It was once again New Year’s Eve, but the 2020 version just didn’t feel right to me. I knew many other people who felt the same way – it was almost like any other night of the year. This was quite true because, quite frankly, every night was like every other night for almost 10 months now – nowhere to go, nothing to do, no one but close family to be with, but in this case, it was the night when the ball drops in Times Square in New York City at midnight.
I’ve heard some people make a case for the celebration of special moments all year now. They say it adds a sense of normalcy to our lives. Normalcy? Our great parades in New York City were gone, but we did get big fireworks displays on Fourth of July with no crowds allowed. We had baseball with no fans in the stands followed by a World Series with no fans. This is the first year of my lifetime that I didn’t watch the World Series. Why? It was just too damned depressing.
I certainly wouldn’t have cared if they didn’t drop the ball because a mostly empty Times Square is eerie. This is no sign of normalcy. There is nothing normal about empty streets, shuttered restaurants, and no tourists with their big 2021 eyeglasses screaming their heads off.
All the restaurants in NYC have no indoor dining – which I think was done purposely with this night particularly in mind – and any that are open for outdoor dining must close by 10, thereby avoiding any yelling, screaming, and (dare I say it?) smooching at midnight on their premises.
If people did venture out, there was no place to go! To watch the ball drop, they had to do so from home. Most of us have gotten pretty used to being at home by now. Some revel in the comforts of home, but others feel as if they might as well be in a cell on Rikers Island because they feel imprisoned with all these restrictions.
I am pretty much used to being at home with my family. We do most everything within the house, but when we do go out – sometimes alone or sometime in pairs – it is usually for a purpose, like going to the supermarket or the drug store. We do take long walks for exercise, and this does keep our physical and mental health strong. I understand why we have to do what we are doing, and we are going to continue doing it, but I am not saying it has been easy.
Almost everyone I know was not going to attend a party outside of their homes last night. Judging from my visit to the local store – when I went shopping yesterday – people were buying tons of snacks and comfort foods and liquor and champagne. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a little comfort and joy during the holiday season, right? Even if you’re hunkering down at home on the last night of the year!
Looking at the TV screen last night and watching how other people were not celebrating in lockdown all over the world became something of reminder for us. Seeing eerie and mostly empty famous areas in major world cities brought back the memory of the video of Andrea Bocelli singing in the vacant streets of Milan in front of the Duomo on Easter Sunday. The joy of that moment lingers in my mind as much as my sorrow when seeing the empty cities depicted in the video.
Watching the ball drop is usually an incongruously festive moment – we are all celebrating getting another year older – and yet at this time it seemed even more worthy of yelling, screaming, and blowing horns. We were finally and irrevocably done with 2020. We should cheer from the mountaintops in gratitude, right?
After embracing and watching the countdown in Times Square on TV, the lack of the enthusiastic crowd cheering in the streets was a reality check. 2020 may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. Handfuls of first responders were in those streets making sure they were empty, but it was a grim reminder that things felt awfully 2020 in the first minutes of 2021.
We have left a year behind that seemed very much like we all lived through some dystopian movie, but 2021’s start slapped us in the face and let us know, “This ain’t over yet.” It may even be less a new year and more of a cloned year, baring salient reminders of the one it replaced.
The hope of a new year is the gift of a clean slate, but 2021 has come in streaked with chalk dust. The detritus of 2020 lingers in the air with the heft of a lead weight. There has to be hope because humans desire it, but we all have to do our part and keep our fingers crossed that the vaccines will get to people in vulnerable groups, first responders, and healthcare workers as soon as possible.
The promise of the vaccines gives us hope that we will be able to wipe that slate clean, but it up to us to keep clapping the erasers and do everything we can to keep family members, friends, and co-workers safe. If we follow safe practices, we can make 2021 the year it was meant to be and not the debacle of its comrade that came before it.