new year’s eve

It’s December 6th, and I am already thinking about New Year’s Eve. It’s because I like to put together trivia questions on the past year’s events for my fellow revelers, y’see, and I get to thinking about it as we launch into December. Last year, it was the 2010 Olympics and Wikileaks and Haiti and the unpronounceable volcano and the Chilean miners and vuvuzelas. In 2009, it was the banking crisis in Iceland and fires in Australia and swine flu and Michael Jackson and water on the moon. And in 2008, my inaugural year, it was the U.S. mortgage crisis and the global financial crisis and Barack Obama and the Fidel Castro resignation and Ingrid Betancourt and Michael Phelps and the proton beam.

This year, well there’s so much. So, so, much. But you’ll have to wait. (I’m going to make it easier this year; there will be a question about Amy Winehouse.)

In the meantime, here is something I wrote recently about a New Year’s Eve of at least 10 years ago. My mum is in it. It’s a true story in which I become brave and curse at a stranger. Enjoy!

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Vancouver used to have a First Night celebration on New Year’s Eve. It’s not really my kind of thing: I don’t like to be outdoors late at night when it’s cold and wet. And it’s often just so in Vancouver in the winter. But one year – it must have been in the late 1990s – my mother was visiting and I thought it would be a good opportunity for some mother-daughter bonding. We heard that there would be some live music. I think that band was a favorite of mine at the time, but I honestly can’t remember. In fact, I can’t remember anything about that night except for our walk through the slush back to the SkyTrain when we were ready to go home.

Normally, I am pretty shy. I don’t often strike up conversations with people I don’t know. I certainly don’t seek out confrontation. But three times in my life I have lost my temper with a stranger. This was one of them.

My mother and I were walking to the station shortly after midnight. We were both cold and I, at least, was wishing we had stayed home. Like I said, outdoors and wet winter nights are not a good combination for me. My mood worsened when I realized that a group of drunk teenaged boys was behind us. I gradually became aware that they were making rude remarks that they wanted us to overhear. My mother and I didn’t say anything to each other, but we both sped up, shoulders hunched, hoods up, hurrying through the wet snow. The boys got louder, laughing now. They began to throw snowballs at us. I couldn’t believe it. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before, and I wondered what my mother was thinking. Was she frightened? Thinking back, I don’t think I feared for our physical safety, but I was certainly afraid of being harassed and embarrassed. And I was afraid to say anything to them.

That all changed in a second when one of the snowballs hit my mother smack in the middle of her back. This transformed me into somebody brave. I didn’t decide to be brave; I simply became brave, without thought. I stopped dead and turned around. The boys stopped too. “Who threw that snowball?” I demanded. One of them laughed. I marched toward him and shoved him in the chest. He fell into the snowbank.

“Hey…” he said. “It wasn’t me, man. It was my friend!”

“Fuck you!” I yelled, and rejoined my mother farther up the sidewalk. “Fuck you guys!”

I think this was the first time my mother had heard me swear. She didn’t say anything about it, though.

“Sorry, man,” we heard from behind us as we set off. “Sorry… Hey, happy new year, man. Happy new year!”

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