My parents were not big New Year’s Eve people. My dad was always in bed early and while my mom would occasionally sit up with us to watch Dick Clark in Times Square, there was no big party or Champagne popping. I found this disappointing. I wanted them to get dressed up, be festive, act a little silly for a change.
Once I was out on my own, I began celebrating the last day of the year with a vengeance. Of course, what I loved most was the dressing up, the toasts, and all the drippy “Auld Lang Syne” sentimentality of the night.
In Anchorage, there were a handful of couples who always got together and I remember the most important part of the night was to be with your guy for the kiss at midnight. After we married, our celebrations grew more festive. One year we took the party train from Anchorage to Whittier. Once in Whittier, we gathered in some sort of big open hall to dance and dine. Most of the partiers were young and it wasn’t long before we grew bored. I have no idea whose idea it was but at some point about eight of us — strangers until that night — commandeered a small bread truck and took a little drive. Before long, a police officer pulled us over and suggested we might like to buy tickets to the morning pancake feed (never mind we would be long gone), then sent us — still driving the bread truck — on our way. At the time, the only way in or out of Whittier was train or boat so it wasn’t like we were going anywhere.
Back in the Lower 48, we spent New Year’s Eve in Times Square, which is crazy and fun and yes, does kind of make you feel like a sitting duck. From the east, we moved to Seattle and you can’t live in Seattle and not go to the Space Needle for the New Year’s Eve party at least once. There was plenty of Champagne and big sheets of paper on which to write whatever sappy sentiment you wanted to share. I don’t remember what I wrote, only that I kept thinking of new things to add.
In Colorado, we tended to spend the holiday at one ski resort or another. One of the most memorable was not New Year’s Eve, but New Year’s Eve day. That was the morning, my hubs and his friend headed out early in hopes of carving some of the first tracks in the almost two feet of fresh powder. I was just evolving from skiing the beginner green slopes to the more advanced gentle blues. I’d planned to sleep in, but then I recalled hearing how great powder is to ski and decided I should check it out. I jumped on the lift to the top of a blue run where I discovered A) it had not been groomed, and B) powder (up to your thighs) is only fun if you’re a damned good skier. Meanwhile, the hubs had gone back to the room to tell me that under no circumstances was I to attempt to ski. But of course, I was already gone. Hardest run I’ve ever skied in my life. All around me, disgruntled skiers were shedding their skis and walking, which hardly looked easier. I fell and eventually got back up, fell and got back up, fell … And that’s how I made it to the bottom where the hubs watched grimly, convinced I would never ski again.
What should have been the biggest party night, New Year’s Eve 1999, was actually pretty depressing. I was at the Rocky Mountain News and it was decreed we would all work. You know, in case the world ended so we could report on it.
I’ve since spent a New Year’s Eve in Puerto Vallarta, where they have the most amazing fireworks, and we occasionally find ourselves in our favorite motel in Manzanita, noted for its midnight parade from the pub to the beach. I’m generally on the corner to greet everyone with party horns and my own hearty “Happy New Year.” Of course, in order to make midnight, I must first take a nap, and the dressing up part generally involves jeans, slippers and whatever nightshirt I happen to have on hand. But I still have my glass of bubbly and I still feel a certain sentimental twinge.
Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at loritobias.com.