January 1st 2016
Desperately holding on to the year that was;
The last year in which you were alive.
It will be so empty, without you.
Unable to turn the page on the calendar,
To close the last thirty years of your life.
Beginning a new year, without you
Making plans that won’t include you,
But still thinking of you the whole time.
And the house is quiet, without you.
Memories we have, to recall and smile,
So many memories to ease the pain.
But it will be so difficult, without you.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As this new year begins, I recall an amazing adventure we had as a family at the dawn of the new millennium.
Sixteen years ago, my mother, brother and wife, sister, husband and daughter, and of course you and your brother, along with dad and I, spent two weeks in Florida as 1999 came to an end, and the year 2000 began.
Millennium morning after the day before . . . . .
“You must be joking ! I’ve never heard of anything so stupid” That was the response to my brother’s suggestion on New Year’s Eve.
“Who in their right mind would want to get up at a quarter to four in the morning, on the first day of the New Millennium ?”
I certainly did not.
Our initial plan for the last day of the old millennium had been to go to The Magic Kingdom and watch all the parades, fireworks and shows; but listening to the local radio we became increasingly aware that it would be impossible unless queuing began at the ticket gates before six thirty in the morning. As we had visited Mickey Mouse land on Christmas Eve, it did not seem too much of a disappointment to give up on the idea of going again. It would also have meant an incredibly long day, from seven in the morning until, probably two or three the following morning, trying to drive out of the car parks.
We eventually left our rental house at eight thirty in the morning on New Year’s Eve, and headed out onto Interstate 4 with the intention of driving to Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. Fifteen minutes later we joined the biggest traffic jam ever as tens of thousands of people tried to get into Disney for the New Year’s Eve Celebrations, and the dawn of a new millennium. The State troopers had blocked off all the slip roads leading into the various theme parks and were directing people away. The Magic Kingdom and Epcot had both reached capacity, and could take no more visitors. But where would everyone go?
Hastily looking at the large map of Orlando that we had bought, we did a quick U-turn, joined another line of cars, turned left at the lights when everyone else had gone straight on, and began weaving in and out of resorts, hotels and car parks. We eventually made it to our destination three hours later! (The journey should have taken all of forty minutes). My sister had already arrived there an hour earlier, having decided to drive down a ditch and across some open grassland to join a different road. Brother on the other hand had given up and gone back to the house. After frantic phonecalls and garbled directions shouted from the poolside, we managed to persuade him to jump in the car and try a second attempt at reaching the Water Park. Which he did at long last.
We spent the whole day at Typhoon Lagoon; swimming, surfing and enjoying the flumes, aswell as snorkelling with sharks over a tropical ocean reef. The weather was beautiful and ten of us had found an elevated, sandy spot just above the Surf Pool. A few palm trees gave a little shade and the ice box was full. Perfect. Every half an hour or so the waves would start thundering towards the shallow end, sweeping all and sundry in a foamy, blue swell. Small children beware; men old enough to know better bodysurfing as if their life depended on it; well, everyone has something to prove, even if it is just to surf further (and faster, and with more style) than one’s twelve year old nephew. My brother had a wonderful time; it was great to see a huge grin appear across his face every time he caught a wave. So much better than the world of high finance, computers and attorneys!
The last day of the year ended with a barbecue around the pool at our house, interspersed with wine, beer and champagne, and every hour, on the hour we all rushed in to gather around the television to watch as the different time zones around the world greeted the new millennium.
Seeing Big Ben and Trafalgar Square made me think briefly of being at home in St. Ives amongst the crazy madness of the fancy dress and the street bands, but we were having a terrific time in and around the pool, and as midnight drew closer on the Eastern coast of America we saw and heard all the fireworks and lasers that began to sparkle across the clear night sky. From Disney World to downtown Orlando, from Universal Studios to Epcot the sky seemed to be filled with exploding chrysanthemums.
And then brother said “Time to go to bed, because we need to get up at three forty five, and drive forty miles to the coast”
“Why?” . . . . “What a ridiculous idea”
By that time I was too tired to argue, and the alarms were set.
So, having had barely two hours sleep, we were all up and awake, and ready to roll by four thirty. Our three cars drove off in tandem full of bleary-eyed passengers. Heading towards the Beeline Expressway, we had to fumble in the darkness for change for the toll booths. (Had the toll operators been sitting in their booths all through the Millennium Eve ? Who knows; but there they sat ready to take your quarters, or hand out change).
Just over an hour after setting off we pulled into a gas station a couple of blocks back from the beach. Inside, the coffee machine was giving off a delicious aroma, so we all filled up the jumbo sized polystyrene cups with the hot black liquid. I also bought two newspapers to remind me of where I had been at the close of 1999 and the new beginning of 2000.
The headline on Florida Today was : “2000 ! Magic hour greeted with joy and light”, and The Orlando Sentinel had “2000 ! World marvels at new millennium”.
After our coffee break we drove the cars next door to the car park at Ron Jon’s, the famous 24-hour surf shop. We must have been a bit noisy, because we woke up the occupants of two vans, who had obviously been partying for most of the night. The doors opened and the dishevelled sleepy-heads almost fell out onto the ground, yawning and stretching and wishing everyone a slightly slurred Happy New Year.
6am, in the dark, and here we were in a car park, opening the boot of the car and making sure the champagne was still cold in the ice box! Loaded up with our victuals and a rug to sit upon, we made our way to the beach.
As we began to walk across the sand dunes and down onto the beach, I was suddenly struck by the number of people who were there, and more arriving by the minute. Groups of revellers from the night before were huddled around fires, singing and playing the guitar, some were still in the land of nod in their sleeping bags, and others were merely walking up and down the beach. We laid out the rugs and sat and waited.
Now I knew why we had come here. The atmosphere was amazing; the air of expectancy was almost tangible. People were so friendly and so happy to be there. I just did not realise how many would make the trip to watch the dawning of the new millennium.
After a while a few of us got up and walked down to the sea shore for a paddle; the water was surprisingly warm. A few pelicans flew in formation across the tops of waves, dipping their beaks into the water every now and again. And then it began, very slowly at first, but there was a noticeable lightening of the sky, and the colours began to change from a misty grey to a watery yellow glow. A few light clouds were scattered about, but the horizon was clear. Two shrimp boats were chugging back to port, their diesel engines giving off a faint plume of smoke. Cameras were clicking and camcorders whirring. The sky soon was changing into a smouldering deep orange. As the first pinprick of sunlight pierced the line between the sea and the sky, the cheering began; people were clapping and dancing and singing. Cameras were working overtime and the champagne corks were popping and flying into the air.
The colours began to change as the fiery crimson disc slowly rose into the sky. A vivid pink and orange radiated out from the sun, and yet, far from the centre of the sunrise, the sky remained a deep midnight blue. As it slowly climbed upwards, sunbeams shot their fingers of light in all directions, turning the upper atmosphere into a cool shade of blue.
The time was just after seven o’clock in the morning, and the spectacle that we had witnessed was very special and also quite emotional. We stayed on the beach for another forty minutes or so, sipping the champagne out of the polystyrene cups we had acquired from the gas station, and hugging and kissing, and wishing everyone a Happy New 2000.
Breakfast! The hunger pangs had begun. Trooping back to the cars we decided to drive to Shoneys for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for $4.99. Terrific value and excellent food. Lashings of fruit, waffles, doughnuts, scrambled eggs, bacon, ham, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash browns, cereal, yogurts; anything and everything you could ever want for brekkie. You just keep going back and filling up your plate until your stomach says enough is enough, but maybe room for just one more doughnut !
After we wobbled out of Shoneys full to the brim, we wandered along to Ron Jon Surf Shop, the ‘one of a kind’. The building is fantastic; an art deco castle of pinks, blues and greens, with turrets at each of the four corners. Inside it is huge, two floors full of surf gear, swimwear, beach towels, souvenirs, surfboards, skateboards, shoes and so much more. The staff told us that they had been there all night long; as their advertising states, they are open 24 hours, 365 days a year. We all marvelled at their chirpiness as we loaded up our shopping baskets having found some wonderful bargains. We paid the bill, deposited our purchases in the boot of the car, and then headed back to the beach. Time for a lie down and time to soak up some of the suns’ warming rays. The beach was filling up fast as it was going to be another beautiful, warm, sunny day, with the temperatures in the high seventies.
And that is how we spent the first day of the new millennium. You were fourteen, and were quite happy to sit and read your books; your brother on the other hand, hired a bodyboard, and surfed for a couple of hours.
Lovely, happy, family times.
Remembering you, on this New Year’s Day.
The first new year since 1985 that we have woken up to, without you.
I will be missing you so much.
My darling son.