Monday, January 4, 2010

Memories of New Years Past and Those to Come

Rapidly approaching midlife (at least I hope I'm not yet to the middle), my zeal for staying up late and seeing in the new year has been non-existent. In the last half dozen years, I can only think of once that I stayed up for the new year and that was due to a party that we had been invited too. Even then, we didn't even stay at the party until the new year arrived because everyone left to race home and turn on every light in their house as was their tradition. Most years however, we simply go to bed our normal time and bring in the new year with morning's light.

My first memories of celebrating the new year are as a child from an era long since dead. Our rural farming community used to gather at the local restaurant fifteen miles away for some food and fellowship. As the night wore on, the adults would retire to various tables for card games of all kinds, some including stakes. The kids would retire to other tables with various board games and in that way, with occasional trips for more snacks and pop, whittle away the hours until the new year was just down the street.

After a little deliberation about whose watch was fast or slow, a watch with the median of time among our group would be selected as the official watch and there would be a count down from ten to usher us into the new year. There would be no confetti, fireworks or joyous shouting other than one loud "Happy New Year" shout right afterwards. When that was over with, we all just kind of shook hands, picked up the cards and board games, and walked out into the cold and dark for the long drive back to our various farms.

This went on for a few years but the farm crisis of the 80's eventually put a halt to those festivities. More than half of those farmers that had attended the events lost their farms and moved on to cities and unemployment lines. Those that were lucky enough to remain behind couldn't go to the diner on New Year's Eve because it closed up and until just a few years ago, was vacant. I seem to remember a few small get togethers with just our close neighbors but when the distances went from less than a quarter of a mile to several miles due to departing farmers, even those gatherings ceased. As I grew up into a teenage, my parents allowed my brother and I to stay up and usher in the New Year as we saw fit and we may have done it once just because we could, but soon we began what was to be a tradition of just reading a good book and going to bed to allow the new year to show itself into our door.

When I graduated from college and spent my first new year away from home, there was a period of a few years when other young single adults like myself would pool together our money, rent a room at some fancy hotel in the capital city of that frozen tundra where I lived and see the new year arrive big city style. Other than dancing before and after and a lot more booze involved, it wasn't all that different from my youth. You still stood around counting down the time and then shouted "Happy New Year" before picking up your things and heading back to your room. There my friends would sit around drinking and talking until they passed out. Never one for getting sloppy drunk, I would join in the talking but would turn out the lights after the last one had passed out and then go to sleep myself. The next morning was always a killer as I would usually be up in the early morning, would have walked a dozen blocks or so to a nice restaurant for breakfast and a very leisurely reading of the newspaper, gone for a long walk on the way back, showered and sat reading a book by a crack of light through the curtains for a couple hours before my friends starting getting up and dosing themselves with lots of aspirin for their headaches. It was always a long quiet drive back to the town where we all lived far out on the tundra. Eventually we all moved on, either through marriage and kids, or through jobs in far away states and I suspect, many of them celebrate the new year much the way I do now, with sleep and perhaps some reflection on the year gone by.

It seems more of my reflections dwell on those who are no longer with us and what technology has now become indispensable. I suppose I dwell on those who have gone because they remind me how fragile and quickly life can be. People that I had heard my parents growing up with are replaced by those who I grew up with which all too soon will be replaced with those that are my age or perhaps even younger. With technology, I suppose I dwell on that because it changes faster than anything else around and provides us with a sense of just how fast time has gone by. A decade ago, cell phones were still expensive and required a separate bag to carry them, blogging, GPS devices for cars, fiber optic television/phone/Internet packages, twitter, facebook and a whole host of other things weren't even around. This past year I finally got my first cellphone, two more GPS devices and a HD television and a DVR that came with the all in one television/phone/Internet package. It blows my mind that I can now record two shows at once while watching a third or pause a live broadcast of a football game so I can go get seconds of the dip and chips only to come back and pick up exactly where I left off, perhaps even catching back up to the live broadcast since I can now fast forward through commercials. It leaves me wondering what thing I am going to be marveling at in the next decade that I hadn't even considered to be possible right now. My best prediction is that television sets and computers will become one and the same thing and be so integrated into our homes that we can set our dishwasher during halftime of the Superbowl with the television remote.

I'm not one for new year resolutions because I am pretty happy with my life as it is and really don't know what I would do to better it. But I will lay down a couple things that I hope will happen in the next decade or so of my life. First, I would like to become debt free in the next decade and pay off the little that remains on my home mortgage. After that, I would like to invest in some land, perhaps build a home by myself and most of all, continue to write about it all in some form or the other. I still keep journals and I hope that I still might be blogging but perhaps ten years from now, it is done by just thinking and having your thoughts automatically uploaded to some holographic computer host and you my reader, will just have the thoughts downloaded to your minds where ever you may be. Now that would be truly frightening.


Vince said...

Thanks Ed, that was truly lovely.

You carried me back to memories of the hellish '80s where the hopes of the 70's were dashed. You cannot help but feel that we are in for about ten years of similar hell only this time for the people that think themselves middle or upper-middle class. They were the ones that have survived the 80s, 90s and Zeros through a fake belief that their incomes would lift enough to cover their debts, always and ever. Oops.

R. Sherman said...

Like you, I find the passing of a New Year to be not that big a deal anymore. Rather, I try to concentrate on each single day and make something of it, as trite as that sounds, and to be content with my life as it is, without the artificial notion of resolutions which may, or most likely may not, be kept.


Ed said...

Vince - I suspect you are right with your predictions especially since most of my generation have little to no savings. Since I spent my formative years in the middle of a farm crisis, I have always been a big saver and hope that will get me through when times get a lot tougher.

R. Sherman - The biggest deal for me is writing 2010 down instead of 2009!

Murf said...

What does one need with 3 GPS devices?!?

We went to a friends house last year which was basically my first time away from Dick Clark and it was like you said..a 'Happy New Year!' shout (if that...most weren't even paying attention) and then people started packing up. I much prefer just hanging out at home with the guys and Ryan Seacrest.

sage said...

I went to bed early--for years, my parents always had New Year Eve parties and when I was home, I would help gathering the oysters for the celebration.

Ed said...

Murf - It is a long story but I ended up in Atlanta wanting to look around for a day and my GPS didn't even know that Atlanta existed or the roads within. I ended up getting another one just so we didn't spoil the opportunity. Perhaps I'll write a blog on that.

Sage - Never gathered oysters but I have eaten them once or twice. I remember them being really good so I imagine nothing tastes better when they are fresh from the ocean.

Murf said...

Do it. I want to read about why someone would pay $200 for another GPS unit rather than $5 for a map.

Beau said...

Nice Ed. I liked reading of the '80's nostalgia and family/community gatherings. A bygone era.

TC said...

Oh man, I think those old NYE parties sound perfect.