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New Year’s Eve
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For twenty-seven years, my husband, Don, and I spent New Year’s Eve with the same couple, my best friend Clare, and her husband, Ron. Clare and I had met in college. We’d stood up for each other at our weddings and we were godmothers to each other’s oldest child.

On New Year’s Eve, we alternated houses from year to year, meeting in Windsor, Ontario (their house) and then in Woodhaven, Michigan (our house). We had dinner together, conversed through the evening, and shared a bottle of champagne at midnight. I don’t know about the others, but I had a vision of this continuing for the rest of our lives, celebrating our thirtieth, fortieth, fiftieth, with the only “stop” being death. I thought of it rather like marriage. Even now, I think I might have been right. Marriages, too, end for reasons other than death.

The first break was Clare’s divorce. “I’m gay,” her husband informed her and left. He didn’t have a boyfriend at the time, but he’d learned something about himself or known it all along and grown to the point where he understood it and needed to act on his discovery. This happened in late 1997 or early 1998. I know this because the weekend before Don dropped dead at my feet in early 1999, we were at what was now Clare’s house working on fitting out doors for her bedrooms so she could rent out the rooms for income.

So there we were–two single women. No more New Year’s Eve foursomes. We didn’t even try to get together that first New Year’s Eve. I don’t know what Clare did. I was at home and went to bed about nine, not even waiting for the Times Square ball to drop. Life had dropped. I didn’t need the ball to drop on top of it.

Life went on for Clare and me for many years. Clare eventually sold the house because she met a boyfriend, Ed, and moved in with him. I think she enjoyed her new relationship and new life.

In our Windsor-Detroit years, we saw each other occasionally, but not often. Somehow, without our partners, we didn’t meet all that often, although we continued to be friends. Some of it was just doing what we had to do to pay our bills. Perhaps, too, it was because she found another partner and I didn’t.

I lived in the Detroit Metro Area until 2002 when I moved 2,500 miles to the Bay Area of California for a job. After that, we resorted to Facebook on rare occasions, but our lives were more separate in ways beyond geography.

When I think back on those New Year’s Eve gatherings, I remember only what I described. I don’t remember our conversations which I’m sure included our personal lives, the politics of the time, what most people talk about when they get together, but they’re a blank. Our conversations were important for our relationships rather than their content, even though those relationships shifted and drifted after the evenings ended.

Clare died of strep in 2019. Ron lives in the D.C. area with his partner. Our children are middle-aged and living their own lives. New Year’s Eve doesn’t mean that much to me now. It’s just another evening. But each year, I think back to that tranquil time with gratitude. Twenty-seven years of connection with others. A gift.

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