By PENNY FLETCHER
I may not remember all my teacher’s names, or just how many hours I had to spend practicing jumps, spins and figures to pass my Silvers and compete in Middle Atlantic Ice Skating competitions, but until just a few years ago, I remembered where I was every single New Year’s Eve from the year I can first recall right through the birth of all four of my children.
I know now that’s because New Year’s Eve was always such a big event in the household where I grew up.
From house parties with 1950s and early ’60s rock ’n’ roll music, through preparing all day for my first date in a club, I knew that for some reason New Year’s Eve was important to the adults in my life when I was much, much younger, and that it was up to me to carry on their traditions.
One of my earliest memories is of my adoptive parents and aunt and uncle sitting around the fireplace with a few of their friends, singing to music played in the living room on a piano, sax, guitar and ukulele.
They’d start with tunes like “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” which always brought my Uncle Hal nearly to tears remembering his days as a tail gunner with the Flying Tigers during World War II, and then they’d progress through all the Christmas carols and gradually through livelier music until they reached what I still call their “spirited New Year’s Eve songs” like “Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home?” and “Come to the Cabaret.” By then, the little house was really rocking and that was the backdrop that allowed us kids to do pretty much anything we wanted, including roasting marshmallows in the indoor fireplace (which was something usually not allowed) to going outdoors and setting off fireworks without adult supervision.
I knew even then that the morning of January 1st all the adults would be talking about their resolutions like losing weight, quitting smoking or some other such thing. Sometimes, they would even write these things down and stick them to the outside of the refrigerator with magnets, most of which seemed to disappear before the month was out.
The last time I could remember all my consecutive New Year’s Eves for my first 15 years of memory was probably sometime in the ’70s. Now, I remember only a few that stand out.
My most memorable New Year’s Eve in recent years was the change of millennium: The stroke of midnight January 1st, 2000.
That was the “feared” Y2K, that turned out to be Y2OK; the night the doomsayers had predicted all the computers in the world would quit, stopping everything on every power grid and more.
That night my grown daughter and five of my grandchildren and I stood in the massive crowd at Channelside and watched the fireworks shower over Tampa Bay. It was billed as the biggest display on the Gulf Coast of Florida, although I cannot be certain that is true.
Wow — I just realized, even that was 17 years ago!
It’s been a long time since I made any New Year’s resolutions and every year, my idea of “revelry” gets a little softer. A few times, this has meant watching the ball drop in Times Square from my living room. But one thing has always stayed the same: The knowledge that I need to turn the page and look forward even though it’s often tempting to stay in the past. I may not make “resolutions,” but I do believe a New Year is a good time to do some reevaluating of priorities and purpose so January 1st can be the start of a fresh, clean page.