The First New Year's Eve I Stayed AwakeWhen 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.