Of the many gifts given to us by the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Eve is the best. It’s a quintessentially American holiday; an “anything goes,” evening where, if only for one night, we all live in Las Vegas and, as we all know, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And if, for some reason, it doesn’t stay in Vegas, a shot of penicillin usually does the trick.
For many of us, we celebrate because we survived another year. And we celebrate like Lieutenant Dan in the crow’s nest of Forrest Gump’s shrimp boat: “You call this a storm?!” We are defiant and bulletproof.
And this year takes on added significance. As you’ve no doubt heard by now, according to the Mayan calendar, December 21st, 2012 is it; The Time of the Sixth Sun, End of Days. It’s also the only time we’ve ever listened to the Mayans. I wouldn’t be too worried, though. If the Mayans were any good at predicting apocalypses, they would have predicted their own apocalypse 1000 years ago. If they’d been smart, they’d have ended their calendar every year like we do so they could sell more calendars. Tell me you wouldn’t buy 12 months of Mayan warriors holding kittens.
Both my wife and I liked New Year’s Eve, but New Year’s Eve is different now with a 6-month-old. This year, we decided to celebrate with other parents of young children. We packed everything we needed for an infant overnight in my wife’s car; I took the plate of hors d’oeuvres in mine. Including ours, there were five children, ranging in age from 4 years to 6 months. Upon arriving, our daughter got very excited, and began to gleefully assault the other children. She indiscriminately punched, pulled, and pushed, all while squealing like a Twilight fan at a red carpet premier.
Obviously she was just trying to play, but her overwhelming enthusiasm combined with immature motor skills had the other children looking at their parents as if to say: “Who invited her?”
Eventually, it was bedtime. For a while, it was peaceful, but even then it was difficult for my wife and me to enter into full Adult Mode. With one ear cocked toward a distant bedroom, and one eye on the baby monitor, we would smile and joke and converse, but we could never quite relax.
Then, it took just one whimper from one of the bedrooms to activate the others, and the evening quickly turned into a theatrical farce. There were doors opening and closing with half-naked babies running in and out and around. Their parents, cheeks warm and rosy from a delightful rum punch, were hunched over in hot pursuit like rodeo clowns with scoliosis.
Our daughter, largely immobile at 6 months, participated in the only way she could; by screaming at the top of her lungs. It was 9 p.m.
We decided that it would be foolish to try to put her back to sleep just to wake her up again later, so, with three hours left in 2011, after thanking our gracious hosts, we pulled up stakes and headed home.
And so it was that, for our family, 2011 ended not with a bang but a whimper, but that is not to say that it didn’t get a little crazy. The next morning we found a few strands of another child’s hair still clenched in our daughter’s tiny fist. And I’d be willing to bet that she doesn’t remember a thing. At least one of us still knows how to party.