Happy New Year!

For once, I receive multiple invitations to New Year’s Eve parties. I choose the one that is just two miles down the mountain and a few hundred yards up river from where I live. Most of my friends from my pre-freelancing job will be there, and so will my family. I wear my hiking boots because I know I’ll be doing a lot of walking on gravel roads and old trails I still know by heart. It is a mountain party, so I know that noisemakers will consist of uncooked bean kernels in mason jars. I know there will be dogs at the party and a campfire and the burning of old Christmas trees to entice the flames into a seething bonfire. There might also be a few former Boy Scouts there, now grown into sexy Carhartt-wearing mountain men, and there will be a handful of my favorite girlfriends too.

I drink white wine. I drink hard cider. I drink champagne. I taste homebrew. (All of this and I am hypoglycemic.) Midnight comes before we know it and we forget to countdown, but on cue everyone shouts: “Happy New Year! Feliz Nuevo Ano! Cuba Libre!” The last phrase, loosely translated as “Free Cuba,” is a token phrase from the host’s recent honeymoon in Mexico. This was the Spanish translation of his favorite drink, Rum and Coke, and somehow it became our mantra as the party rolled into 2006.

After midnight, the real party begins. We dance to MC Hammer, House of Pain, Beastie Boys. There are Christmas tree humpers and dogs barking and Todd dresses up in his fat-boy air-pumped farmer’s costume so everyone can joke about his butt. Lexa coaches us through old dances: the Kit ‘n’ Play, the Shopping Cart, etc. We are fearless, blind, full of fun and trust and love and utterly carefree.

At some point into 2006 Lexa and I toast around the campfire out back to being single. We are, after all, the only two single women at the entire party. I chuckle a little to myself, knowing that we shared one man (for a millisecond) in common this year, then toast again, to the past and in praise of the future. “Onward!” I shout to the fire, to the two of us, to Orion and Casiopia.

Our Grand Finale is marked by Peter’s completely illegal fireworks display, promised to be bigger than last year. He, Todd, and the crew drop down into Lower Field and begin lighting the night sky. For at least twenty minutes the Milky Way is rivaled by some of Chicago’s most illustrious, behind the scenes, light show luminescence. The show is interrupted twice to stomp out five or six small fires in that have sparked in the field. Oops. Overall, the show is unimagineable, gargantuan, irreplicable.

When all is said and done, Peter marches up the railroad tie steps to the campfire and is greeted by an ally of drunk onlookers, who gratefully pass him their bottles, toss up their hands, and cheer him on.

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