If there’s a Ghost of Christmas Past, there should be one for New Year’s Eve Past. In fact, there is such a ghost. I know because I had a visit from her recently.
She arrived in the dwindling light of New Year’s Eve Day. At first, I didn’t realize she was a ghost. For all I knew the shadowy figure holding a clip board who rang the door at my house was someone who wanted me to sign a petition or make a donation. Even when she identified herself as the Ghost of New Year’s Eve Past, I was skeptical. I mean, what could this mere kid possibly know about the past?
“But you’re too young to—” I began.
“Yes, I’m a Millennial, and a very “now” type of person. But I thought it would be fun to take a little dip into the past with this ghost gig. May I come in?”
Despite my misgivings, I ushered her into my home and we settled on the living room couch. “I’ve brought DVDs of some of your past New Year’s Eves, so let’s watch a few,” she said.
“Well, all right,” I said, though I wasn’t sure how much fun this would be. She slipped a DVD into the slot and the big flat screen of my TV displayed a scene in the kitchen of my childhood home. My older sister and I, and a bunch of other girls are tugging energetically on a thick, white, sticky substance, stretching it longer and longer.
“What that?” the ghost asked, frowning.
“Taffy. It’s candy and we’re pulling it to get the right consistency.”
Her frown deepened. “On New Year’s Eve?”
“We always did that on New Year’s Eve when we didn’t have dates.”
“Weird,” she muttered. “Let’s try another DVD.” The scene shifted to the kitchen of my current house. I’m standing by the stove ladling cooked blueberries and their liquid into Ball jars, and burning my hands in the process.
“I get it that you didn’t have a date for this New Year’s Eve either,” the ghost said, “but why the switch from taffy to jam?”
“Simple. I had a bumper crop of blueberries that year, and to pull taffy you need a crowd.”
She shook her head in disbelief, and I could tell she thought I was crazy. “Moving on,” she said, “here’s a New Year’s Eve, where you’re actually with a guy.” I’m in the car with my boyfriend speeding to the Cape in the midst of a blizzard, in the hopes of catching the last ferry to Martha’s Vineyard. I look terrified while he looks grimly determined.
“Bet you wished you were back at home pulling taffy or whatever,” the ghost said. “Such risky behavior isn’t like you. I saw in your file that you vowed never to be in the road on New Year’s Eve.”
“True, but with that man . . . well, I decided I could afford to break a few rules.”
She nodded approvingly. “He is kind of cute. But looks like it didn’t last. Here you are a couple of years later home alone on New Year’s Eve.” The screen shows me sitting on the couch, watching TV by myself.
“It’s true I spent that night alone. I had a cold and didn’t want to give it to anyone. But it wasn’t New Year’s Eve.”
“Huh? The DVD is labeled December 31.”
“That year I decided that New Year’s Eve had actually happened a couple of nights earlier.”
“Because I had such a good time on the earlier night. My boyfriend, whom I’m still with, by the way, and I went to see a beautiful display of holiday lights on the grounds of a historic home. Then we had dinner at a cozy little restaurant where the food was delicious and the company so convivial that we felt like we’d known them all our lives.”
“That does sound like fun,” the ghost said with a certain wistfulness. “I know it’s not part of my territory, but what have you got planned for tonight?”
“Stick around and you’ll see. And if the evening doesn’t meet your expectations, you’re free to find another night that does.”