I almost missed New Year’s Eve celebrations due to a terrible cold that I contracted from some folks who couldn’t bear to miss Christmas celebrations.
They came out infected and spread the joy of that infection along with some admittedly wonderful holiday cheer.
I was determined not to infect my loved ones and I tried not to feel resentful as I cancelled my brunch, dinner and then after dinner plans.
But this is the first year in about 10 that I had a person who I actually wanted to ring in the New Year with and, I must admit, I felt robbed.
I wanted the romantic embrace at the stroke of midnight with the crowd cheering all around me. I was convinced it would be exactly like it is in every romantic comedy I’ve ever seen.
My special someone pointed out that everyone he passed on the street or at work in the last few days were already sniffling, sneezing and otherwise sauntering around spewing their germs free as you please.
The chances were good that I wouldn’t infect a soul so at around 11:30 we decided that we would bundle up and partake of a favorite Baltimore tradition: the dropping of the ball on 34th street.
The ball was constructed by Hampden resident Bob Hosier in 1988. He lives on the street whose spectacular tradition of lighting up the holiday is affectionately called the Miracle of 34th street.
People come from far and wide to count the seconds together until the ball drops.
Fireworks and champagne corks explode all around. Group hugs and cheering for the potential of the future arise.
It is, for a few moments, the best of people in the best of moods.
As I had imagined, my special someone took me in his arms. We couldn’t actually kiss because my nose was running and my upper lip was tissue torn but the embrace held promise right up until I felt a hand on my shoulder pull me backwards.
“Will you take a picture of us?” the stranger slurred as she shoved a camera at me and then grabbed hold of her man to gather evidence of her big moment.
Let’s face it – it hasn’t really happened if it isn’t posted on Facebook, right?
As is often the case at massive parties, if you are not wise enough to make a speedy exit or reckless enough to drink yourself to obliteration, you will witness things that make drinkers sober up and drive sober people to drink.
I didn’t want to leave because I had missed so much already and I had no alcohol in my system, unless you count the gallons of cough syrup I guzzled before going out. My special someone is sober as a practice.
As a result we bore clear-headed witness to the decline of all reason.
For the most part, the madness was all in fun. There was the drunken teen in search of the other drunken teen in a sea of drunken teens. There was the guy in the middle of the road acting on his obviously new resolution to learn yoga in the coming year. There was the group of folks who thought it would be great fun to pound on the windows of the bus as it tried to make its way to its next stop. I’m sure in their great enthusiasm they saw the wide eyed expression of the driver and passengers as joyful solidarity and not as the terror that was clear to onlookers.
And then, I saw her – the woman that my daughters and I always referred to as the girl on the stairs.
At every party of my own drunken youth she made an appearance. You’ve seen her many times yourself and there she was, sitting on the curb between an SUV and a mid-sized sedan. Her feet were splayed out and her knees knocked together. Her hair was disheveled under her cardboard and glitter crown. Her trusted sidekick (she always has a trusted sidekick) was rubbing her back and whispering words of comfort to calm her hysterical sobs.
I am not without compassion. I am sure she had endured a terrible trauma. Perhaps she saw a boy that she dated once out with another girl. Maybe she realized that her dress made her look fat. There are so many maybes.
We passed without even offering to help. I squeezed my special someone’s hand and smiled.
This New Years Eve was perfect and I’m looking forward to 2013.
As we roll out the new year I would like to offer you the same advice I gave my daughters every time they left the house on their way to one party or another.
Be safe, have fun, be honest and kind to yourself and to others and, for God’s sake – don’t be the girl on the stairs.
(Feature photo of New Year’s on 34th Street in Baltimore by Larry Cohen)
Nancy Murray is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and the Publishing Arts at University of Baltimore. She is a playwright who as enjoyed full productions of her work at Fells Point Corner Theater, Silver Spring Stage and the Montgomery County One Act Festival where it was selected as The Best of Festival. Most recently she has been enjoying participating in the Submit 10 Series as both a playwright and as a performer.