Chapters and Parties

written Monday, January 05, 2009
Rockport, TX

Lives, like novels, are made up of chapters. But unlike novels, we, being the complex little creatures we are, have multiple chapters playing out at the same time. We might have a dozen or more separate and concurrent dramas going on, each with different starting and ending points. This is complicated stuff and often festers into lives so busy there’s no time to think.

But whether the subject of the chapter is “My College Years”, “My Life in the Fastening Business”, “Raising My Children”, or “My Years on Cedar Avenue”, there’s a point in time when it’s crystal clear that a particular chapter is over… you graduate or retire or move or watch your kids graduate. All that remains are memories. Those are the times I find myself getting a little pensive as I reflect on the past and wonder about the future — the next chapter.

We ended a big chapter when we sold the house and started this fulltiming lifestyle. There was a nearly 6 month period of adjustment as we prepared for the change, but when it finally arrived, when we closed the door of that house on Cedar Avenue for the last time, it sort-of took my breath away — the memories, the neighbors, the future, living fulltime in 300 sq. ft. with Dar — so much left behind yet so much still ahead.

January 1, New Years, can be like that if you let it. Although just an artificial chapter based on time alone, it does provide a nice neat opportunity to think about your life, to make resolutions based on shortcomings harvested from critical reflection… if you’re honest with yourself. Whether you keep them or not is less important than the process of thinking about your life, your relationships, your place in the world. This year, I resolve, to try, to use fewer, commas, as I write.

The past two years I’ve observed mature people in RV Parks on New Years Eve. Both years we’ve attended celebrations with food, booze, music, and dancing. This year the party was to start at 8pm, with the doors opening at 7:30. If the event doesn’t allow for advanced table reservations, like this year, each group sends an advanced scouting and raiding party that stands in line early, rushes the door as the bolt is retracted, and claims the best table they can find by making themselves appear as large as they can — hanging, laying, on as many as three or four chairs at the same time and drapping purses, coolers, coats, and medication bags all around. This is recognized by the others, and by AARP, as clear title to that table for the rest of the night.

During the next hour or so the advanced table-claiming party, usually all women, is joined by the rest of the contingent — the guys who have been talked into showing up on the basis of how much fun they’re going to have. Everyone starts to loosen up, laughs, eats, drinks and dances a little. Jokes are enjoyed. Conversations are light and fun.

About 9:00pm, if you’re astute, you begin to notice something. It usually starts with the guys… the clandestine furtive quick glances at their watches. Their faces begin to reveal what they’re thinking… “Oh God, three more hours… I don’t see how I’m going to make it… what were we thinking when we agreed to this?” Some begin making intricate plans to fake medical symptoms as a way out. Others can be seen nodding off. Still others, with stark resolve on their faces, hunker down, have another drink, and are determined to make it.

By 10:00pm, a sort of triage is beginning to happen. You’ve got the ones that wil clearly make it, those that clearly won’t, and a declining number in the middle that could go either way. At 11:00pm there’s usually a New Year countdown started by some guy who’s arm is aching and stiff from holding his watch in front of his face for the past two hours. He’s got a watch that’s synchronized every day with the atomic clock buried deep in some mountain in Colorado — and he becomes the authority of the moment. “Three… two… one… Happy New Year… well, at least in New York”. Kiss Kiss, Toast Toast, Yahoo!… let’s go Dear. About half of the party is left after the East Coast New Year.

The last hour passes quickly however. A lot of guys have gotten enough alcohol on board to actually brave the dance floor, and a lot of others are entertained watching them. There’s usually some new food or snacks that show up. And it’s easy to kill 10 minutes on every trip to the restroom. And then there’s that strange human reaction to a known diminishing time period… the closer you get to the end the faster time goes… like slamming on the brakes when you know you’re going over the cliff and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

As midnight nears, the band stops playing and starts the countdown… “Three… two… one… Happy New Year!” They play a few bars of Auld Lang Syne. And then it’s over. By 12:05am the band is packing up, tables are being cleared, coats are being put on. By 12:10am, everyone is gone and the place is dark, cold, and locked.

Happy New Year Everyone.


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