Then one fine day, Johannes, that boyfriend I mentioned a few paragraphs back, became the father of my daughter, and suddenly the lovely meal I'd always prepare was replaced by a hot dog for Julia, fish sticks for Jonathan (boyfriend's son who doesn't eat meat), and finally, at that inevitable moment when Jules gets cranky and begins pelting Jonathan with his own fish sticks and Jonathan can't be in the vicinity of a nonvegetarian hot dog without making obnoxious gagging sounds, I'd go to plan B: macaroni and cheese for all. The Katharine Hepburn movie gave way to a Polly Pocket video, and the messes that used to drive me nuts stopped getting to me in quite the same way. I finally figured out that life is inherently messy and it takes a lot more than a New Year's Eve purge to bring it under control.

So now, whenever December 31 rolls around, I abdicate control. I invite two or three close friends to stop by if they're so inclined; and if they're not, Johannes and I like to devote at least a couple of hours to horrifying the children with our general dorkiness. Last year, just before midnight, we got ourselves and the kids all bundled up and headed to the roof to watch fireworks light up the East River. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that unlike the Fourth of July, we had the roof all to ourselves. It was around 12:03 when one of us remembered that there are no fireworks over the East River on New Year's Eve. I guess sometimes you just don't get fireworks. But every once in a while, you get something even better: We stood there, huddled together at the top of the world in our flannel pajamas, down jackets, mittens, and scarves, our breath coming out in soft puffs that mingled and hung in the night, laughing like idiots—thinking that for better or for worse, these are the good old days. So good, in fact, we may do the exact same thing again this year.

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