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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

So many ends in sight… the Word Project, the year. Even the week is winding down. For someone who loves starting and is allergic to finishing, it’s really a perfect confluence of events. Slogging my way to some mud-covered finish line, looking past it to the Shiny New ahead.

I love New Year. Thanksgiving is delicious, Christmas is fun, but New Year is a celebration. It’s staying up past midnight, which was as much a novelty as a kid as it is now that I’m old and pass out on the couch sometime around 8.

It’s champagne and confetti, noisemakers and shouting Happy New Year! Because you have to shout it. Then you have to call everyone you know and shout it, because everyone is shouting and it’s the only way to be heard.

That is, assuming you can actually get through.

Even these days you can still get a busy signal for a good amount of time before making a connection. Of course you can text, too, but that is not the same. If you can’t shout it, what good is it?

I don’t always make it to midnight these days. Plus now there are these things called time zones that are really annoying and make it impossible to wish everyone a Happy New Year when it is actually the new year. When pretty much everyone I knew lived in the same tristate area it was a lot easier to get them all on the phone.

Even though I live in Tennessee right now, it is only really New Year when the ball drops in Times Square.

They have a “music note drop” in Nashville but I have never seen it.

From what I can gather, it seems that the music note drop and accompanying gala will be celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. By contrast, the ball in Times Square has been dropping since 1907. It has rung in the new year ever since, with the exception of 1942 and 1943 when it was suspended during the war for a moment of silence instead.

The very first ball was made of iron and wood and weighed 700 pounds. It went through a few permutations over the years, to wrought iron in 1920, and aluminum in 1955. I remember when it became an apple for a minute, which was a total outrage. The current ball comes in at six TONS and is made of 2,688 Waterford Crystal lit by 32,256 bulbs.

The music note has 28,140 bulbs, zero crystals, and weighs a paltry 400 pounds. I’m surprised nobody has carried it off yet.

Clearly for it to be official New Year, you have to watch the ball drop. Then you have shout Happy New Year!, throw confetti and bang noisemakers, sing Auld Lang Syne and kiss everyone and probably cry and tell everyone how much you love them and how this year has to be better than last year.

A lot of years seem to need to be better than last year. I, for one, expect 2024 to be better than its predecessor. That’s the beauty of New Year. The whole slate gets wiped clean, all the annoyances go away and everything takes on a golden hue in that frozen dimension that’s midnight.

You’re finally going to really start your diet, and the closet will actually be organized, and you will never forget another birthday and you’re going to read all the books and fold all the socks and be brilliant and perfect and beautiful, just like the new year.

And then it’s midnight-plus-one-second so you go eat pigs in blankets and a giant chuck of Italian sub and figure it can all wait one more day.

Since I live in Tennessee right now, there will be no Italian sub, as apparently nobody has invented Italians here yet.

For my entire life up until I got married and even then for some years afterwards, that was the essence of New Year’s Eve. Even more than Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other holiday, it was the one where everyone got together to eat, drink, shout, cry, laugh, argue, and apologize for arguing.

It was the one night of the year when you could dream big enough to encompass everyone in the room, where you could talk about all your plans for greatness and everyone would believe you. Where you all believed that in spite of anything that had come before, everything was possible. Where you breathed a sigh of relief that you and the people around you had outlived another rotation.

However bad things are, somehow New Year promises hope. Strange how one tick of the clock does that. The next tick might revert it all back to business as usual, but somehow that one tick gets you geared up to go around the calendar once more.

My last decade-or-so of New Years has been pretty nondescript. I can’t get the ball drop televised and something about a music note drop doesn’t speak my language.

Many of the people we celebrated with exist only in my memories of party hats and tambourines, so it’s a bittersweet crossing.

New Year is when you get to miss people and remember the good times you had. And it’s when you get to feel infinitely grateful for the people you have, and tell them that, since you probably didn’t do it nearly enough on the other 364 days of the year.

Sometimes I can’t stay awake until midnight, and depending on my mood sometimes I don’t want to. But the one thing that has always been the same is my love for New Year and all it represents. It’s kind of a shame it only comes once a year.

As we wrap up this year, I’m already planning for the next and I’m ready for it to be the most brilliant year ever. At least until January 2nd.

Photo: Some fabulous heirloom noisemakers. My brother David popping some confetti, and quite possibly the best expression ever on my father’s face. I mean… I told you there was confetti!