Hi, there, Dear Reader. It’s early afternoon here in Lithia, Florida on Friday, December 31, 2021. It is a warm winter day in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, it is 81˚F (27˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 71% and the wind blowing from the south-southwest at 6 MPH (10 KM/H), the feels-like temperature is 84˚F (29˚C). Today’s forecast calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 85˚F (29˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy, and the low will be 65˚F (19˚C).
It’s – as I said before – early afternoon here in the Eastern time zone of North America. That means that for some of you (especially if you live on the other side of the International Date Line) 2021 has ended and it is now 2022. In that case – Happy New Year!
In Lithia, though, we are a bit over the halfway point of December 31, 2021, and the traditional toast at midnight won’t be given for a few more hours. So, this second year of the COVID-19 pandemic and Trump Republicans’ embrace of the Big Lie (and also the year that I did not see West Side Story in theaters thanks to the aforementioned pandemic) will still be with us for a bit.
Interestingly, the older I get, the more indifferent I feel about New Year’s and its alcohol-soaked observances. Whether this is just another trait I inherited from my mom or if it’s something born out of my life experiences – especially those I’ve had since December of 2009 – I have no idea. It’s probably a bit of both.
My mom was not a huge fan of the December 31/January 1 bacchanalia. She once told me that she liked New Year’s just fine when she was younger and, as an adult, when she was with my father. But after Dad died in February of 1965, Mom’s enthusiasm for New Year’s celebrations gradually diminished, especially once we were living in our townhouse in East Wind Lake Village. She was 49 when we bought the house in 1977 and she celebrated her 50th birthday in October of 1978, not long before the 1978/1979 holiday season.
Back then, Mom liked to decorate the house for the season. She would assemble the artificial Christmas tree we had owned for years, string lights on the hedges in the front yard, and even place holiday-themed doormats – one outside for the front door, another one inside for the foyer – by the doorway. When we still had the Zenith stereo console in the living room – my half-sister Victoria appropriated it when she moved out early in 1980 – Mom would tune the radio to 101.5 FM (WLYF), which at the time was a “beautiful music” station and put on Christmas music.
As she and I both grew older, Mom’s dislike of New Year’s celebrations became more obvious, at least to me. She and I would often go to her friend Carmelita Blasco’s New Year parties, where she would have a few drinks and mingle with friends for a bit. Sometimes we would stay until Carmelita served dinner – which she often did as late as 11:30 PM or even later – and usher in the New Year with the Cuban tradition of drinking a glass of Champagne and eating 12 grapes. In later years, before we stopped attending, we’d go to Carmelita’s for a while, then leave before Mom got too tipsy to drive home safely.
I can’t say that I enjoyed those parties much. When I was a teenager I would get bored because I was the only teenager in the gathering, so I (a) didn’t have any peers to hang out with or (b) see any cute girls my age to even look at. Plus, when Carmelita and her late husband Norberto threw a party, the only music they played was either Cuban salsa or Colombian cumbia (which are somewhat similar), and they played it loud. I would get a headache in no time at all in that barrage of noise, and eventually I would stop going to those get-togethers because, frankly, they were not fun.
By the 1990s, Mom stopped bothering with the Christmas tree thing altogether. She was still quite energetic and liked making her house look nice, but with Vicky long gone from the household and because I wasn’t the “Oh, let’s sit in the living room and admire the tree!” type, she got bored with the hassle of putting it up every December and taking it down on January 6 (Three Kings’ Day). She still put Christmas lights on the hedges till around 2001 and put out the holiday doormats, but other than that, our house could have been Ebeneezer Scrooge’s, at least as far as decorations went.
And because my older half-sister has – in addition to her other mental health issues – a serious drinking problem, Mom became more fretful about New Year’s. She worried that her older child would get into an accident or get a citation for driving under the influence, or both. And since there are a lot of gun-toting yahoos who usher in the New Year by firing pistols or rifles into the air, she would nag at me about staying as far away as possible from a window between 11 PM and 12:15 AM.
So…Mom was not a fan of New Year’s celebrations. Neither am I, although I did try to lighten up between 2015 and 2019 for my (now) ex-girlfriend’s sake.
In any case, 2021 is sliding headlong into the past, along with its sad legacy – it started with a Republican Party attempt to overturn a fair election that ousted the most incompetent of Presidents, Donald J. Trump, and it will end with anecdotes about Trump loyalists becoming famous – for 15 minutes, anyway – for injecting the stupid phrase “Let’s go, Brandon” into a Christmas Eve conversation with the President of the United States, who was trying to wish kids a Merry Christmas over a Zoom call.
And even though my “favorite” January 6 rioter (Jenna Ryan) will start serving a two-month stay in Federal prison for her participation in the Stop the Steal riot at the U.S. Capitol, Trump supporters keep trying to gaslight us about the 2020 elections. So effective are they that most Republicans say they think Trump is the rightful President and that Joe Biden is an “illegitimate” Chief Executive.
So, goodbye, 2021. You will not be missed. Go! And don’t let the door hit you on your way out.
Oh, and Happy New Year.