This year I am staying home for New Year’s Eve. Not that I would otherwise have gone out. Going out for New Year’s Eve has always been for me a fun but long and arduous duty, with many minutes standing in cold air, far from food, beverage, or restroom. But this year I have an excuse. I can tell people that I really would have liked to run out into the cold, dark air and ring in 2021 with pomp and parade, and that because of the pandemic such hopes were dashed. And they will believe me.
When you stay home for New Year’s Eve, the hardest thing to do, I am finding, is to stay up until midnight. When I was a child, staying up until midnight was more than a rite of passage – it was a way of conquering nature itself, of saying, “I will greet the new day when I will!” And then I went through a time where staying up until midnight was nothing, because midnight was still evening.
And now…now staying up until midnight is like holding a full can of paint at arm’s length.
To pass the time I shall take stock of the year’s doings, of what I have, and of what I’ve left undone. As for what I have, I count a total of five masks – two of them with strings knotted beyond salvation; two more that fell on the floor in a public place; and one that has acquired the odor of many lunches. I was supposed to have ordered new masks, but the mails have slowed to such a crawl that the post office publishes guidance on making things by hand.
What will I remember most about 2020? I think the better question is what will I forget? Never before has a year left its mark like this one. This was the year that I wiped down frozen pancakes with isopropyl alcohol. This was the year that I followed arrows pasted on the supermarket floor.
The most forgettable part of the year to me is the part before mid-March. Those hazy months of January and February are now like a dream of some forgotten childhood, where life was innocent and free, and I frolicked about the garden of good feelings, and ate sweet fruit straight off the vine.
The year 2020 was destined to be a year of masks and social distance, of new protocols and the end of many things that we took for granted. As if the year of perfect vision would like corrective lenses let us see things that we had not seen before, would like an LG flatscreen display our blemishes in Ultra High Def, would like the Sword of Omens give us sight beyond sight.
And as I pretend to wish that I was out on the town, in the crowds, breathing in their exhalations, I look towards 2021 with a mixture of gratitude, hope, and a firm resolve to stay awake for at least a few more minutes of 2020.