(Originally, this was the beginning of The Joy of Poetry. It’s now the last day of our poetry club.)
On New Year’s Eve, I was feeling down. Okay, that’s a lie. I was in utter despair. I had no desire to celebrate the new year. I didn’t even want it to come. At 9:40 p.m., I officially gave up. I knelt by the couch to kiss my husband, John, goodnight.
“The earlier I go to bed, the sooner this year will be over,” I said.
John nodded. It had been an awful year. He kissed me gently. Then he said, “Let’s get drunk.”
I’ve known John for 25 years. He’s never had a drink in his life. He doesn’t even like alcohol.
“How about you get me a six-pack of wine coolers?” he said.
I laughed. I hadn’t laughed in months. “Wine coolers come in packs of four.”
He said, “Then you’d better go. I bet the gas station closes at 10.”
I was already in my nightgown, but I changed clothes and jumped in the car. The nearest gas station was already locked, presumably to provide its employees with a couple extra celebratory hours. So I headed to the grocery store.
There were three of us there at 10 p.m. that New Year’s Eve. One was buying six 12-packs of Dos Equis and several bottles of champagne. The other was buying PowerAde and orange juice, for a celebration of another kind, I guess. And then there was me, with my $3.85 four-pack of Seagram’s Classic Lime Margarita. I picked that one because when John has occasionally sipped my margarita, he said it kind of tasted like limeade, only limeade tasted better.
I returned home, triumphant and, to be honest, a little nervous. He opened a wine cooler, and I poured a glass of shiraz. We clinked drinking implements and said, “Salud.”
“Aren’t you supposed to eat when you drink?” John asked.
“Only if you don’t want to get drunk,” I said.
He looked through the pantry. “Fritos!” he announced. “Fritos and wine coolers. Happy New Year’s Eve!” In a few minutes he eyed me as he opened a second wine cooler. “You’re not drinking yours fast enough.”
“I can’t drink fast. That’s not what I do,” I said.
“Do you want some Fritos?”
I made a face, and he laughed. I couldn’t remember the last time he laughed, either.
College football was on. I was not paying attention to the game, but sitting there, stunned that my until-then-tetotalling husband was enjoying a drink made for teenagers. John was on his third wine cooler and, thanks to the 3.8 percent alcohol in those suckers, still completely sober. The whole thing was crazy. Good crazy.
When the game ended, we still had an hour to go before midnight. John said, “Let’s go to bed.” So we did, and not because we were sad. Neither of us cared that we wouldn’t see the new year until the next morning.
When I awoke, there was an email waiting for me from L.L. Barkat, asking if she could publish one of my poems, oh, and by the way, would I like to write a book? This book. She already had a title and a cover and everything. Maybe the new year wouldn’t be so bad.
Then I made tea (Wuyi oolong), and I read a poem. Because that’s what I do every morning before I write — drink tea and read a poem.
What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that’s the burden of the year.
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Your turn, poetry peeps. Thanks again for joining me this month with your thoughts and observations. May the rest of your year be filled with poetry. And tea.