Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year 2011! Bill and I continued an annual tradition (now five years for us) of going on a New Year's Eve snowshoe outing led by Herb Terns and his wife, Gillian Scott, of the Schenectady Adirondack Mountain Club. What a way to usher in the new year--a foot and a half of snow, unusually warm temperatures, hiking under a sky filled with millions of stars, and a summit ranger welcoming us with a heated cabin and refreshments!

As I look back, my first New Year's Eves were not so festive. Left home with Jean Ann, our babysitter, my sister and I would be bored. Jean Ann was no fun. To liven things up, we would sneak down the stairs to spy on her, but even that was dull. She sat on the couch, watched television, somehow seemed to always know we were there, and shooed us back to bed.

Morning on New Year's Day was much better. My parents would bring home intriguing party favors. Besides the usual roll-up blow horns, sometimes there were plastic cocktail monkeys and tiny paper umbrellas. We hung the monkeys on our juice glasses at breakfast and gave the umbrellas to our dolls. But we wondered, what did our parents do at those parties in their fancy clothes, my mother in a dress she had been sewing for weeks?

After playing with the favors, we looked forward to outdoor family time. My father worked six days a week managing the J.J. Newbery & Co. store in downtown Saratoga. Despite having been out into the wee hours partying, he was not about to squander a bonus day off. We usually went sledding at Kayaderos Park, ice skating on Lake George, or skiing at Willard Mountain.

Time passed, and Bill and I were just six months married when the calendar turned from 1979 to 1980. With equally newlywed friends who lived in Prattsville, just up the road from us in Acra, a hamlet of 400 in the Catskills, we rang in the new year in style. At our one bedroom apartment, we ate vegetarian soup and bread for dinner, and, in the morning, Bill's Tassajara pancakes fortified us for a New Year's Day hike up snowy Black Dome Mountain, a Catskill high peak. "The perfect way to ring in a new decade," we all agreed. The 80s were sure to bring good times, health, and happiness.

(photos: David Vos, Bill, Virginia, Rachel Vos; Black Dome on 1-1-80)

And they did. The 80s were busy with the arrival of Thomas and Meredith. We expected and desired little from New Year's Eve. For the next twenty years, we watched the festivities in Times Square on our little TV, the kids joining us when they were old enough. Staying up until midnight with crackers, cheese, and soda, made us all feel part of the celebration until we tumbled, exhausted, into bed.

But the kids grew up. They left us in the dust. Eventually they moved out, celebrating in New York City where they now lived. The first two years that they were really out of the house, Thomas called us at home just a minute or two after midnight to wish us a Happy New Year. Of course we were home to receive the call. Where else would we be?

Then Herb and Gillian rescued us from a future of New Year's Eves watching the ball drop with Dick Clark on Channel 13. Now we are not only not at home when the kids call (although we're thrilled that they still do remember us within the first hour after midnight), but we are not even in cell phone range. We're out on the trail, in the snow, ringing in the new year on top of Beebe Hill in Austerlitz, New York, in the foothills of the Berkshires.

(photo: Gillian Scott, Herb Terns)

With or without snow, in temperatures ranging from zero to forty degrees, we're out there. The size of the group fluctuates with the weather. Sixteen of us rang in 2011 last night, and Herb reported having to turn additional hopeful participants away. With about 16 inches of snow remaining from the 20 that arrived earlier in the week, we knew the hike would appear as a scene from an outdoor magazine.

To add to our pleasure this year and last, my favorite sister-in-law (okay, my only sister-in-law) and her family came along. Teenagers Sara and Carly chatted with the other participants, and Michael and I searched the sky for the Milky Way. Everyone stood in awe of the star-filled sky, and, when we listened closely, we could hear the sound of fireworks coming from a distant town.

(photo: Carly, Sara, Michael, and Mary Jo Bashant)

As we reached the summit of the small mountain, we smelled woodsmoke and followed ski tracks to the ranger cabin. The ranger had the woodstove puffing away, and fixings for sloppy joes, made from venison he had hunted, ready on the table for anyone who arrived hungry. He regaled us with stories of working in this area and also of his years at Lake Colden, deep in the Adirondack High Peaks.

True to tradition, Herb had carried a bottle of champagne to the summit. Gillian brought homemade brownies. With a countdown just after midnight (we missed midnight, caught up in our own revelry), Herb toasted the New Year and we held our plastic glasses up into the darkness. Finally, even on this warm night, we began to feel chilly standing outside in the snow. With our headlamps glowing, we turned back to the trail for the hike down.
By the time we got home it was 2:15 a.m.! Whew, what stay-outs we have become. A voicemail from Meredith and a text from Thomas, who were both celebrating with friends and loved ones at house parties in the city, greeted us.

And what will Bill and I do on this New Year's Day since we've already been out in the snow early this morning? We have chosen to head over to the Troy Music Hall and hear the Berkshire Bach Society play their New Year's Day Bach concert; and a simple dinner of sandwiches from the Christmas turkey will round out this holiday season.

Here's to a new year filled with friends, family, good food, outdoor fun, great health, and all the things anyone can think of to add to the list. Best New Year's wishes to my readers!


  1. Well, I hardly need to wish you a happy new year, since you've already had such a splendid outing and joyous celebration. You guys really know how to live! Thanks for taking us along.

  2. Okay. I am now going to kill myself and you will have my blood on your hands. Loved the pics. Happy for your happiness. Wow--Thomas looks so much like your dad.