Just like the beginning of school every year, this time of year is both exhilarating and melancholy. Everything seems to happen at once. The Advent season requires lots of special music at special worship services; when I am teaching, the semester or term usually ends about a week before Christmas, requiring lots of grading and turning in grades; and our home is the hub for family Christmas celebrations, meaning that there’s a whole lot of cleaning and cooking going on. But then, all the excitement is over, and the end of the year is upon us.
Generally, the end of the year is a happy time, because Emily’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve Eve, and Max’s and my New Year’s Eve tradition is that we stay in. I plan and cook a wonderful dinner and we watch one of several old movies, most of which feature Cary Grant, the man for whom tuxedoes were invented: “Notorious,” “Holiday,” “Casablanca,” “The Apartment,” or “The Awful Truth,” all of which end well.
We stay in because I had a horrible experience one year: my boyfriend Jim and I went on a double date with his friend Tim, and Tim’s girlfriend Glenda. We were headed back to Blue Springs from the Blue Ridge cinema when some person who had been overserved at some bar came at us on the wrong side of the road. As Jim swerved, the drunk did, too, and he ended up T-boning us on Highway 40. I spent the rest of New Year’s Eve and Day in the hospital in Independence. Tim was the most severely injured, as several of his ribs were broken. My injuries showed up later in the form of migraine headaches, which disappeared only after my doctor pushed the bones in my neck back into place. From that time, going out on New Year’s Eve has held no allure.
Max and I did, however, venture out one year. We went to a party, which sounded like fun, even though it meant trying something new. We told Emily, who was about 16 at the time, that we would be gone for an hour or so. We had been at the party for no longer than 30 minutes when one of the women at the party told me that her son called her to say that he had seen Emily at Taco Bell and she said that Max and I would be home about 11, and so he could come over to ring in the New Year. Max and I looked at each other, said our good-byes, and headed home. Only Emily was there when we arrived, but within 15 minutes, teenagers started arriving by what seemed the carload. She was horrified, and more horrified when I came downstairs in my bathrobe and started playing the piano. The kids left pretty quickly after that. We had the requisite conversation regarding inviting people to the house, and she said, “But Mom! I asked only two people to come over! They asked everybody else! It wasn’t me!”
Staying in on New Year’s Eve is a good thing.
As bustling and comforting as this time of year is, though, it also holds a certain sadness. The year is over. I began the year hoping to achieve certain things, many of which remained un-achieved. I had hoped for certain things, some of which have occurred, but many of which have not. The days are short, the temperature cold, and snow and sleet pelt us when we least need it. I think about what I want to happen in the year to come, and I know that 365 days later, I will chastise myself for those things on the list that are left undone.
Nevertheless, I count myself lucky that I have made it through another year. I have hope for what is to come, and I expect that at the end of another year, I will yet again find myself both satisfied and wanting. The year ahead holds promise, but also anticipation. What will be on January 1, 2017? Time, of course, will tell, but I’m betting on something good.
Deborah Mitchell is a a local attorney and a Municipal Court Judge.