A Retrospective: New Year’s Eve Twenty Years Later, I Miss My Shoes

Last night. New Year’s Eve 2017.

I was dressed in pajamas, drinking coffee by the Christmas tree and reading my family history tree. Four minutes before midnight, I cued In The Air Tonight by Phil Collins. Sure enough, at the stroke of midnight, the famous drum riff played. It was the first time I celebrated New Year’s Eve alone since grade twelve. And even then I wasn’t alone since my best friend and I called each other every half hour or so.

As much as I enjoy my solitude, I’d rather celebrate New Year’s Eve with others.

Rewind to NYE 1997, and I was dancing to 54-40 and Headstones at the Winnipeg Convention Centre’s New Year’s Eve Celebration. I wasn’t a fan of either band, but the majority of my friends were going.

I’d bought my first car, a 1988 wine-coloured Chevrolet Cavalier, a month earlier – and I was making arrangements with my friends for the massive party. Who would go with who. Since I had a vehicle, I planned to drive to Winnipeg for time. I just wasn’t counting on the freezing cold and icy afternoon.

On December 31, 1997 – with a high school friend as my co-pilot – we headed for her place in Winnipeg. To calm my nerves, she drew a detailed map to the house, which I still have.

The drive included a minor snowstorm, which we survived. Luckily, my friend’s house was near the area I lived before I moved back to Arborg in 1997 – and where I returned in 1998. Long story.

We’d barely entered the house when another high school friend arrived. The three of us rushed to get ready. I’d bought a floor-length navy dress for the concert to wear with my treasured velvet heels. It was a New Year’s Eve celebration, after all. You can’t celebrate in denim and sneakers!

As for my friends, one wore an off-white, sleeveless, short dress with a flared skirt. The other was dressed in a long, tomato-red, Egyptian inspired dress with thick gold sequence at the neck and waist. I snapped photos of us before the concert, but I left my treasured 35mm at my friend’s house. Take it to the Convention Centre? And have it stolen?

One of my friends from high school (red dress), and me on the right. It’s tough to see my shoes, but they had little v-shaped slices on the top. December 31, 1997.

At the concert, we checked our coats – and I entered a super-hyper social. With 5000 people.

The hall was dark with floodlights throughout the room that changed colour. On stage were cool light effects – purple swirls and green arrow thingys. The normal New Year’s Eve decor was strewn everywhere – balloons, streamers, and confetti – as though they did a pre-midnight run through.

Our Arborg group was dancing near the stage, and someone pointed out the lead guitarist of one of the bands was wearing his guitar. Only his guitar.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment.

After 11 p.m., there was an announcement! We’re close to the magical moment! “We’re almost there! So, make sure you have that someone special,” and “Aren’t we ready to say goodbye to 1997!” And everyone cheered. With my NYE hot pink and white silver crown propped firmly on my head, I vowed to make 1998 my year. A fantastic year. The time ticked rather quickly towards the life changing moment.

“Tammy!” yelled one of my high school friends. “Come with me! I need another drink!”

It was 11:55 p.m. I followed her, but I saw the bar line was long and dragging. A few minutes later – four minutes and ten seconds – the countdown started.

“They’re counting down!” I shouted, and she scurried as we dashed to our friends.

You know those moments when you’re running in molasses? No one was moving, despite my “Excuse mes,” and “Sorry, can I just … “

“… four … three … two … one … Happy New Year!”

At the stroke of midnight, I was swimming in an ocean of 5000 people towards my friends as balloons dropped to the floor, streamers flew across the room and people blew cheap cardboard horns. I started laughing. Laughing. Because this is what I came for: an experience.

My first kiss of 1998 was a stranger. He said, “What would it take for a guy to get a hug from a cute girl on New Year’s,” and I said, “Just by asking,” and we hugged – and he kissed my cheek.

I continued my voyage through the crowd, and I reached my friends. People were hugging and saying, “This is going to be an awesome year!”

The concert continued for another hour, and then the house lights came on. My ears were ringing anyway.

As we were standing outside waiting for a cab, the bottom of my dress froze. At least eight-inches from the bottom became crunchy – and dried to a crisp in the cold. When you’re dancing in two inches of alcohol and pop, and whatever else you don’t want to think about, there’s bound to be splatter. Luckily, I was able to salvage the dress. But not my velvet heels. They were stained beyond saving, and I had to throw them out.

However, before we stepped left the convention centre, “mature” people – aka people my age now – were leaving their ballroom in satin gowns and suits, and one of my friends whispered to me, “That’ll be us in twenty years.”

But it’s twenty years later – and it wasn’t us.

Some stay at home. Some are in bed before midnight. And some have attend or host celebrations year after year. Ever since 1998, I’ve either worked (banquets, awesome NYE) or spent the eve with family.

But New Year’s Eve isn’t just for the young. The holidays are a time to make memories with your friends and family. Especially on New Year’s. It’s a time to throw caution and confetti to the wind.

And to kick up your heels.

Even if you ruin them.