A New Year’s Wish

Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

The lights have faded into the background behind us. We are en route to Dover, DE, driving through old dark roads that wind through corn fields and small romantic towns. We are silent as we listen to India Aire and an eclectic mix of jazz composers on various CDs. The music seems to wind around us like summer air even though it is the eve of a new year, the dead of winter, a few days before a winter storm will sweep through the southern states.

Twenty-five dollars are burning a hole in my wallet, ready to be spent upon entrance to My Place, an endearing little jazz club and bar in historic downtown Dover. It’s a tiny place run by a couple who should be out of business by now, but who seem to make it just fine in their small establishment, charging no door fee except for tonight, New Year’s Eve.

Holly Lane and le Jazz Hot are performing this evening — she is a wonderful jazz singer with a smoky voice who wanders around the room and sings to you (often in French) while her band varies but generally consists of the same drummer, pianist, and bass player (who spent several years in France with Holly). They are marvelous, and we travel to see them as often as we can; they know us as “the Chestertown folks.”

We have decided to spend New Year’s in this dark and small little club, listening to the magical voice of Holly Lane and the wonderful accompaniment of her band, eating spaghetti dinners with salads and breadsticks, drinking a few Bloody Mary’s for the occasion, so that we will emerge on the other side of this night into a new year, feeling peaceful and quiet inside the way you do after you leave My Place — with a smile and a promise to return soon.

The night is everything we could have imagined it would be. The food is delicious (well worth the $25) and Holly is as wonderful as ever, dressed in a long black evening gown, her shoulders draped in a shawl. The bassist plays with closed eyes as he absorbs himself in his music and his talent. Holly sings some of my favorites: “Cry me a River” and “Peel Me a Grape” upon request.

It is a New Year’s I will always remember — the first new Year’s that I have spent someone magical, the first New Year’s I can remember when I did something worthwhile, went somewhere to celebrate, and left feeling like the New Year would be a good one.

We counted down to midnight according to someone’s watch instead of Dick Clark and Times Square. I kissed three people for good luck, toasted them each with complimentary champagne, and had a dance at midnight before we left. I was in a jazz dream that I will never forget in this lifetime.

In fact, it was a dream. Not a sleeping one — not exactly a waking one, either, but rather a story I created of the New Year’s that could have been, the New Year’s that wasn’t.

This was the night we planned to have, but it fell through because those $25 that we each needed just to get through the door never came through the bank. We never made the trip, never got in the car to go, never heard Holly Lane that night or saw what she was wearing.

We did in fact count down to midnight with Dick Clark and have a rather quiet peaceful New Year’s at my house in Chestertown. It was another New Year’s that will not stand out in my memory, but I can’t be but so disappointed: the dream I have presented to you here is most likely a true fabrication — some of those things would indeed have happened.

Holly Lane and le Jazz Hot really were playing that night and we really would have eaten spaghetti and salads and breadsticks, and I can imagine complimentary champagne as part of the fee we were required to pay. I probably wouldn’t have danced at midnight and I may not have kissed anyone for good luck, and I wouldn’t have had much to drink since I was the one who had to drive home.

So the magic of that night is best kept in the cedar chest of what might have been: the fork in the road where one of me, dressed to the nines, stepped into my car and drove that long dark winding drive to Dover, and the other of me did as I did, and stayed home, in Chestertown, with Dick Clark and a Bloody Mary with no bottom.

Article © 2002 by Caryn Ellis