Well, damn, 2008. You were a pretty craptacular year.
Take away kicking some GOP tail in November, there wasn't a hell of a lot for us to get all warm and cheery, looking back.
Not that I haven't had some pretty rotten New Year's before.
1980 in Reception Station, Fort Dix, New Jersey. The guy in the bunk above mine had some prime smoke to help celebrate, seeing as how he'd been sent off to the Army by a judge in Jersey City to avoid a felony assault conviction. Cold linoleum floors and the smell of wool blankets. Sweet.
1996 on Butner Road in Beaverton. Beaverton New Year's Eve tradition - and, mind yet, Beaverton is the sort of anonyburb where traditions are as scarce as beavers - is to drag out the hogleg at 11:55 and start blasting at the stroke of midnight. At the passing of 1996 the little suburban cul-de-sac housing my first wife and I sounded like that Lebanese kid's game "A Pack of Savage Moslems on the Roof of the Holiday Inn With A Crate of RPG Ammunition and Two Cases of Camels". Every year we lived there I had to resist the urge to crawl under the bed until the feu de joi ended just in case some nimrod's spent round came down through the ceiling.
So the firing drops of to desultory skirmishing, my ex falls asleep and I'm drifting off myself when a woman screams somewhere over in the next development. And I'm not talking about kidding-around screaming, or the sort of screaming that gets you embarassed when the kids wake up and find you both wearing nothing but Cool-Whip. I mean real terrified, lung-ripping screaming, the sound of a woman in pain or in panic fear.
I sit bolt upright, eyes staring into the dark. She screams again, more distant this time. I run to the door, throw it open, listen. Nothing. I shuffle my shoes on, a robe, walk out to the edge of the street. Nothing. No movement, no sound. Nothing. And nothing more for the rest of the night, either. And I know because I didn't sleep until dawn...
1999 here in Portland right after my first marriage went to hell. Yeah, that was a pretty poor one.
And, of course, December 31, 2002. Just ten months after losing our little girl Bryn. Mojo working part-time, pregnant, and terrified for Baby Shea. Working a crummy temporary teaching job in Canby, 18 hour days making bupkis teaching geology to the science-impaired...
Damn. I HAVE had some bad ones, haven't I?
So this New Year's, with two sweet kids cozy in bed, working hard at a job I like, with my bride doing great in her consulting, getting slender and athletic from her bike-commute...and so many of our friends themselves doing well, and particularly the friends just starting the families, their homes full of crazy kid goodness or the hopeful anticipation of same...
Life seems pretty damn fine.
So, in the spirit of the great Hogmanays of the past: May your hearts be as open as your hearths. May you have friends across your threshold bringing the gifts of salt and black bun, wine and the ouisghie bagh, the Water of Life.
And may your new morning be filled with light, and love, and the promise of the coming year.