New Year’s Eve
After my brother and I had been washed and put to bed,
my mother, dressed, perfumed, jeweled and high heeled
would come into our room and wish us a happy New Year.
My mom believed in New Year’s Eve.
You could see it in the way she stood there backlit by the hall light.
She believed in beaded dresses, dangly earrings,
a sleeve of bracelets, blue eye shadow
and Shalimar perfume and going out on a cold night in a warm car,
with crusty snow pushed back in a fan shape from the windshield
and headlights making prisms of the streetlights, and arriving by car,
and stockinged leg by leg emerging on heels,
and the teetered reach for a husband’s hand.
She believed in being seen by the other women arriving,
and going into a decorated room, even if you yourself that very afternoon,
in jeans and dirty sneakers had done the decorating.
She believed in drinks, and the naughtiness of drinks,
and saying “Oh, no, I shouldn’t” and “OK, why not?”
and she believed that it mattered how many times you were asked a thing
before you gave in, and she took sly joy from giving in.
She believed in laughing till she cried.
Laughing tears were evidence; a stitch in your side was proof
and not caring if your stockings tore was closing proof of happiness.
She believed in dancing with your husband
or, if he wouldn’t dance, then dancing with your husband’s friend
or your friend’s husband. She believed in dancing,
be it rumba, waltz or foxtrot, and she believed in looking up
at the band when the rhythm changed as though the band
were the ones making naughty suggestions.
“You guys,” was an actual color of light
that showed in her eyes.
She had a memory for partners dance to dance
and year to year; who had a firm hand on her low back,
or a confident release or hair she liked to look at in the lights.
She believed in sitting down beside you at your table after dancing and
saying “Oh, my god, I’m not as young as I used to be.”
She believed that something happened at midnight.
She believed something could happen at midnight.
She believed that something was going to happen at midnight.
Standing in the doorway of our room,
she wanted my brother and me to know that she loved us,
that she wished us a very happy new year,
even though she couldn’t be with us when
the new year came. Even though we couldn’t be awake
when the new year came. Even though we couldn’t
see the thing that happened when the new year came,
except as a color of light in her eyes.