lost her business. I lost a caterer and a little bit of my mind. A year later I saw her, undoubtedly still struggling with the loss of her business, but pregnant and happy, it was not something she expected.
With the help of my friends, my son’s bar mitzvah happened. He did a great job, we had food, it was all great. While under-employed I decided to catch up on medical appointments. Then, the year became not about my son’s bar mitzvah but about my having cancer. My having a mastectomy, my having complications and surgeries and a frozen shoulder and depression. Towards the end of the year, my husband left for France on Sabbatical and the year became about surviving.
We spent New Year’s Eve 2020 in Paris. Thanks to my husband’s Parisian cousins, we spent New Year’s Eve drinking pink Champagne at the Eiffel Tower. When I shared the photo on social media I said that I was so excited to put 2019 behind me I had flown around the world to get to 2020 sooner. Insert wry, knowing chuckle here.
New Year’s Eve 2020 was undoubtedly a more glamorous and exciting event than the undocumented New Year’s Eve 2019, or 2021. Last night, for New Years, we ate a lot of food, made donuts and watched a movie. At midnight, we turned on the always-sad Chicago countdown, our beloved city following an hour behind the big ball drop. Somehow, it was a little less sad this year. We were too lazy to open our bottle of Costco Prosecco. At 2:30 am on January 1, 2021 we were woken up by horrible noises from our radiators. We turned off the radiators and went back to sleep. The dogs woke up at 7:00 am, as usual, and we turned the radiators back on, and all is temporarily well. After cleaning the kitchen from last night, we’ll call the heating company and hope they can get to us before the noise starts again.
When I look at the picture from 2020, I don’t see hope or glamour. I see how sick and in pain I am. I see how bloated my face is, how exhausted I am. I will not pretend that 2020 has been some great year. It has been painful and exhausting. But, I am undoubtedly healthier. I still have pain, but it is not constant. I can move, I can walk, I can last a day without a nap. I’m still not crazy about the way I look, but I look better.
A certain kind of person is fond of saying that New Year’s Eve is an artificial separation. It’s the same type person who does not buy a loved one flowers or a card on Valentine’s Day, because that too is artificial. But I think there is something magical that happens at midnight. It is not the first kiss of rom-coms, or the erasure of the year before. It is the chance to look to the future. For a little while, the next year is both perfect and horrible. It is the loss of a business, the loss of a spouse, a cancer diagnosis, a global pandemic. But it is also a new job a new baby, a recovery, a new love. It is the mundane problems of owning a home and the mundane joys of loving your children, snuggling your dogs, and eating good food. The new year brings everything and nothing.