New Year’s Eve through the years:

The best and the worst

By Sally Friedman
   Over the years, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with New Year’s Eve. And I’m guessing that many others share that association.
   Back in the Neanderthal days when teenagers actually “dated” instead of traveling in herds, it was deemed essential to have a New Year’s Eve date lined up by early December. That is, if you were “cool.”
   I certainly never felt cool. But I had the same yearnings as those girls with perfect hair, perfect skin and turned-up noses.
   I seem to recall what I’d hoped would be the thrill of a first New Year’s Eve fix-up blind date when I was in 10th grade and actually believed those immortal words “Have I got a guy for you!”
   I still haven’t fully forgiven the “friend” who made that enticing offer. And I fell for it.
   I recall rushing out to buy a black velvet dress. I don’t know why, but for New Year’s Eve, it had to be black velvet.
   I took every cent of my babysitting money, then hit up my father for the rest, vowing that I’d pay him back as soon as I got my next babysitting gig.
   And on the big night, there he stood in our living room — an awkward, utterly graceless young man with a terrible head cold. He sneezed before he even said hello.
   I can’t remember much of that long-ago ordeal, except that at midnight, when those other ‘going steady” cool couples were smooching, I was hiding in a hallway hoping I wouldn’t be found by my sneezing date.
   There would be other awful New Year’s Eves long after the black velvet dress had lost its allure. And so had New Year’s Eve.
   I was never convincing as a party pretender. Fake cheer doesn’t work for me, and while some of my friends numbed their pain with booze, I’ve always gotten a headache after one glass of wine.
   But on the New Year’s Eve of my 21st year, everything miraculously changed. This time, I’d met a young lawyer a few weeks before who was smart, funny, wise and — miracle of miracle seemed to like me back.
   There was a joint house party with my sister at our Philadelphia home that year, and this time, there was a lovely midnight kiss. Seven months later, there was another, this one under the wedding canopy at our family’s synagogue when it was announced that a husband and wife were walking back down the aisle.
   We were that couple.
   Amazing. Startling. Wonderful.
   And yes, the permanent panacea for New Year’s Eve dates.
   Every year, no matter where we are — at a family party, a neighborhood party, or, more likely, at home in the den about to fall asleep with the TV blaring — I remember those horrible early New Year’s Eves of my life.
   I remember that frantic search for a black velvet dress that would presumably bring me glamour and good fortune.
   And most of all, I remember the New Year when a tiny blonde-haired infant made sure that we were nowhere but home.
   Suddenly, we were a family. And from then on, New Year’s Eve usually meant a frantic and unsuccessful search for that most prized of all treasures: a babysitter.
   It grew more hopeless when two other baby girls joined us in rapid succession, and no sitter we could ever find wanted to spend that particular night with three tiny ones under the age of 5.
   No matter the glamour quotient of any invitation we’ve gotten over all these decades, Vic and I still look back on those at-home New Years Eves with our daughters as the purest definition of what the night really means.
   For us, it boils down to this.
   Fervent hope for the new year that waits in the wings.
   Gratitude that we are together, safe healthy and whole.
   And wonder at what lies ahead as that last number ticks into place in our lives.
   And best of all — no awful blind dates!