On New Year’s Eve I stood dressed to the nines over an enormous pot of tomato basil soup, ladle in hand, breathing in the steam and aroma that produced the sort of satisfaction only a homemade meal can. We‘d produced a four course feast to serve something in the neighborhood of twenty people: homemade bruschetta made with organic tomatoes and fresh basil; mushroom caps stuffed with butter, garlic, and bread crumbs; the soup, made with five pounds of tomatoes, pureed and mixed with fresh spices and heavy cream; penne with tomato vodka cream sauce that had been started the night before to allow the flavors to become their most full; and chocolate truffle cakes dipped in Kahlua for dessert. Recipes had been doubled, tripled, quadrupled - our artistic brains struggled with the relatively simple mathematic function of multiplying fractions. A couple of hours before we’d been rushed and exhausted, but watching the meal come to fruition and be enjoyed far outweighed the fatigue. A couple glasses of Merlot hadn‘t hurt, either. We’d even managed to dim the lights and place candles, gold ribbons and a couple of strands of lights at strategic locations. Everything looked and tasted amazing, and had a touch of elegance that couldn’t be marred by the hodgepodge dinner china set we’d assembled from various kitchens.
“Soup?” I asked the newest arrival to the party.
“I’d love some soup!”
“You walk into a kitchen, a beautiful woman hands you a bowl of hot soup on a cold night - what could be better than that?” I blushed involuntarily at the first and only male compliment I’d receive that night. For all the time women spend dressing themselves up to impress and attract men, it seems only other women really appreciate the effort. The few exceptions still seem to make it all worth it, if only for a few seconds. I dropped my guard long enough to allow the word “beautiful” wash over me for a minute.
As I found more and more reasons to avoid mingling and relegate myself to the kitchen, and as my blood alcohol level rose, I thought about New Years’ past:
2004: Apartment took on that humid, sick smell of winter disease, as I volunteered to care for deathly ill significant other, watching “Pump Up the Volume” and “Heathers” on DVD. Tried unsuccessfully not to be bitter about it. Failed to see the irony. Watched Dick fucking Clark call the ball drop in New York. Kissed. Went to sleep.
2003: Went to bed before midnight, left for Vegas the next morning on the first vacation I’d ever taken with a significant other. Joy of situation complicated by the fact that I knew it wouldn’t last far beyond our return to MSP.
2002: Blew a fuse in the apartment. Lit candles, drank whatever alcohol was lying around the house, found one working outlet to plug in the television to watch Dick fucking Clark call the ball drop in New York. Kissed. Went to sleep.
2001: The first new year of legal drinking age, celebrated on the North Side of Chicago at a random bar advertised in The Reader as having a champagne toast and no cover. We counted down, hugged, and sprinted to the El lest we be forced to sleep at the station when the train stopped running.
2000: Drank a lot (and I do mean a lot) of champagne at my friend’s house in Chicago. Walked to the 51st Street bridge to watch fireworks and listen to (& avoid) gunshots. Kissed EVERYONE. Peed on my old high school on the way home and was thankful to not be frozen to the ground. Got paid $1 to kiss cute Brazilian high school friend.
“Raise your hand if you’re excited to see 2004 go!” someone said. Someone always says that. I joined a couple of people in a half-hearted shrug, while others shot their hands in the air emphatically. What does all of it really mean, anyway? Any given day, things either exceed, meet or fall short of expectation, but New Year’s Eve carries that weight like no other day. The day following, always peaceful in its way, feels like the beginning of a new chapter, and grants like no other a day to let go of any and all expectation and just be, if only for one day. Maybe a few more throughout the year if you’re lucky.