Like it or not, New Year’s is an apt time for appearances by ghosts of resolutions past. Resolutions long forgotten. One of mine showed up just after midnight when the neighborhood celebratory fireworks had faded into black silence.
Because I’m easily subject to suggestibility, I suspect her appearance was prompted by a short story I’d listened to earlier in the evening. In Simon Rich’s “Birthday Party,” a man celebrating his thirtieth birthday is visited by his former selves—at ages fifteen, seven, and two. The fifteen-year-old is especially distraught that the thirty-year-old has failed to live up to his dreams, has basically “sold out.” My visiting ghost was equally disgusted as she unearthed a resolution by my fifteen-year-old self.
“You swore you’d never get old,” she reminded me. I tried laughing it off.
“One really doesn’t have the option,” I answered.
“I’m not talking about chronological age,” she retorted. “You resolved always to be up-to-date, cool, with it, kickass …”
“Careful,” I interrupted. “I didn’t even know that word at age fifteen and I don’t use it now.”
“My point exactly.”
She had me. At age fifteen, I’d regarded my parents and grandparents with great affection, but I would NEVER be like them. I would always be in style, wear the latest clothes, listen to popular music, drive hot cars (once I got my license). Now I’m older than even my grandparents were when I was fifteen, and I’m duplicating their playbook.
“Just look at you,” the specter continued, her eyes scanning my at-home outfit from the feet up: heavy socks inside dog-chewed Crocs, faded corduroy pants, turtleneck pullover, well-worn cardigan …
“… and no makeup!” she moaned.
“I’ll put on some lipstick if I go out,” I said.
“Go out? GO OUT?! Just how many New Year’s Eve invitations did you turn down?”
“Um, one … or two … maybe three.”
“So you could do what?”
“Stay home, read a book, listen to Glen Gould play Bach …”
Her heavy sigh echoed the past. My mother hated my fifteen-year-old sighs—expressions of adolescent exasperation mixed with a disdain that, had I stated it verbally, would’ve grounded me for at least a month, maybe the rest of my life.
The ghost renewed her attack.
“We’ve established you no longer know how to party. What do you know about popular culture?” I shrugged my indifference.
“Just as an example, who is Taylor Swift?”
I made a wild guess: “Is he a singer?”
“Like, SHE’S only been named ‘Artist of the Decade!’”
“I must’ve missed that decade.”
“Your eleven-year-old car says as much. What ever happened to your preference for sporty convertibles? You’re driving a Dodge sedan!”
“Yeah, well, it’s safe and comfortable and PAID for!” I shot back.
Defeated, she shook her head. As she faded from sight, I heard her tearful groan, “What has become of me?”
It’s true I lost that teen-age resolve, but maybe I gained something along the way. A modicum of wisdom?