It’s fashionable to say that New Year’s Eve is always a disappointment – too much expectation to have a good time leads to many a damp squib of a party. There’s no doubt that going out on December 31st can be a costly experience but some of the best New Year’s Eves of my life have come in the last five years. As so often, it’s who you’re with not what you’re doing that counts.
On December 31st, my mind always goes back to the first time. I can’t pinpoint the year but I can distinctly remember the place. My sister and I had gone to my parent’s closest friends who had, and still have for that matter, two daughters, a few years older than us. When you’re around ten years of age, socialising with teenagers is such a thrilling experience. As the clock ticked past eight o’clock, my sister and I hatched a plan, in conjunction with our hosts, to try to make it to midnight on the last day of the year for the first time. Our logic was simple, if a little flawed. If we kept as quiet as possible, Mum and Dad would forget we were with them and, magically, we’d still be there at one minute to midnight. Unbeknown to us, our parents had accepted an invitation to see in the new year and we were there until close of play anyway. But I’ll never forget the realisation that we were going to still be up and about one minute into another year. Unbridled excitement. Now we were really growing up. In the years that immediately followed, Mum and Dad hosted small parties and the memories are warm and sustaining still. What we were doing on New Year’s Eve became a subject for excited debate – well, I was excited anyway – from the end of September onwards.
Nothing has ever quite matched the feeling of the first time although, as I say, I’ve enjoyed some memorable New Year’s Eves with close friends in recent years. A few years ago, my parents came to see us in Warwickshire. It was a last-minute arrangement but is a precious memory as it was the last time I spent New Year with them.
Today and tonight will be no different. We’re hosting two of our closest friends and the house will be filled with chatter and laughter all evening. I will, though, pause, to remember my mother and father playing New Year hosts. I’ll also think about how Mum will be spending this December 31st. The significance of the occasion is lost, of course, and her life will continue with little change, at least I hope it will. There’ll be no aroma of Christmas perfume wafting through the house (unless I wear mine but that’s a different story), no ambitious culinary creations (Mum occasionally tried new dishes at New Year), no second glass of sherry, no warm hug at midnight with a “have a wonderful new year darling” which always, always made me feel that the following year would definitely be marvellous and exciting, the best yet.
I’ll still raise a glass to Mum at midnight and hope that 2013 will be as happy as it can possibly be for someone living with dementia. And I’ll raise a glass – too – to all the carers, for whom 2013 will probably be much the same as 2012 – extremely challenging, a fight against the odds. My New Year’s wish – a resolution of sorts if you like – is that 2013 will be the year in which the country finally understands what dementia means and starts to take action. Now, that really would be a happier new year.