While other people shed tears of longing and regret on New Year’s Eve I cry tears of pure joy. The drop of the Waterford Ball in Times Square at precisely twelve o’clock midnight signals the official end of the fanatical holiday season for me. 62 days. 62 days of madness from Halloween to New Year. Those haunting nightmares of not getting the kids’ costumes on time, not being prepared for the 30 guests, give or take a dozen, that come every year to my house for Thanksgiving, or waiting too long to go shopping and not being able to find that one gift that my son and 100,000 other kids want, and trying to avoid a coronary while cooking the feast of the seven fishes by thinking, “If Jesus fed 5,000 on two fishes, surely I can feed 50 on seven?” All this is behind me now. Can I get an “Alleluia?”
The truth is that while other people are shouting “Happy New Year” it’s all I can do to refrain myself from screaming, “All right! EVERYBODY OUT! We’ll see you all on Memorial Day. Have a great year! Take your coat, take your germs. Goodbye!”
The problem this year was that when everyone finally did leave I realized that they left more than just good memories behind. The sewer had overflowed (again) into our basement. In my book, this is not a fortuitous start to the New Year. Although it is said to be good luck to step in it, I don’t know about swimming in it. The second I opened the basement door to retrieve the mop I knew what had happened. Some things need no second opinion. Trust me, sewer overflow is one of those things.
I did what any woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown she’s been withholding for 62 days would do. I called for my husband.
“What?” I heard from the living room where he laid prostrate on the couch watching post New Year’s Eve celebrations on the Spanish channel.
“The sewer overflowed into the basement. Happy New Year!”
“Que? Como?” was his reply from over the din of Feliz Ano Nuevo. (This white boy secretly longs to be a steamy Latino and loves to kid around by using the Spanish he learned from Dora the Explorer. I never wanted to burst his bubble by telling him that “vamanos” is not a dirty word that inspires anything when whispered into someone’s ear, especially if that someone is carrying a 50 pound basket of laundry.)
“It seems that everyone’s lower intestines dropped with the ball.”
“Donde esta? Donde esta?”
“Doo-doo donde in the basement.”
Unamused by speaking Spanglish, I realized that I had had it. I had just spent the last 62 days standing with the masses in line at Party City for costumes; trick-or-treating in the bitter cold; spending an hour of Halloween scrubbing my daughter’s hand after she crushed a stink bug that flew into her bag making me understand why they call them “stink bugs”; examining candy to make sure no crazy person tampered with it; pumpkin picking in Dante’s Fifth Circle of Hell; getting up in the dark to cook for Thanksgiving; cleaning up after Thanksgiving; shopping for Christmas; pulling everything down from the attic to decorate for Christmas; decorating for Christmas; suffering through a fist fight between the person in line in front of me and the person behind me at Wal-Mart on the night before the night before Christmas Eve; being unable to suppress my sarcasm while being interrogated by the cops about said fight when they asked me what caused the fight and I replied, “The celebration of the birth of our Lord”; wrapping all the gifts; getting everyone dressed and out the door for the Children’s Christmas Eve Mass; spending the first ten minutes of Christmas Eve Mass outside the church with my son in a headlock scrubbing his forehead raw with my nails because he thought it would be funny to tattoo a penguin with a Santa hat onto his forehead in the car; cooking for Christmas Eve; cleaning up at four in the morning after everyone left on Christmas Eve; telling Santa that I’d handle the heavy stuff; getting up at seven with the kids on Christmas day; cleaning up Christmas morning; preparing for New Year’s Eve, cooking for New Year’s Eve, cleaning up after New Year’s Eve, and trying to fit in three jobs.
For $500 the plumber arrived to temporarily fix the problem with the sewer line. He suggested that since we live on the bottom of a hill we should tell the uphill neighbors to refrain from flushing so much. Gee, now should I offer them a plate of homemade cookies when I tell them that? No, that will just make them ultimately have to flush. The plumber added, “If the back-up was only 15 feet to the north it would be the town’s problem.”
He turned to leave my house and the grotesque mess that he had just made in my house. When I mentioned how his wife would feel if someone left her floors, toilets, and tubs such a mess with sewerage he replied, “Come on! Women love to clean!” God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, a woman’s work is never done.
And so as I dip my big toe into the dirty waters of 2011 all I can think of is flushing neighbors and only 10 months of rest before the holiday rush starts again.
Happy New Year! By the way, Jim says, Feliz Ano Nuevo!