Thursday, December 31st, 2009

The First New Year's Eve I Stayed Awake

When I was young, my parents used to host a New Year's Eve party for my Dad's coworkers. He was a grade school principal in Westchester, Illinois at the time, so our house was filled with faculty and staff from School District 92 1/2. I always hung out in our basement on Milford Street and played with games, my Star Wars action figures and spaceships. At some point during the night, I would fall asleep on the couch. My Mom would make the trek into the basement to wake me up and lead me upstairs. In a daze, I would pass through the mass of teachers. They would say hello, pat me on the head and I would try my best to stay awake for the long journey upstairs. The midnight hour would come and go. The party would break up and my Mom and Dad would tell me that it was the new year. I missed the big moment. I always remember being disappointed that I didn't experience the year changing.

On December 31, 1979, I was determined to stay awake to watch the date change from 1979 to 1980 and welcome in the new decade. As usual, the party of teachers and staff from the school district arrived. I was in school at the time, so some of the party-goers were my teachers. During the night I hung out on the main floor of our house. I'm certain I dozed off at times because I recall a few teachers tapping me and saying, "Billy, we have two more hours to go." You bet. I was stretched out on the couch. I remember responding with comments like, "I'm not asleep." I wasn't a good liar.

As the clock approached midnight, I remember standing in the middle of our living with my eyes fixed on our little color television in the corner. The crowd of people started their countdown to the new year. For some reason I recall the host of Dance Fever helping with the countdown. That could have been a hallucination though, and I have no idea why I remember that. When the clock hit midnight, the big sign with enormous light bulbs changed from 1979 to 1980. I was ecstatic that I stayed up, but I remember one of the teachers asking me how I felt. As I remember, I was honest and said, "I'm tired."

That was 30 years ago tonight.

HAHA...good story. I rarely toast it in--I'm more of a morning person and generally am long gone by the midnight hour. But, occasionally I hear the celebrations if there are fireworks or enough noise.

The big one I remember was the one I got snowbound in Fargo, ND. I barely got a room again when we heard the airport was closed and I opted to stay at the office and work since I had no place to go but the hotel. I worked until 9:30 or 10 and called a cab. It was below zero with a raw wind-chill so I watched from the door and somehow missed him. I called again and finally got one to pick me up. We drove through the snow-laden streets with dunes of snow drifting across the streets as fast as they were plowed. The cab driver warned me it would be tough to get a cab in the AM to get out to the airport early since they would all be busy with sober-cab assignments. I went in and tried to sleep but the hotel had a family NYE swimming party and there were little kids in bathing suits running about. I remember how odd that seemed with a blizzard outside.

I turned on the TV for white noise to drown out most of the celebration so I could get some sleep and drifted in and out but I do remember hearing people cheering and horns blowing at midnight to bring in the new year. I think it quieted down after that and I got a few hours of sleep.

As predicted it was tough to find a cab and get to the airport but I finally got out there and got on standby. Got the 2nd flight out--a small commuter plane but I would have taken a crop-duster to get home. Certainly memorable. :)
LGrant   Thursday, December 31, 2009
Great story. Yes, it is weird to think of kids in a pool with a blizzard outside.
Bill Pearch   Thursday, December 31, 2009
niiiiiiice. i've always stayed awake all nite on new years eve/day. no clue why. i've never been really tired at all either. i'm a strangly unique morning-but-not-nite person who stays awake most of the time. it would really stink to have to celebrate new years with a bunch of teachers i could imagine. last new years i wuz @ my cousins house. we watched the countdown, but it got boring after awhile. so we played cranium. talk about fun! the year 2009 has really passed by fast. gotta tell ya' that.
Sarah G.   Thursday, December 31, 2009
10:42 PM
Sarah G.   Thursday, December 31, 2009
I'm with you Bill! My favorite thing to watch at midnight (New Years or any other time) is the backs of my eyelids!.... "Oh, no, I'm not sleeping.... just checking for light leaks!" ;o)
Good News   Friday, January 1, 2010
It's funny, I've never understood the draw of the Times Square ball dropping on TV. I have fond memories of being awakened just before midnight to go outside with pots and pans and spoons to clang together and shout "Happy New Year" into the night. Maybe it was a Kansas/Colorado/pioneer kind of thing -- using what we had.
pegi   Friday, January 1, 2010
Amanda does that every year Pegi. No pots and pans, just screams and dances in the street. I woke up 5 minutes before 12 last night to witness she and her friend doing so in shorts, short sleeves and no shoes! Then I went back to bed. Happy New Year!!
Good News   Friday, January 1, 2010
Pegi, I got to go to Times Square once for New Years Eve. It is thrilling!!!! It wasn't about the ball dropping so much as it was about the energy of the crowd and the hope for the new year and the total party atmosphere! It was so much fun. I agree that it loses quite a lot of that excitement watching it on TV....but I always do!
!   Friday, January 1, 2010
The Times Square celebration must be more exciting in person. We'll have to ask Biker Ben when he returns.
Bill Pearch   Friday, January 1, 2010
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