The New Year’s Eves of my youth perpetuates distinct images. My parents would host a small group consisting mainly of relatives. I would dart about the house playing with my cousins as my father mixed Highballs using Canadian rye whiskey or Southern Comfort in the kitchen. He would venture back into the front room with the glasses and the sound of laughter would increase exponentially throughout the evening. My parents rarely drank (at least in front of us kids) so the unusual act added to the festive ambiance.
As midnight approached, live pictures from Time’s Square would come on the tv. As the great ball dropped, even at a tender age, I had the feeling of time passing: a whole year was slipping away. We would take pots and pans from under the oven and beat them on the front lawn. Guy Lombardo would play Auld Lang Syne on the television.
In the late 1990s, Mrs Head and I came up with a New Year’s Eve plan. Like many of our friends we had small children but didn’t want to miss out on the New Year’s Eve festivities. It had been our habit, before the children were born, to make our way to Trafalgar Square (London’s equivalent of Times Square) to welcome in the New Year with thousands of other Londoners. As the children arrived it became impractical to carry on the tradition. But we didn’t want to lose that sense of revelry so we brought the party to us.
The plan was to host a party where our friends and family with children could come and make merry in a safe environment. The first party was arranged to start on December 31, 1998. Mrs Head suggested it had a theme of Purple in homage to the Prince song 1999. About 2 dozen people joined us that night; drinking the night away, dancing and generally having a good laugh.
With each passing year, the tradition has continued and grown. The children are grown but they still opt to attend our party with their friends which outnumber ours. Each year still has a theme and elaborate costumes are assembled to keep the night special.
A few days ago, we draped ourselves in cockney finery to observe the theme of London and see in 2012. The punchbowl filled with vodka and brandy and fruit juice and anything else in the cupboard left over from Christmas habitually ran dry and needed replenishing. We danced and laughed just like every year for the past decade and more. The children are old enough to join us in Trafalgar Square, in fact they would be more likely to take us rather than the other way around. But we have started something here that is rooted in the pot banging midnights of my youth. And the tradition continues.
As perhaps 100 people gathered in our front room at midnight, I found myself pressed against the wall near the window. I could see my wife on the other side of the room but could not get to her. We made eye contact and tried to move towards the centre of the room to meet. That sense of time slipping away I felt as a child surfaced again, as it does every year as the countdown from 10 bounced off the walls. I dove into the crowd and managed to at least grab her outstretched hand as the Happy New Year shout went up.
Auld Lang Syne struck up from the music system: my traditional nod to those New Year’s Eves of my childhood.
The next afternoon, those who had passed out or slept over began to surface. The flat was a debris field of party poppers, empty plastic cups and beer bottles. Every year my wife makes a (very) late breakfast for those who have stayed and we sit around the table fanning the embers of last night’s hazy memories. It is then we start to decide on next year’s theme.
Such is the cycle of time, dear readers.
A Happy 2012 to you all. I know where I will be seeing in 2013.
Keep the Faith,