As a youngster, New Year’s Eve centered on “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” hors d’oeuvres for dinner and usually futile efforts to stay up until midnight to celebrate the changing of the calendar. As I grew a little older, it became tradition to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the regional PBS station with my mother and sister before turning to the televised countdown to midnight. We kept the tradition of hors d’oeuvres for dinner, including something that came to be known as “Sausage Stuff” – it was equal parts breakfast sausage, ground beef and Velveeta glopped onto cocktail rye bread and baked. We should have called it “Artery Cement.”
New Year’s Day was filled with a visit to my grandparents’ house, watching college football bowl games with my uncle, grandfather and cousins and eating sauerkraut and sausage for good luck.
It wasn’t until I was out of college that New Year’s Eve celebrations became a social priority. By the time I had moved to Rockford, Ill., in the early 1990s, I had become The New Year’s Guy. I planned and hosted the celebration annually for my 20-something friends, and each year the party seemed to get more elaborate. Two events that stand out:
• The year a pair of co-workers, both Ohio natives and fueled by adult beverages, lined up opposite one another in my living room for an “Ohio vs. Ohio” football blocking showdown. Somehow, they ended up outside and someone had their head buried in a snow bank.
• Another year, our crew decided to turn the unheated garage of my rented house into a dance floor. We covered the walls with blank newsprint and encouraged guests to provide their own graffiti. We also rented an industrial-strength heater to make the space habitable (it was about 7 degrees outside that night), but the heater was so loud you could barely hear the music. Still, it was one of our most memorable parties.
As we grew older, got married and had children, New Year’s became more of an excuse for an extravagant night out. We would reserve a teppan table at the Japanese restaurant in town and let someone else care for the kids for a few hours. The best part of those nights was watching the chefs and wait staff, who clearly were having more fun than we patrons.
Today, New Year’s Eve holds little meaning for me. Gone are the parties and dinner dates. A part of that is fear of those who hold life in less regard than I do, which they prove through drunken driving. Another factor is the realization that it should not take the calendar flipping to January to motivate us to make positive changes for ourselves and those for whom we care the most. As Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”
I don’t begrudge those who embrace all the celebration and resolve for renewal that New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day bring. I once was among you, and I look back at those times fondly. But like many, the passing of time has taken me to a different place – not better or worse, just different.
Last week I noted the dismal rate at which people follow through on their New Year’s resolutions. If we all can agree on anything this year, I am hopeful that it is this thought from former Prime Minister of
Sweden Goran Persson: “Let our New Year’s resolution be this: We will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word.”
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.