I shouldn’t get critical over New Year’s celebrations and denounce them as being solely fit for the brainless masses. In fact I commemorated the occasion last night sharing a few drinks with old friends, dining heartily with the family, lighting up fireworks with the neighborhood kids, hitting the sack a few minutes before midnight then falling asleep in a jiffy after an extra long day at work. Over the span of my life, there are a few New Year Eves I always remember.
Tartous 1966 - The first time in my living memory to stay up so late. The moored ships in the unfinished Tartous harbor blew their horns and shot colored flares in the night sky. A few minutes past midnight my aunt delivered her baby. He is a doctor today and lives somewhere in Canada. He had recently become a father himself. 42 years have passed since.
Damascus 1978 – A little after 9:00 PM, a friend dropped me at my aunt’s house in Azbakieh. I hurriedly tucked in the envelope containing my passport and one-way flight ticket in the closet. I changed my clothes for the party and rushed out to celebrate with a bunch of boys and girls. I had 4 more days to spend between Damascus and Tartous before I fly to America. The night went crazy and spun out of control. The wild bash was finally put to rest by the creeping sunlight. I haven’t seen any of my Damascene friends afterward. It’s been 30 years.
New Orleans 1981 – My mother, my sister and I made it to the hotel with the setting sun. I walked the streets to investigate the possibilities. After all it’s not that easy finding a place to spend New Year’s Eve with your mother in a city like New Orleans. Clueless, I headed back walking by the bank of the Mississippi. A banner announced a super party on board the renowned Natchez, a steamboat launched in 1975. I bought 3 tickets and together we spent a memorable night. I can still hear my mother’s laughter echoing in my mind. Rest her soul; she fitted in so smoothly anywhere her road took her. A 27 year-old night, yet detailed, vivid and vibrant with colors and emotions as if it were yesterday. 8 years ago, my mother passed away.
New Orleans 1982 – One thousand and one night within the folds of one magical night. A fable from 26 years ago.
Somewhere near Deir El Zor 1987 – After an 11-hour drive in a 3-wheeled locally made contraption (Tertayra as it is called in Tartous, Tarazena as it is known in Deir El Zor) I reached with my two friends and our three pointer dogs a small hut in the middle of nowhere. We huddled together with the lord of the house and his family near the fire in the one-room structure in anticipation for next day’s chase. It was the first time we hunt Francolin (a game bird from the Grouse family) in the cotton plains of northeastern Syria. The overjoyed dogs running incessantly back and forth the open fields, the thrill of the hunt and the hospitality of the people made that New Year’s night and day so special, so surrealistically out of this world. Exactly 21 years have passed since we bagged those birds.
Tartous 1990 – We were living in the old house by the sea. Om Fares and I weren’t alone that night. Our daughter, exactly 3 months old was a diversion from the external, insignificant world. We were so unbelievably happy with our God-sent gift from heaven; we did not want to go anywhere. We did not want to be with anyone. Diana is 18 now.
Tripoli 2000 – At 5:00 in the afternoon, Abu Omar calls over the phone. We have nothing planned for the evening and I had to succumb to his gracious invitation. We packed our stuff and crossed the border to my second home (Tripoli) with our two girls. It was a crazy and wild party. Abu Omar and I were so excited at the prospect of seeing a belly dancer. Little did we know, she was blonde, Russian and overweight. That did not stop us from making fools of ourselves and taking every opportunity to touch and play with her. Did I mention that she was generously endowed? Fares was born a little less than 3 months later. Abu Omar I miss you dear friend. Please come back. It’s been 8 years.
There will be a few more hopefully and as the jolly Cajuns of Southwestern Louisiana say: "Laisser les bons temps rouler!"
Happy New Year to All.