Monday, December 31, 2007
New Year, 2008
The secular new year of 2008 of the Common Era has arrived far too quickly. When I was a kid, George Orwell's 1984 seemed impossibly distant; 2000 was when George Jetson's space cars would glide through the air, and I would be an old lady. Happily, the last of my expectations has yet to be fulfilled, but I admit that 2008 is beyond my comprehension.
Still, I better get used to writing it on my checks.
How should Jews feel about flipping the calendar page? I don't think too many of us see it as a time for getting drunk and resolutions; we've got the month of Elul, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, which drags through Sukkot to Hoshana Rabba, for introspection and earnestness. But still, we're part of this culture, and we use English dates, and the world shares a time frame. We can't ignore the move from December to January. But some people still try.
I was raised in L.A. The way most parents I knew celebrated the evening was to cozy by the TV and "watch the ball drop" in Times Square in New York. This occurred at 9 pm, and after a few "Happy New Year!" wishes, the oldsters would head for bed. The younger generation would gather at somebody's home, or plan an outing. One New Year's Eve I saw "The Sound of Music" at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. You had to get tickets in advance and they were really expensive. Still, my date and I sat in the very last row of the balcony. At midnight, we ceremoniously kissed in the car, hearing the countdown on the radio on our way to a lame party.
Perhaps my most memorable New Year's Eve was, oh, 15 years ago, when my husband and I were invited to a Hollywood party given by a movie producer. Several big-name stars were there; the house in the Hollywood hills was spectacular, with all L.A. spread out and twinkling at our feet. We played pool with a famous actor, and talked with our host, and looked around, and had drinks. I felt like an interloper as I was not a star, and, as it turned out, would never again be invited into the home of an A-lister. But as thrilled as I was to glean a glimpse of that world, I also sensed depression, as the entry to a new year was not really so happy, and not really so meaningful there--just a kiss and a drink and for the other Hollywood ladies, an excuse to wear a revealing, shiny dress.
Most New Years Eves have been eminently forgettable. Occasionally with friends, often just us at home looking outside at the Big Moment to see others' fireworks against the sky, popping and snapping. I grab my husband and insist on a Happy New Year kiss, because that's what you do. Sometimes we toast with champagne; tonight it was Martinelli's in an etched champagne glass, as the fireworks fizzed and popped and lit the horizon in their miniature colors.
The year ahead promises to be significant. The Iowa caucuses are but a few days away, and the election, like the horizon, twinkles with surprises. Projects should be completed and released, children released and completed. But is this a time to look back and forward, or just another day in the year? Trick question; in Jewish life, every day is assessed and every day precious. We'll never have the opportunity to repeat the moment, though often I think of the film Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray experiences the same day repeatedly until he gets it right.
I'm trying to get it right the first time, and in a strange reversal of Bill Murray's fate, never seem to accomplish it. But I suppose that's what keeps life interesting and challenging and hopeful--I can hear my mom's cheerful voice responding to some complaint I made as a kid: "tomorrow's another day!"
Thank God for that...and it's another year, too. Here's a toast and a kiss that yours is healthy and rewarding.