Yesterday afternoon, on New Year’s Eve, I stood in my neighbor’s house, a house I had never been in and a neighbor I had only met in passing once, and sang Auld Lang Syne while raising a glass of whiskey to ring in the New Year, 7 hours before midnight. A totally unexpected celebration that was both quirky, memorable and most of all, welcoming. My neighbor, who I met while shoveling snow the week before Thanksgiving, has a Scottish husband and their tradition of many years is to celebrate on Scotland’s clock, with neighbors, whiskey and a traditional Scottish buffet, complete with haggis.. I found the invite to the Scottish New Year’s Eve celebration in my stack of mail when I got back from Christmas in Kansas City, a timely find for someone who had really started dreading the upcoming holiday. A new city, a new state, a new house, and new year and if that wasn’t enough, a new decade, felt like a few too many news for me at this moment in my life when i’m craving familiar.
To steal words that a dear friend of mine recently posted on Instagram, “I have a happy personality with a heavy soul. Sometimes it gets weird.” That sums up a lot for me. Couple that with the nostalgia, sentimentality and reflection that comes with the turn of a new year, heightened by a new decade, and things weren’t looking good for my turning of the calendar page at midnight.
And so there I was, on December 31 at 5:00 pm (midnight in Scotland), with the words of Auld Lang Syne in one hand and a raised glass of whiskey in the other, (which I don’t normally drink but when in Rome, or Scotland…), in a roomful of people I had never met. I couldn’t help but smile and even chuckle silently inside. Never, ever would I have predicted that was what my entrance into a new decade would look like, but everything about it seemed exactly perfect and just what I needed.
I spent much of the “late afternoon” conversing with a woman who just so happened to love hiking and had all sorts of trails and trips to share with me. Now not to sound desperate, but I had to seize the moment with this new found friend and make sure we had a roughed-in plan for a hike in the near future before we parted ways. My behavior reminded me of the summer I rented a condo in the mountains for 2 months and not knowing a soul went into the bookstore, met the owner and was determined to not leave the store until we had a rough semblance of a friendship in the making. This all sounds very odd to me as I reread what I’ve just written as I consider myself to be an extrovert, but walking into a situation when you know no one and rather than taking the easy exit, literally, with a sneak out the back door, are forced to do something with a reality that plain and simple, is not easy. It’s being the new kid on the first day of school or showing up for a Junior High dance feeling like a brown shoe amidst a sea of strappy patent leather. I had a heightened sense of awareness as to my presence and its awkwardness, while navigating the discomforts of “Where should I stand? Am I acting too eager? And is it too soon to reload my plate?” It didn’t take as long before I began to feel like I really was at a social gathering and lo and behold, I was enjoying myself and the very interesting people I had struck up conversations with. One such man, my neighbor on the other side, happened to be a historian and told me he had seen the city records of Mapleton Street in Boulder from the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s and all of our houses in our immediate neighborhood were included, outhouses and all. I loved hearing the history of my street, my house and several of its previous owners, dating back to 3 or 4 sales ago. Several commented on my house adding that they liked the changes I had made and that I was sure an improvement to a previous owner a few sales ago who was happy to knock on doors when sidewalks weren’t shoveled in a timely manner. To that, I might add, that the past 3 times I’ve gone outside to shovel, I’ve been surprised to see that someone had done the job for me. I’m happy to return the favor but looks like I’ll have to get a much earlier start! I’ve got nice neighbors and am happy to hear they’ve place me in the improvement category. It all felt very welcoming.
After my previously mentioned new hiker friend left ( and yes, plans for hiking were set in place), I found myself in that awkward spot of a roomful of people actively engaged in conversations, while I stood panning the room for an entrance into a conversation that I could join. I didn’t pan long, but instead, at 6:30, decided it had been a good afternoon/evening, gave my thanks to the hosts and made my way home, two houses down the street.
Having put off a grocery store run that day, I went when I got home from the party, while still in my not so fine New Year’s Eve finery. Of course most of the people in the store were loading up on traditional drinking snacks as they were still in preparation for the evening ahead. Me, on the other hand, was on the other end of it and saw a fire, some knitting, a glass of wine (because I don’t have whiskey in my house), and maybe some Netflix in my future. It felt deliciously right. It ended up being me, some good Phillip Glass music, 2 glasses of wine then a bad Netflix series that I couldn’t stop watching so maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. No teetering between the nostalgic and the hopeful, with journal in hand and pen at the ready, but rather, a normal, I really should turn off the TV and go to bed, kind of evening. New decade and all. It felt comfortable and easy.
All of this, this moving to a new place where the only people I know are the ones I gave birth to and their partners and offspring is tough, especially when everything in my previous life felt nicely broken in and easy. These new life shoes I’m walking in, these incredibly beautiful yet new and yet to be broken in shoes, felt just a little bit more comfortable last night when I walked the very short distance home to my house from the Scottish New Year’s celebration. I’m grateful for these small moments of achievement because right now, they really aren’t small at all. I live in a good neighborhood with good neighbors. I felt welcomed.
While going through my stack of books on my nightstand this morning, I came across a bookmark that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I don’t remember when or where I got it, but I had the same feeling this morning when I read it that compelled me to buy it in the first place. On the front of the oblong metal page holder it said,
“Life shrinks or EXPANDS in proportion to one’s courage.” Anis Nin.
This may well be my first miracle of the new decade.