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The Last Windrow: Recalling past New Year's Eves

"Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end ..."

That's how the words of the song by Mary Hopkin go, and as we turn the page to the year 2018 those words came back to me. I remember the New Year's Eves of the past and how they've changed my attitude over this span of time we call "aging." That song was popular in 1969, this boy's heyday.

New Year's Eve on the little Iowa farm didn't vary much from any other evening of the year. Chores and milking still had to be done. People didn't plan extravagant parties. There were no cheese trays, wine glasses or bacon-wrapped sausages.

The best my parents could hope for was for a neighbor couple to show up after dark, play a few hands of pitch or canasta, drink some coffee and eat some leftover Christmas cookies and go home before the clock struck 12.

Tomorrow was another day on the farm and the work would start again at 5.

Our farm neighbors never headed to warmer climes over the holidays as many do today. No one knew what a "sea cruise" was and Disney World had not yet been developed. Airports were not filled with tons of frustrated looking passengers all waiting in line to take their shoes off and run their billfolds through the metal detectors.

The farthest any of my friends got during Christmas school vacation was the sledding hill seven miles from our house or the frozen creek bed where kids "skated" wearing five buckle overshoes.

Since those days I've attended lots of New Year's Eve parties. In earlier years before common sense entered into my thinking, I sought out the neon lights with lots of loud music and free flowing drinks. I considered it fun to wedge myself through the dance crowd on the way to the restroom. Having someone blow a paper whistle into my drink or ring a buzzer in my ear in the minutes before the clock struck 12 was kind of a thrill.

I still can't hear well out of my right ear.

And, after moving to northern Minnesota, I found out that some New Year's Eves ushered in an Alberta Clipper or a Saskatchewan Screamer of a cold front.

My brother came up one year to celebrate the new year with me. He asked me as we entered the night club's parking lot why all the cars were vacant and parked with their motors running. A carbon monoxide cloud floated above the lot in the windless night.

I had to explain to him that if the car motors were shut off, they wouldn't start when people wanted to leave after the band's last tune. He hadn't experienced minus 40 before, but he learned a lot about cold that night as his transmission wouldn't shift for the first 10 miles on the way home.

Those were the days that now seem so far away. Now my wife and I seek the quieter side of New Year's Eve. We try to stay up to see the new year in, but more times than not we find both ourselves stretched out on the recliner and couch with our eyes shut. The revelry of Times Square seems to be less interesting since Dick Clark left the scene, and who cares if the big ball drops or not?

We might wake up with a start after the hands of the clock have moved past midnight and we toddle off to bed wearing our New Year's Eve rhinestone bedazzled headwear. It's a sad sight.

But, we both wake up the next morning with clear heads and the realization that we're happy that those wild and raucous New Year's Eve parties are in the past.

" ... we thought they'd never end!"

Happy New Year!

See you in 2018. Okay?

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