I can't seem to think about the New Year until I have dispensed with the old one.
As one year ends and another begins, I find I am less concerned with resolutions than with clearing the decks. I hate starting a fresh, new year knee deep in debris from the previous year. It's important to clean off my desk, file what needs to be saved and recycle the rest. The week between Christmas and New Years is transition time.
But it gets even weirder. I need to clean out my purse, get my hair cut, have the car washed and detailed. One year I drove for two days straight, nearly non-stop from Boulder to Buffalo, to get to a hair appointment on New Year's Eve afternoon. I just couldn't stand the thought of entering the New Year with old hair.
The New Year's Eves I spent in Colombia were all about food and dancing. The Christmas buñuelos gave way to lentils and some delicious ajiaco, a typical stewed chicken dish with potatoes and corn on the cob, topped with capers. Parties at the homes of friends started late, around 11:00pm, and everyone danced to live music. There was always dancing and a conjunto, or band, of some sort. At one memorable New Year's Eve party, the band made up coplas, rhyming lines, about each of the guests as they sang. I was soundly roasted as the sole gringa in the room. Fireworks and shots of arguardiente, equally explosive, are seared in my mind as I recall those celebrations in the '70s.
And Colombia may be where I picked up the penchant for starting the New Year with a clean slate. House cleaning on the final days of the year was thought to usher in positive energy. Not a bad takeaway.
In Germany we lived on the third floor of a seven story apartment building in the tiny town of Jülich, not far from Aachen. As 1987 gave way to 1988, fireworks suddenly shot off of every balcony, showering sparks and ash on my upturned face below. Who knew? I was expecting a fireworks display somewhere on the horizon but instead found myself engulfed in one. My two-year-old was quickly ushered back to bed. I was assured by my German friends that the tradition is safe because, post-World War II, almost every building is made of cement, i.e., not flammable. But a bit scary nonetheless.
Where I am and who I'm with at midnight is important to me, too. After years of going to New Year's Eve parties, when my son was an infant I decided to spend New Year's Eve at home. I invited anyone and everyone - especially foreign students and visiting professors, those with no family and few friends to celebrate with - to come over and cook up a seafood feast. Something about the ocean and new beginnings. We peeled shrimp, shelled lobster and chowed down on sushi. Eventually the kids caught on and demanded to stay up and join in. I passed from one year to the next surrounded by family and friends. Perfect.
Here in Buffalo my friends are my family. I have the great good fortune to be a welcome guest each December 31st at a fabulous New Year's Eve party hosted by good friends Dale and Monica in one of the grand manses on Richmond Avenue. Good food, good music, good friends and a great deal to be grateful for.
I'll come up with some resolutions on January 1st. There are many ways in which I could work to make 2017 more positive, productive and peaceful than the soon to be departed, tumultuous 2016. And losing a few pounds wouldn't hurt either. But right now I'm busy cleaning out my inbox, scrubbing the tub and getting my hair cut.
May you celebrate the end of the old year and the start of the one in whatever ways you choose, safely and with joy, and may 2017 bring peace and prosperity for us all.