Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Wishes

It’s 8:43 on New Year’s Eve, and the last of the fifteen-year-olds has arrived.  My twelve-year-old gratefully accepted an invitation to her friend’s home tonight, so it’s me, Elizabeth and a few of her friends here tonight.  We’ll toast midnight’s arrival with a choice of sparkling apple or grape juice.  
Don’t worry; I treated myself to some delicious wine earlier tonight.  For dinner, I roasted a chicken which was sublime in its simplicity.  It was crispy and golden brown from the butter and smashed garlic I rubbed under its skin before roasting.  In the oven, melted butter and rendered fat bathed tender little yellow potatoes I had tucked under the bird along with some sprigs of fresh thyme.  Salt and pepper completed the works.  While the house filled with intoxicating aromas, I sipped our 2007 Pinot noir and happily hummed snippets of a tune I can’t place.  
Kelby said he thought he and his family would be having beef tenderloin tonight, as that has become something of a Russell family tradition.  If we’re lucky, Kelby will post a blog explaining how he cooks the beef and what he serves with it—both in terms of side dishes and wine choices.  
Peter and I admire Kelby’s perpetual calmness, especially while he’s cooking.  On several occasions, we’ve watched him whip up a feast—hors d’oeuvres through dessert—with nary a crack in his peaceful demeanor.  It’s as though he has never contemplated the possibility that his main dish might finish cooking too far ahead of his multiple vegetable preparations, and of course, it doesn’t.  He’s as quietly passionate about marvelous food as he is about wine, and he is very generous with his cooking talents.  I’ll try to persuade him to give us his New Year’s Eve feast details.
Peter most likely had something very fresh and low on the food chain.  He’s extraordinarily adept at listening to what his body wants to eat, eating that, and nothing more.  Eating with Peter is a joyful exploration of how grains and vegetables with herbs, oils and vinegars can be simple and exotic at the same time, and how satisfying those foods can be.   
He’ll probably go to sleep before midnight.  Years ago, Peter told me that was his habit, and that he is usually the first one up on New Year’s Day.  That sounded, well, odd at first, but really nice upon reflection.  Imagine the first day of a new year, unencumbered by headaches from overindulgence in food and wine and keeping late hours.  Imagine waking up fresh and ready to tackle whatever the new day brings.  A rather great idea, don’t you think?  
I had a chance to try it for myself a few years ago.  The girls were small, and under my power then.  We toasted the new year at 8:30 and they were asleep by 9:00.  I wasn’t far behind them.  We woke up early, and went for a walk as the sun came up.  It had snowed hard during the night and the morning was muffled and still.  Unbroken snow lay all around the city; the only marks were from our boots and the sled I dragged behind me.  The girls, laughing and rosy-cheeked, took turns being pulled in the sled.  As promised, we were the only ones awake (as far as we could tell) and it felt like the whole world belonged to us.  It seemed we could feel our unseen neighbors—cozy and warm in their somnolence, they exuded a collective sleepiness that lay heavy over their houses like a woolen blanket.   It was seductive, that sleepiness, but the day belonged to my bright-eyed girls, and we were reveling in it.  
That New Year’s memory is one of my favorites.  We haven’t had another like it, though, because my girls discovered that they like to stay up late.  Veeeeerrrrry late.  
This year, we’re celebrating youth and exuberance.  Theirs, not mine.  We just went on a madcap dash to find Pop Rocks—somebody had a craving, and they were too excited to turn down.  I try to say, “Why not?” when I can.  Most stores were closed, naturally, and those that were open did not have any Pop Rocks.  The kids consoled themselves by building a fort in my living room, and playing a movie really loudly.  In a few years, this silliness will give way to sophisticated dinner parties, and we’ll celebrate that too, in its time.  
These teenagers remind me tonight of people I haven’t seen, or in some cases thought of, in over twenty years.  I wonder how they are doing, and hope their lives have turned out to be as fulfilling as mine.  
By the time you read this, December 31st will have slipped away, and January 1st will have quietly dawned.  
Kelby will have decorously held aloft a midnight glass of sparkling wine, and offered a toast as an ambrosial conclusion to their traditional rite.  
Peter will have slept well and risen, and greeted the day, full of renewed energy.  Perhaps he has already taken his morning walk, maybe with Max to liven up the quiet morning and to bark at all those silly people still a-bed on this first day.  
My girls and I will be among those still snoozing late into the morning.  We’ll sleep as long as the puppies will let us, and then we’ll pick up bits of fallen streamers, and wayward potato chips.  Some other New Year’s Eve, I’ll remember when my older daughter was fifteen, and she had her first New Year’s Eve party, and how they laughed all night long.  
I hope that as I’m writing this, where ever you are, and whatever form your New Year’s Eve takes, that you are surrounded by people you love, and that you are happy.  
Bonne année, meilleurs souhaits,

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