Our tradition, when we were growing up, was to sit at the dining room table in our pajamas and play bingo on New Year's Eve. My father sat at the head of the table, his usual spot for dinner, and called out the numbers; it was the only day of the year when he played any kind of game.
There were bowls of potato chips, and sometimes cardboard tubs of Top the Tater dip.
Toward midnight, we turned on WEBC radio and listened to the countdown. And then, with seconds to go, we rushed out onto the front porch in our pajamas, into the frosty night, and banged on pots and pans and jumped up and down and hollered. Sometimes it was so cold we could barely stand it, our breath making white clouds around our heads, and the banging of the cake pans and cooking pots sounding as sharp as rifle shots in the frigid air.
Down the darkened street, we could hear unseen cars honking their horns, and churches ringing their bells. And then we were immediately whisked off to bed. (The picture above, of my sister Holly and me, is of that very front porch, but not on New Year's Eve. Those ebullient pajama-clad moments were never photographed.)
Later, of course, there were parties, and I remember one party in Duluth at the home of professor friends where I showed up around 10 and all the other guests had already gone home. I was terribly embarrassed--who goes to a party after it's over? (But who leaves a New Year's party before midnight?) My hosts were still up, and we sat at the kitchen table and had a couple of beers and talked. We toasted each other at midnight, and then I slunk home.
Now our tradition is to walk the dogs around Como Lake at midnight. We did this with Toby and Boscoe, and after Toby died we have done it with Boscoe and Riley. We leave a little before 12, and at midnight, from the lake path, you can see fireworks from both downtowns. When he was younger, Riley would buck and plunge into the snow when the fireworks went off, but as he has gotten older, and a little calmer, he just startles and then keeps walking.
Tonight, of course, Boscoe will stay home. It's been many months since he has walked all the way around the lake. And if the winter storm they're predicting blows through, we might stay home too. But if there is no blizzard, and if we are awake, we will slide Riley's little red halter over his head, pull on our mittens, and set out toward the lake. We'll talk about the year past (a hard one, in many ways) and we'll discuss our resolutions (I must stop swearing so much!), and somewhere along the way the sky will fill with fireworks and the ringing of bells, and we will know that it is now the future.