For the last two years my husband and I have struggled make plans for New Year’s Eve; the difficulty is twofold. First is the one that is most often joked about – that the older we get, the less we care about staying up until midnight to drink and party with the “young ‘uns.” And while that is certainly a part of it (my usual bedtime hovers around 9pm), the other part of it is that, for years, we never had to make plans for New Year’s, because the holiday was steeped in family tradition in the Pocono Mountains.
Beginning in 1992, my husband’s grandfather owned a beautiful property in the Poconos; it boasted a gorgeous home with huge windows to let in light, and three fireplaces keeping it warm and cozy in the winter; expansive grounds that included five bodies of water, trails through the woods that blossomed with blueberries every summer, and a dock with a rickety canoe (that Jon’s cousin once overturned in the middle of the very muddy water); in short, it was the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of life to reconnect with family, nature, and our own selves. Every New Year’s Eve the family would gather in the Poconos and bring in the new year surrounded by friendship, laughter, love, and fond memories.
It was mostly the same every year: Jonathan and I would drive up after he finished work, stopping by his parent’s house first to pick up the dog, Baileigh. We’d make the trip into the mountains, with Baileigh panting in the backseat the whole way, until we pulled down the long drive and she bounded outside with the joy known only to a dog who hates nothing in the world more than car rides (and perhaps maybe fireworks). Enough food to feed 20 people would be prepped on the stove, with more stored outside in the grill (which functioned as a second freezer for most of the winter). The night would pass with merriment, wine and champagne, football, music, games, and stories. After the midnight celebrations we would trickle off to bed on our own time, finding a cozy corner in which to curl up and find sleep.
My favorite part of the experience, however, was always the next day. The quiet and stillness that enveloped that house on New Year’s morning was perfect. The boys would bundle up and play pond hockey on the frozen water, or throw a football if it wasn’t quite cold enough to freeze. Others would scatter; I would always find a spot on the couch by the fireplace, bundled up with a blanket, overlooking the grounds and with a new book from Christmas in my hands. Outside birds and squirrels would gather on the porch to eat the seed and crumbs left out for them, and for a few hours, on the first day of the new year, all was right, and there was no place in the world I would rather be.
There has always been something incredibly comforting to me in knowing that I am surrounded by people I love, and people who love me, while still having the option of solitude. I have always been a person who craves quiet and alone time, but of course I still experience loneliness, and need to feel the comfort and love of others. New Year’s Day in the Poconos is the epitome of this feeling: of being surrounded by love, friendship, and support, while also having the space to be with and know yourself. It is a singular experience that I find hard to replicate in my daily life.
Last year the house was sold, and this will be our second New Year’s away from the Pocono homestead. It’s sad to realize that no more memories will be made in that house; but reminiscing simultaneously gives rise to all the feelings of joy, peace, happiness, and companionship that defined celebrations of New Year’s past. In this, little is lost; while we may no longer bring in the new year in the Poconos, we still have not only the memories, but everything that made the place so special: family, friends, and the contentment of encompassing love and peace.
I wish a beautiful and blessed New Year’s Eve, filled with family, fun, and promise.