Charlotte had never been a fan of New Year’s Eve, and she supposed she had her love of romantic comedies and 1940’s movies to blame. Since the divorce, Charlotte secretly pined for her own When Harry Met Sally moment: Billy Crystal, breathless from running through the streets of New York, blurting out the hopelessly romantic line, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Never the realist, she had to come to terms with the fact the line had been written by Nora Ephron who had been divorced two times before finally marrying her “until death do we part” husband. Really, most of the best lines written for the fictitious men of Charlotte’s dreams were written by clever, relationship challenged women. And as another year’s end loomed, Charlotte was determined to excise the ghosts of New Years past and allusions of New Year’s not to be, and embrace the life she was given in the city she was learning to call home.
Her first New Years Eve in Macon had been spent at lavish party in the heart of the Historic district, surrounded by an eclectic mix of eccentric and charming characters straight out of central casting. It would have been a lovely and magical evening had Charlotte not gone with her husband who had three weeks prior announced his plans to leave. No matter how hard she tried, Charlotte couldn’t shake the feeling she was co-starring in a horror film where her seemingly charming husband would take her home and revert back to the shadowy figure that haunted their beautiful newly purchased 130 year old house. A year later, Charlotte returned to the same neighborhood party as the happy-ish divorcee. This time, she was violently ill with a migraine, but determined to have a good time. The combination of her shot she had given herself earlier in the evening enabling her to rally and the mixed drink that was given to her by the host’s nephew had Charlotte looking for a quiet spot where she could watch the revelers from a distance just long enough for the shot to take effect. From her chair in the corner, she went unobserved, and even nodded off for a little while. She was awakened to the sounds of a pitiful woman bemoaning her husband’s roving eyes and hands. She was confiding in another woman on the other side of the room. The two were slightly inebriated, and were not aware of Charlotte’s presence. Before Charlotte could make a graceful exit, the scorned wife shared with her new friend she had had a boob job for husband and this was the thanks he gave her. Charlotte didn’t want to add to the woman’s misery by embarrassing her with the knowledge another total stranger was privy to her secret, so Charlotte kept her eyes closed and didn’t make a sound. She was dying to look up and take a peek at the woman and see if she recognized her, and if she did, could she tell a difference in the woman’s cleavage. It was at this party, Charlotte became like one of the eccentric southern characters of a Gothic novel, and not the slightly neurotic yet enchanting heroine of the movies she loved. So for the next seven New Year’s Eves, Charlotte retreated to Montgomery and her parents’ living room to ring in the New Year with the sounds of fireworks on the “mountain” and Henry, her dad’s dog, in his Thundershirt trembling with each explosion of sound and light.
When it became clear, Charlotte would not be leaving Macon any time soon, she decided to give New Year’s Eve in Macon another try. Her first attempt was a dismal disappointment. She watched When Harry Met Sally, ate pound cake and joined a dating website for seniors. Even though one of her responses was from a man named Jesus, Charlotte couldn’t get past the thought dating him would bring an entirely different meaning to the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” In order to keep from repeating the same mistake, Charlotte volunteered to help at the New Year’s Eve Dance at the Terminal Station in downtown Macon. It was the perfect way to spend the evening. Not only was she kept busy and away from her computer, she could watch the people of Macon enter in their varying degrees of finery and cast them in her story of new beginnings. Just as at the first two parties she attended years earlier, there was an abundance of captivating characters. There were older women who arrived in their floor length minks and their husbands who helped them out of their coats, revealing sequins and velvet that had been packed away in cedar chests since last year’s festivities. There were young couples, the next generation of old Macon, who filed in fashionably late with their flasks and unopened bottles of champagne. For every woman in formal attire there was one in jeans and a sparkly tee-shirt who drank out of a beer can. There were girls who teetered in death defying heels and men and women in cowboy boots, Charlotte included. The mayor and his wife even made an appearance.
As Charlotte went about her task of instructing guests on the nuances of the silent auction, she found herself thoroughly enjoying the evening. The cover band played music from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, and the old and young and the elegantly and not so elegantly attired Maconites danced side by side. It was fascinating to watch. Perhaps the best part of the evening was when the couple who graciously hosted the parties on which Charlotte cut her Macon social teeth walked through the doors. They were both regal and inviting, and greeted everyone with a smile and the same energy she remembered. Charlotte waved to them, and they came over to her table. They chatted for a while and caught up on the interim years, promising to get together soon. There was something about seeing them on New Year’s Eve that brought Charlotte full circle. Macon was beginning to feel like home, and it had only taken 10 years to happen. As she drove home, fireworks lit up the sky, not unlike the ending of a movie.