Happy New Year!
Over the years, I’ve watched many things drop in celebration of the calendar turning over. I’ve seen the ball (or the big apple) drop in New York. In Atlanta, they drop a huge glittering Peach that looks like it belongs in Vegas. A few lucky years, I’ve even seen a pair of pants drop, in anticipation of fireworks, if ya know what I mean.
How do we celebrate here in the Mountains of Northwest Georgia? Why, we drop a possum, of course. I kid you not. In Murphy, right by the <st1laceName w:st=”on”>Campbell</st1laceName> <st1laceName w:st=”on”>Folk</st1laceName> <st1laceType w:st=”on”>School</st1laceType>, they lower a possum in a cage as the countdown for the New Year. Hundreds of people go to watch this exciting event. They cover the hillside with coolers and blankets. A stage is erected and live bands play. Big fun! And right next door, the folk school has a square dance, live music and a New Year’s Eve party for people who rather laugh and dance in a down to earth way, than wear sequins and get sloshed. We thought the country version of ringing in the New Year sounded like a novel experience. Never a mistake to try something new.
Apparently, a year or two ago, the Possum dropping was featured in the Times and received national attention (news must have been slow that day) and now animal rights groups are fighting to stop the tradition. The fellow who began this event pointed out that he catches the possum a month prior and feeds and cares for it well. It’s not as if he throws it from the window, for Pete sake. After lowering the possum to the cheers of droves, he said he then lets it go, but as a side note, he added “and it’s perfectly healthy until someone hits it with a car going home.” He was kidding, of course, but this set off another bout of fury regarding animal rights.
Now, everyone knows I am an animal enthusiast. Heck, I even send money to organizations for pig rights – but for all we know, the possum loves the attention. I don’t see this as unacceptable furry friend abuse myself.
Yesterday, it rained all day. Not good possum dropping weather, I fear. And my youngest has been sick. Sure as shoot, at 5:00 she had a raging fever. I wasn’t going to leave her home like that, nor would I drag her out, so we ended up missing all the excitement and opted to stay home. Kent had a friend staying over. I did some impromptu cooking. Made chicken wings, meatball subs, homemade mac and cheese, salad and blackberry cobbler from some of the blackberries I picked this summer. (That was my idea of a tribute to my first year on this land.) The evening was casual. Nice. Dianne and I shared a bottle of wine. We watched movies and reminisced about past New Years. We’ve had years of feast and famine, and oddly enough, it’s the years of famine that are most memorable. Being broke forces creativity. There is good in everything.
When I was young, I always worked on New Years. I was a bartender in New York right around the corner from Times Square, so as you can imagine, it was a big night. Then, when I was performing, they always scheduled a show on New Years, and again, I worked, but the cast would go out dancing or something afterwards. In Florida, the winter break was always the time we would buckle down and work to get the dance season caught up. We were forever remodeling, taking inventory, ordering costumes – working to organize the school to improve it. Plenty of New Years found us in the studio working, my begging Mark to take us home at 11:30 so we could at least celebrate at home with the kids. (Not that I’m complaining, for those years of endless struggle and work did pay off.) He always gave an apologetic sigh and we would rush home minutes before midnight. Funny, I remember those New Year’s fondly. There is something celebratory in working for a future. One year, when Denver was little and I was single, I hosted a kid party so at least my friends could go out. I spent the night going wild with people under six. Let me tell you, they do the holiday right. We were drunk on chocolate frosting – pots and pans singing out into the night. Good times.
When Mark and I prospered, we started doing the things we assumed normal people were doing. A few times, we had a lovely dinner party and friends came over to celebrate. We played games, took a hot tub, opened champagne. That was nice. One year we went to a Broadway show and attended the New Year’s Party with the cast afterwards. We were rather bored. All those overdressed people paying too much for an organized event was not our style. One year we were invited to a neighborhood New Year’s Party. That was weird. All these conservative neighbors gathered and got loaded and started dancing on the tables and making out. It made us snicker knowingly every time we drove down the street and saw them watering their lawns for months afterwards. Ha. They were smart enough not to do that one again.
The year we bought our dilapidated cabin up here, we happened to be hauling trash to the dump, preparing for the remodeling project. The kids were home with Denver. That year, we took a bottle of wine to the drive-in – the first drive in I’d visited since high school. We celbrated by watched movies through a thin sheen of snow, wrapped in blankets in the front seat, going through our cold bottle of wine and then the thermos of coffee we also brought. Good year. I remember Mark saying, “Could you imagine living here?” I think I said something like, “Fat chance for us.” Ha.
I guess I’ve never been one to want to go wild on New Years. I don’t like the crowds or the people who drink too much and turn from fun to obnoxious. Driving is dangerous. Restaurants and events are overpriced as they offer New Year’s specials -really just a ticket to get in the door on a day everyone feels they must go somewhere. I feel as if people try too hard make the evening memorable. Everyone behaves in exaggerated ways, and their expectations are too high to be met. Forced joy ends up seeming contrived. I guess I just prefer watching everyone do their thing from afar. I am all for watching balls, peaches, (and pants) drop at home.
But I sure would have liked to share the evening with friends on a hillside watching a possum drop – just once. That’s not something you want to try at home. Ah well. I will shoot for that particular thrill next year.
In the meantime, I hope everyone’s evening was memorable, safe and loads of fun. I hope you don’t have a hangover today, and if you do, well, I hope it was worth it.
I also hope you took time to take stock of what was good about last year, and consider what will bring you true happiness this year. When that ball drops, it’s a chance to drop your sorrow over things left unsaid, undone, or untried. It’s a new beginning, an opportunity to bravely step towards what is important to you individually.
I guess the calendar turning over is nothing more than a simple date in reality. But in our minds, we associate so much potential and promise to a New Year.
May all the promise in your heart take shape.
Now – go start your diet. I know you made that resolution. Ha. Who didn’t.
And don’t feel bad if you can’t make sense of the last year. You’re not alone. Somewhere out there, a wet possum is scurrying along thinking, “What the hell just happened to me?”
He doesn’t understand how or why, but he was a significant part of something special. Trust me. You are too.