Even when I was young, when New Year's Eve seemed only to happen elsewhere, I loved this holiday. Back then, the chance to stay up late was special enough. We watched Dick Clark's innocent countdown, and I imagined one day I would join the crowds underneath New York's falling ball. The hour between the East Coast's new year and Louisiana's always felt surreal. Which year was it exactly? Were we really so behind? Local TV stations sometimes staged their own countdowns, but the real thrill of another year passing always felt over by 11 p.m.
In junior high, I watched MTV's East Coast new year's specials with my best friend Ashley. We drank Welches sparkling grape juice and once thought we had made wine simply by adding wintergreen certs. We jumped on her brother's bed, claiming we were drunk. I spent Y2K alone, again watching MTV. My parents had friends. My brother had friends. I did not. I was 17 and cried until 10 p.m., at which point I just went to sleep.
My later new years were mostly drunken blow-outs. I kissed strangers. I kissed boyfriends. I kissed girlfriends. I overheard cat fights. I started arguments. I kissed some more. One night we ran down the street -- not drunk, but holding balloons -- then crowded into Portland's tiniest bar to listen to a 12-piece brass band sound the end of 2008. We couldn't stop smiling. The train ride home felt like a party, but I was already tired.
Last year I had my first proper adult new years eve -- dinner, Apples-to-Apples and a glass of champagne. The biggest commotion came when I sat on a toothpick. For the first time in a decade, I did not kiss anyone. We watched a countdown on a website called New Years Eve Ball. I went to bed before 1, happy, sober and ready to start a new year. That was the last great night I had for a while. For months after, I thought 2011 might be the worst yet. In many ways, it has certainly been the least static for me. I spent a good bit of the year stumbling, slouching toward whatever. But I also had a ton of fun, and when I look back on 2011, I want to remember these moments instead:
-- French Press adventures: We swam, ate hot dogs and other, more elaborate dinners. We kayaked and walked around painted hills. We built fires, told secrets, composed songs and made a thousand pictures. In short, we did it up all over the northwest.
-- Working out with a personal trainer: This seriously changed my life.
-- A's last month in town, though that was pretty bittersweet
-- Trips to the river, listening to Mariah Carey and Kid Cudi and drinking watermelon beer
-- Staying up all night talking to M at the Ace Hotel
-- Picnics, talking about rap, shoes and girls with L
-- Shopping and photo-clicking with K (plus watching Studio 60)
-- Coffee at L's in Iowa
-- Watching basketball with L in Chicago
-- Dancing to "All Night Long" with R
-- Fourth of July with my family
-- Cooking, learning about linguistics with K
-- Meeting/writing about Hugh's epic bike ride
-- 6 a.m. texts, learning how to say good morning again
-- A hot tub in perfect sunlight, soundtracked by wind chimes
-- Getting Lafayette!!
And finally, yesterday, the day before the last day, was totally perfect. The last day came quietly, in a room full of antlers, and I felt wholly different -- better -- than a year ago.