For most of my life New Years Eve has been the booze filled fun time it is for most people. Friends get together, get drunk, sometimes dress up in ridiculous outfits and see in the New Year together, but more recently it seems to be changing.
When I was kid, my Nana used to throw great big New Years Eve parties. The Christmas decorations would still be up so there’d be tinsel everywhere and shiny garlands crisscrossing all the ceilings and the house would be full of people. Aunties, Uncles, friends, neighbours and a gaggle of cousins around my age to play with. Everyone drank and smoked and ate buffet food and I always loved it, until about nine or ten o’clock when I’d get sent to bed. Other cousins my age would be able to stay up with their parents but I wouldn’t. I’d sit at the top of the stairs seething with the outrageous unfairness of it all.
The one benefit of this predicament was the constant supply of food and drinks passed to me by the cousins left at the party. The music was loud and everybody had fun, until midnight. The music would stop and the countdown would begin. I could creep downstairs at this point as everyone was occupied and I could hide in the clouds of cigarette smoke. As long as I kept quiet I would be left alone.
Everybody came together for the countdown and it was loud and jolly and then that song played and it all changed. I watched as they sang Auld Lang Syne and all these people that had been having a great time all night were now crying and hugging each other. Something happened at midnight and I had no fucking idea what was going on.
I’ve read that you’ll have the most friends you will ever have at 25 and it’s all downhill from there. Time has a way of removing people from your orbit. Friends settle down with children, move away, die. The ones still alive are still your good friends but distance, responsibilities and life in general mean you see each other less and less. This is a normal part of growing old I guess and something everyone has to deal with. The happy part of all this is reconnecting with someone you haven’t spoken to in a year or two and picking up where you left off, as if no time at all had passed.
Then people start dying. First the old ones, expected. “good innings” whatever the fuck that means. But the age gap between you and the people dying gets smaller and smaller and your sense of mortality hangs over you like the sword of that Damocles bloke and you spend nights thinking of those friends, the ones alive but far away, the ones that were murdered, the ones who killed themselves, and you think ‘that’s life, I suppose’.
Then it’s New Years Eve and I have fun getting drunk and eating buffet food just like my family did when I was nine. Then the countdown happens and that song plays, and I remember all the people who used to be in my life all at once and I feel like I’ve been punched in the chest but I smile and say “Happy New Year!” to everyone. But the night is abruptly over and I just want to go home and I’m suddenly my Nana, crying on New Years Eve and now I understand.