We are told that the onset of the new year is the time for fresh starts and looking forward. Given the nature of time (or at least the human experience of it), looking forward is not really an option. We are driving in reverse gear in a car with a stuck accelerator, no shift, and no brakes; further, all the glass is painted black except the windshield in front of our eyes, so we can see only where we’ve been. We do have some steering control, but we merely try to surmise what’s ahead based on what’s behind. Most of the road hazards we encounter are complete surprises. We often miss the ones about which we’re most worried only to slam into something we never seriously considered.
We all know this, which is why nostalgia outweighs expectations on New Year’s Eve. The song, after all, is Auld Lang Syne, not New Times A-Comin’. True, there are some years that we are happy to see come to an end – more than a few people felt that way about 2016 – but that, too, is a retrospective way of evaluating things. At this stage in my life, I’ve had far too many retrospective New Year’s Eves to recall each of them individually; even if I could, I’m far too lazy to write about them all – and am kind enough not to try to inflict such a tome on a reader. I’ll be unkind enough to recall ones at decade intervals, however.
|1957: I still sometimes wear suspenders |
but I've given up on bowties
1957: I truthfully can’t say I recall this New Year’s Eve, and I would have been in bed as 1958 arrived at midnight anyway. However, I do recall specific events (and presents) from that holiday season which includes the Eve. I can’t say I yet had acquired a reflective nature either. At age 5, upon how much is there on which to reflect? If I had thought about it, I probably would have recalled my first day of school, which was a major life event of 1957. In those benighted days (though somehow we still tested better 12 years later on SATs than today’s students) they didn’t really teach us anything academic in Kindergarten. It was just about getting socialized to the school experience and to other kids. At the end of the first day I got on the wrong bus. I’ve been searching for the right one ever since.
1967: I was a sophomore and suitably sophomoric. To the extent I had a Holden Caufield year, this was it. There was much teen angst and awkwardness on which to reflect. I did win my one and only blue ribbon earlier that year in a horse show event. Mostly, though, it was a year of re-evaluation – which is to say one of finally accepting that I wasn’t as exceptional as I would have liked. I actually remember watching on TV at home the ball drop at midnight in Times Square as 1968 arrived. I don’t know why: I remember few of the others specifically, but that one sticks.
|Eyes across the table|
1977: This was the high point of my youth. At 25 I was as fit as I’ve ever been and my adult life was coming together in a hedonistic decade that only those who experienced it would believe. Moreover, there was that one. You know the one. We all have the one, even if we didn’t end up with her or him and are glad we didn’t… yet still the one. I don’t remember New Year’s Eve specifically, but a few days earlier I was at PJ Clarke’s with those eyes across the table. 1977 was a good year.
|F150 parked by my cabin in the|
1987: For me, 1987 was a mixed bag, congruent with broader events that included a booming economy terminated by an epic stock market crash that was worse than 1929 or 2008, albeit with far milder aftereffects than either. I didn’t own stocks then, so the market movements didn’t affect me directly, but they did indirectly. I had a pleasant but fragile relationship (not live-in) that already had lasted more than a year and wouldn’t end until ’89. I owed a substantial (for me) mortgage sum, but I owned my home and it was a good investment. I still had my favorite vehicle to date: a simple 1979 Ford F150. The truck did have a quirk though. The shift on automatic transmissions in that model year sometimes would hang up between P and R so that you could think you were in Park when you weren’t. One time I slid the shift into what felt like P and left the truck to open a garage door. Suddenly the F150 was off backwards. I ran after it yelling, “Stop!” For some reason the truck didn’t listen. It arced off the driveway, slipped between two big black birches, and smacked into a flexible young cedar. The cedar bent enough to stop the Ford without significant damage. I scolded the truck for running away but praised it for its choice of trees. I don’t remember what I did for New Years Eve that year so it must not have been very memorable. 1987 was OK.
1997: Storm clouds brewed in 1997. I really can’t explain that further without being more boorish than I want to be even 20 years later. The year wasn’t without excitement, true enough: stormy weather rarely is. But 1997 is a New Year’s Eve I remember, and the year closed with a deep sense of foreboding that proved well-founded.
2007: The almost decade-long rough weather (including deaths of friends and family) subsided in 2007. The year ended with a sense of calm I hadn’t felt in years. I looked forward to more of the same as the clock ticked toward 2008. I don’t remember exactly what I actually was doing that particular Eve, but I’m sure of the feeling because it had lasted a month. Favorite memory: just sitting in a chair doing nothing but enjoying not being swamped by immediate worries. In the event, 2008 proved to be tumultuous financially, as it was for so many other people, but not in other ways, so my prognostication was mostly right.
|Imposing on poor Samantha Fish after |
a 2017 NYC concert
2017: Well, (as anyone who has done the math so far knows – though I can’t imagine who would have troubled to do the math), there is Social Security, isn’t there? There are also senior discounts at movie theaters, but, since the ticket sellers sometimes give me the discount without my asking for it, the discount comes with a bit of a sting. That happened to me for the first time last spring and a couple times since then. 2017 was a good year for me: not as good as ’77, but nonetheless a good year. I’m very aware that my life clock is no longer in the wee numbers, of course, but that’s OK, too.
What of 2018? Well, as mentioned up top, all we sense of that is guesswork based on the road behind. With any luck, next New Year’s Eve 2018 will have counted as another good year. I hope it is for you, too. Happy New Year.
The Offspring – Days Go By