New Year's Eve with the human wrecking ball and sister sulk
I'm a firm believer that something unfortunate happens to us in our 40s. Aside from the perpetual mid life crisis, we make the stealthy transition from being protagonists to victims.
Suddenly we realise one day we have no control over our own destinies and are rather purely reactive people who watch horrified on the sidelines as awful events explode around us thinking weakly 'I used to shape and now I don' t even have the energy or the belief to follow; rather I stumble haphazardly in the wake of things, blinking weakly and trying to remember the world we once mistakenly eyed up as our oyster.'
New Years Eves used to be a case in point. These used to be so full of hope and expectation, even if they so often ended up in the arms of a stranger with a bad complexion at a second rate party in a disused bowling alley.
We got older, they got more respectable. But we still waited for the countdown, we still went through the motions of partying. We threw our arms around people when the clock struck 12.
But now in our 40s we seldom even bother to wait up and watch the ball drop. We're far too tired to stay up so late.
And we seem to have little control over the chain of events; a relative said we should meet at the Great Wolf Lodge because she had four kids in tow and we have two and we should all get together and it will be fun and frolics and she forgets to add to explain more is less with kids and to mention a key word that comes back to haunt us and nibble at us as we beat a retreat from hell; purgatory - it will be purgatory. You may never have been to Purgatory USA but the brochure looks positively nasty.
Another symptom of being in your 40s is that you realize something will be bad but you are powerless to change the course of events. The pictures of the Great Wolf Lodge looked frankly alarming - you could almost smell the sweat oozing from the bodies of children out of the pages, you could hear the screams and yells and demands for more and less and something you couldn't give. The good news is the rate had gone up to $500 a night by the time we got round to booking, so we stayed in the Hilton instead.
And as soon as we arrived there and the comfortable bed wrapped around me I weakly suggested not even showing up for my rendezvous at the Wolf Lodge.
Overruled. before I knew it the great faux hunting lodge rose from the woods and we were descending into its depths beneath giant polystyrene wolves asking at reception where we could be fitted with Adamantine chains. The place was full of miserable adults, recently disgorged from flash Mercs and BMWs looking uneasy and out of place while the kids screamed at them to part with $15 for magic wands that would open the chests placed along corridors straight out of The Shining.
Before we could reach the water park we were taken to a BBQ shack for a late lunch. The place was renown for its BBQ but had all of the aura of Steffi Graf's arm pit. "I'm sure the white table cloths are arriving soon," I joked to deadpan silence.
By now Jax was causing havoc, hurling just about every piece of food related junk on the table.
"Look - I've just about had enough or you," I growled assuming the fearsome demeanor of a polystyrene wolf.
"Ah," he threw a cup full of water over me. That's what I'm trying to say about the powerlessness of being in your 40s.
Then as I went off on another bleak foray for plastic utensils he sunk his teeth into my wife's arm.
Yes. It was going to be a New Year's Eve to remember.
Back at the Great Wolf Lodge we were preparing to use the water park. My wife pointed out rather pertinently that while the rooms may have large lumberjack-style four poster beds and cost $500 a night for New Year's Eve, they reeked of child vomit.
I thought it might be the distinctive odor of the vomit of the Papua New Guinea duck billed platy puss but I didn't argue the point. That's another characteristic of being in your 40s; you don't want to waste energy defending stances you would have built a barricade for in your twenties.
At this point it became apparent I had forgotten my swimming trunks so I had to borrow those of my nephew that were rather too tight. This left me uneasy on the water slides as I expected an unpleasant ripping sound that would herald more trouble.
So the night unfolded with only extortionately priced cans of Miller Lite to dull the pain. Jax ran through the water park with me haphazardly in tow at one point falling and gashing his face. And he ran and ran until we adopted plan B - namely restraining him as he screamed and writhed and knocked over cans of Miller Lite in his temper.
Zara merely sulked about rides she couldn't go on until we agreed she could most certainly stay at the Wolf Lodge and we'd pick her up again on New Year's Day - 2014.
And after a tortuous few hours we got back to the Hilton where we could miss the ball falling in Time Square and any other mawkish activities traditionally associated with New Year's Eve.
As it turned out I had to pick up Zara before 9 a.m. the next day but the organized activities in the lobby on the cotton wool snow failed to mask the chill that had descended on the place with my wife's sister having fallen out with her boyfriend and the kids sitting in a woeful line comparing their moon faces. I was barely acknowledged as I picked up Zara and nobody ventured those well worn comments: "Happy New Year."
At least there was a sense of normality back at the Hilton, even if the woman on the next breakfast table kept glancing at Jackson's scarred face and we expected her to dial up social services at any time. Or perhaps she was just being wary because he had just thrown a buttered roll that had missed her face by mere inches.
We drove away bereft of New Year's resolutions or any high hopes although we harbor a hesitant expectation that 2012 won't suck quite as much as 2011.