At several points during the day yesterday I had shuddering flashbacks to new year’s eves of my adolescence, remembering curfew negotiations, awkward parties, and excruciating maneuvers to try to kiss someone at midnight in meaningful yet non-threatening ways. With every surfacing memory I felt a wave of gratitude that I’m no longer 16 and I’m married to a wonderful man who I don’t need an excuse to kiss.

Since then, new year’s eve celebrations have ebbed and flowed in their potential and potency. For a few years when I was single I celebrated with cooking and slumber parties with a group of good friends. Then I had a couple years of festive evenings with my husband. Then our daughter was born and our friends had kids and that was more or less the end of that. ūüôā Yes, I realize there are babysitters, but we’re not big drinking and partying people, and all the new year’s eve activities seem centered on that and expensive, so we’ve just stayed in and watched movies and played games and consumed junk food while Zoe slept upstairs.

Then last night we went to see the Garden of Lights display at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. The display of lights is dazzling and we went last year at Christmastime. We had planned to go earlier this season but didn’t, which was fortuitous. We decided yesterday that taking Zoe to see the lights would be a nice new year’s eve treat after a day of just sitting around the house (not to say that playing at home isn’t also a treat for Zoe,¬†because she is as happy doing that as anything). Maybe it was also a treat for us after a day of sitting around the house.

We got there around 7pm and discovered that many other families had had the same great idea, but the park is spacious enough to accommodate many bundled-up children and blanketed strollers. We walked down the paths and oohed and aahed at the lights that created thunderstorms, flocks of flying geese, the frog whose throat lit up, splashing dolphins, and hundreds of intricately shaped flowers. We discovered the greenhouse and the model trains inside barreling down tracks through old-fashioned Montgomery County scenes. And when we went inside the visitors center to warm up, we found a party goingon. There was face painting, craft making, and puzzles for kids; hot cocoa and cider for everyone; and a man who looked like a linebacker playing the harp and guzzling diet soda from a two-liter bottle between songs. We all had a lovely time. Zoe had a chocolate chip ice cream cone painted on her cheek and she decorated a paper crown to signify her status of queen of the realm in 2011. And she got to stay up until 10pm when we got home. What a day for a three-year-old! And her parents. Happy New Year!