Written in 2017.
After she covered her black eyed peas with water to soak overnight, Millie went outside to help her husband wrap the big ball of chicken wire with Christmas lights. Every year, the couple hosted the New Year’s Eve party at their farm just South of Montgomery, and at ten seconds ‘till midnight, slowly lowered the glowing orb to the ground as the crowd counted down from 10.
The glowing ball dangled from the pulley looped above the barn loft door . The chicken wire masterpiece threw a warm glow over the band who stood on a makeshift stage of plywood. Friends from near and far came loaded down with food to share and told stories of how they spent their Christmas holiday — playing with babies, or arguing with their in-laws. Children chased each other and only stopped to roast marshmallows over a roaring bonfire. The latest tech gadgets received as gifts were a hot topic with the teens, but were soon shoved deep into coat pockets as the stars caught their attention and flashing smiles suddenly fascinated them more than the flashing screens.
Ideas for resolutions were kicked around, and most who vowed to diet, added the stipulation of, “after tonight, of course.” Tilly Jo had a tear run down her cheek as she remembered the difficult past year and the horrible day she learned her daughter had suddenly died. Her friends noticed and quietly wrapped their arms around her or patted her shoulders. Without saying a word, they knew what she was thinking and shared her pain and hopes that the new year would bring peace.
Inside the house, the television broadcast the New Year’s Eve celebration from Times Square in New York City. The Waterford crystal incrusted sphere sparkled as it was lowered to the ground and the huge crowd was showered with confetti.
Back in Alabama, the chicken wire globe was lowered, couples embraced and children cheered. Bottle rockets zipped through the air as casserole dishes were cleared away and tables were folded and carried into the barn.
Different worlds, different people but both celebrations filled with identical thoughts for the past 365 days. Wishes, hopes and prayers were offered for the next 12 months.
New Year’s Eve is a rare uniting holiday for Americans. We aren’t focused on a specific religious, military or government occasion, but one that guides us to do what we so rarely do, which is to stop and think alike. Texans whose homes flooded, Californians who endured the terrors of wildfires, and those on the coast wiped out by hurricanes are longing for a new beginning in the upcoming year.
We want to be united in spirit without having to be thrown together in the aftermath of a national tragedy. We want our politicians to work things out and show respect for one another. No matter who we are or what we look like, we make resolutions to work harder, play more and seek happiness.
Chicken wire, or Waterford crystals being lowered through the starlit sky make no difference in the sincerity of the wish for happiness. Skin color, religion, social rankings and the way our families look don’t matter during the count-down, since our hearts can’t be defined by a label.
People in New Hampshire, Colorado, Nebraska and Georgia are remembering loved ones touched by disease and praying for a cure in the months ahead. Northerners, Southerners and those in the Midwest are all hoping for prosperity to ease the financial struggle of raising a family, and there are broken hearts in every corner of the country who long for the return of love.
Celebrating with champagne in a penthouse or beer in a barn, wearing designer frocks or old blue jeans, hearts cross America are united for a few seconds as we collectively count down and shout, “Happy New Year!” It’s both a cheer of survival and a battle cry to alert the future we are on our way to seize the days ahead. And for those first few seconds of the new year, Americans are more united than we’ll ever realize.
Happy New Year.