And right now, for some reason, my thoughts keep returning to a New Year's Eve 55 years ago.
New Year's Eve 1956 was like so many other New Years Eves of my childhood: my father, usually a night owl, would retire to his bed at 7 p.m., growling about the sad state of the world, the dreadful fate of mankind and the inherent foolishness of anyone who even thought about celebrating the passage from one year to the next. His grumblings were interrupted only by his occasional calls for snacks or for another rum and Coke, sipped as he lay abed bemoaning the year past and the year to come.
And we knew the scenario for New Year's Day as well: he would rise in time to watch the Rose Parade on television, still clad in his favorite thermal ski pajamas, and make caustic comments about every marching band, every float, and, especially, every equestrian unit in the lineup with the ornate, bejeweled costumes of the riders and silver trimmed saddles further weighing down the horses.
And there was a certain comfort in such predictability.
We sat quietly with Aunt Molly that evening. My mother occasionally joined us in between ferrying food and drink to my father's lair.
Suddenly, Aunt Molly announced that she felt some poems coming on. I ran for pen and paper to transcribe her latest inspirations.
And, as I wrote her words down, memorizing them as I went along, I realized something suddenly: that facing each day and each year with a family member who saw the world in a dark and completely different way offered Aunt Molly -- and us -- a unique opportunity. We could make his dark moods our own. Or we could offer him love and understanding despite our differences and bring laughter to a usually difficult night in our house.
I was struck by the affection and gentle humor in Aunt Molly's simple, spontaneous poems to and about her brother, my father. For all their differences, differences that ran deep and angry and as long as they both lived, there was much love between them. I felt it as I transcribed her words.
New Year's Eve - 1956
Oh Father on thy bed of pain
The New Year now rolls round again.
What words of joy you bring us all
Every time we hear you call.
Oh Father keep our spirits light
With tales of plague and death and blight.
Blithe spirit let us not forget
The present's black. Our doom is set.
But if thou wilt not rise, sweet pere,
Ring out wild bells! Let every hair
Stand upright as in earth and heaven
Fools of the world greet '57.
The Day Father Rode in the Rose Parade
The Rose Parade was at its height
The horses pranced, the floats rolled by
When suddenly an awesome sight
Appeared against the drizzly sky.
The crowd let out a mighty roar
And rose to cheer, each man and boy,
For larroping by on an old screen door
Was the one, the only James McCoy.
His ski pajamas blazed with jewels,
His legs were beautiful to see
He rode among the cheering fools
A king of eccentricity.
He passed the stand and there unfurled
A banner scrolled in plastic foam
That read for all the waiting world:
"Okay, you've had it! Fools go home!"
We laughed heartily and together over her efforts. Even Father, languishing in bed, laughed as he read the two poems. And then Aunt Molly, my mother, Mike and I celebrated the coming of midnight and the New Year 1957 by grabbing pots and pans and wooden spoons, running around the front yard banging on the pots and yelling "Happy New Year!" to our neighbors who were also running around their yards, setting off firecrackers and yelling with joy. But the four of us had even more to celebrate that night: we were united in our loving acceptance of what was and hopeful for what might be in the New Year.
What is to be in 2012?
I hope for love despite differences, shared laugher and much joy and gratitude as we greet yet another New Year.