After my parents divorced, my holidays alternated between the two of them. On one New Year’s Eve when I was still in elementary school, it was my father’s turn to have me over to his house.
I don’t know quite when I became a night-owl. I have a very vague memory from years before this of standing up in my playpen, still in diapers, watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. When my Grandmother Mary was spending time with us, she and I would usually be the last ones to fall asleep (well, I fell asleep; she drunkenly passed out).
A year or two later, I can recall watching a late-night documentary on the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Sitting there, alone, at 2AM. Everyone else in the house was asleep (except for Grandma – drunkenly passed out, again). I sat there, quietly fascinated by the show. That night, at the age of only four years, I learned a lot about the Warren Commission and various theories about the grassy knoll, a second gunman, and Jack Ruby’s murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Those were just on “normal” school-nights. So it was no surprise that on this New Year’s Eve, while in 5th or 6th grade, I had firmly developed a plan to ring in the New Year at midnight. Unfortunately, I learned that this was not the plan for the rest of the household.
At around 8:30PM, my father knocked on my bedroom door and said:
Well, we’re turning in for the night. Goodnight, and Happy New Year.
I think I was able to compose a response wishing him a happy new year as well, but I was a bit taken aback by this concept of going to bed that early on a holiday night.
So, resolute as always to carry on with my own plan, I turned on the 13″ black and white TV in my room and watched the Times Square Ball dropping in New York City (an hour before midnight in our time zone).
Woohoo! Next up: Central time zone. I waited, and flipped between the four channels my TV received, and waited some more.
Finding no special programming on for New Year’s Eve in the heartland, I turned to my old friend, The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder.
I came to enjoy The Tomorrow Show after seeing Dan Aykroyd’s impression of Snyder on Saturday Night Live. See, night-owl, always was.
So I watched Tom Snyder’s show and “celebrated” with him as he announced:
Happy New Year!
while confetti streamed down from the ceiling of his studio and he lit another of his trademark cigarettes. A bit later that night, I learned that due to earlier programming on that TV station, Tom Snyder’s show had begun about 10 minutes late. So that year I celebrated the New Year at 12:13.
A bit far from normal, but sometimes you take what you can get.