I’ve never been much of a New Year’s Eve person. It’s not something we ever celebrated in my family, and always seemed to pale in the shadow of the warm, fuzzy festivities of Christmas.
When I was sixteen, I lived in France for a year. That year was the big turnover from 1999 to 2000, and I fully expected to spend the big night reading on my host family’s couch. But my host parents wanted a romantic night alone, so I was persuaded to attend my very first New Year’s party with David, my twenty year old host brother.
We were attending on an invitation from a friend of a friend, so David only knew a few people in attendance. He was trying really hard to come off as cool, and the last thing the poor guy needed was a nerdy American teenager who could barely speak French hanging on his arm with a look of social terror in her eyes. (For the record, David was a great friend to me that year, and included me in many successful social occasions… this just wasn’t one of them.)
I soon found myself alone in a sea of French twentysomethings. The music was so loud, I could barely hear myself think, let alone hear anything said to me clearly enough to puzzle through the French I was only just beginning to understand. Someone handed me a glass of champagne, and I drank it until I was dizzy, though that might have been from the press of dancing bodies.
I squeezed through the crowd and sipped out onto the back patio. With the glass door between me and the party, the noise faded to the dull pulse of the base. I looked up at the sky, and the stars were bright in that way they only are when it’s bitter cold and you feel alone. As I stood there shivering, I wondered what the future would hold.
I wish that sixteen year old Caitlyn could have known that in just under a decade, she would go to another, completely different New Year’s party. That she would listen to singing and expertly-played guitar, that she would watch her beau hold the attention of every person there with acts of magic, that she would sing harmonies in the kitchen and that she would be surrounded by good friends until the very early hours of 2009. Knowing that would have made sixteen year old Caitlyn as happy as a queen. It certainly did the trick for twenty five year old Caitlyn!
I’m so grateful for all the wonderful people in my life. Thank you for being my dear friends, and have a very happy New Year!