I’m in the “New Year’s Eve Sucks” camp. It’s a night for either over-paying for a party or sitting home watching a top 100 list on the History Channel. Spoiler alert- the printing press is number 1. There was a time, though, when I was in the “New Year’s Eve Rocks” camp. It was New Year’s Eve 1985 and my father in his blue and white thick wool sweater, black hat and driving gloves synonymous with the enigma that was 1970’s fashion loaded my mother and me into a blue Mercedes s-class coupe to drive from our Brooklyn Heights brownstone to Skytop.
Skytop is a family resort in the Poconos. Its charm comes from tall granite walls, an ice skating rink and cabins lining a woodsy road from the main House. It’s the kind of place where a friendly yellow-blonde lady serves enormous mugs of hot chocolate covered in marshmallow fluff to unsupervised children and children actually play ping pong.
We drove to Skytop in the morning. I was so excited to see open fields of clean snow, I pressed my small hand against the window every few minutes wondering when it would get colder. Once we arrived we learned that there was too much ice to ski. Instead, my father trudged up the steepest hill that serves as the 13th hole of the golf course in summer slamming his boots into the ice to make footprints I could anchor myself into. It was impossible to keep up with his long stride but he waited for me at the top. He sat down on the ice, in his Levis and his sweater, leaned back, put his hands into the air and let out a howling “Whhheeee,” as he slid down the hill. I sat down at the top of the ice, gave myself a little push and followed him flat on my back unable to sit I slid so quickly. At the bottom, he lay on the ground doubled over laughing. Daddy could always make me laugh, despite my non-existent sense of humor. While we probably only went down a few more times, in my memory, we spent the entire day sliding down a hill of ice screaming and laughing. Daddy was one of those adults who laughed like a child.
I love looking at the photos from that trip. They all came from the Kodak disc camera that Santa Claus bought for me that year. There are pictures of my mother and father on a hay ride through frozen woods (how he convinced my mother to do that is a mystery that went with him to the grave), of a man playing piano in the lobby, of my Bride Barbie and her dog, of Daddy in the indoor pool, of Daddy wearing red long johns, and of Daddy sliding down the mountain on his backside, his hands in the air and his enormous grin.
Tonight, in California, after I clink a champagne flute while watching the Times Square Ball drop at 9:00 p.m., I’ll look away as I bite my lip trying not to cry when I hear Auld Lang Syne. Then, I’ll peek at my sleeping daughter. She’s the same age I was when we first went to Skytop. She’ll make a puffy little yawn and roll over in the same way Daddy used to. It will make me smile. Maybe New Year’s Eve doesn’t have to suck.