Balloons and Sequins in the Basement

We are a house divided when it comes to New Year’s Eve.  I married a New Yorker who has seen it all/done it all when it comes to big parties on December 31st.  She’s seen plenty of Times Square balls drop.  She is happy just spending the night with people she loves.  I, on the other hand, am always looking for the chance to put on the tux and go dancing somewhere.

I admit that I over-romanticize the night.  With such varied expectations, we had to come up with a compromise solution for ways to mark the New Year.  We came up with a nice option…we let the kids get all dressed-up and put on the swankiest family dinner and dance party with friends…complete with a (wait for it) takeout Chinese dinner on our very best china.   Sparkling cider in stemware, of course, is a must.

While it may not pass the “cool” test for many, it has produced some of the best memories with our friends and our kids over the last few years.  Everyone looks good, everyone feels good, and we can dance the night away with people we love.

This year I decided to transform our (very ugly) basement into a real dance party place for our kids.  Some of our closest friends were coming to DC from NYC to spend New Year’s Eve with us.  And since our kids are at that stage where they boogie and shake without guile, I figured it was a great year to go all out with the decor, engineering some holiday lights, balloons and flashy stuff into my own little suburban version of Studio 54.

As I stood on the ladder, hanging the four hundredth piece of shiny ribbon from our basement ceiling, I thought to myself, “Why am I doing this!?  Will they even notice or care?”  I was ready to just go ahead and let the party happen without all the fuss and fancy wrapping.  And just as I was ready to pack up the supplies and call it quits, I realized where I had seen this scene before.  My mind flashed back to the dozens of parties, proms, student body elections, pep rallies, church dances, and birthday bashes where my dad had been the one behind the balloon machine or the guy with the idea to hang something cool from the ceiling.  I was just doing what Dad had done.  And indeed the kids would notice, because I certainly did.

It was somehow perfect to spend the few hours before New Year’s Eve this year with fond memories of my Dad, and realizing that I was doing no more or less than following in his footsteps.  I am blessed that my kids know and love my Dad and my Father-in-Law.   My resolution for this year is to be more like them, and embrace the fact that my instincts will always be to follow them.

Balloons and sequins in the basement are just the symbol of what my Dad taught me.  Every moment we have together is special.  It may not always be easy or fun, but every one of these moments is something to celebrate.

Public date: January 6th, 2012
Categories: My Life
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  1. Love this post Aaron… really hits home for me. I have had challenges as a divorced Dad and many times have to just stand back and hope my girls will remember when I do thing like you mention… and for the most part I do just like you have done. I know it makes an impression for the same reasons you do.

    Will all watch and learn from our parents. My father taught me the value of friendship, at all levels, and how important it is for you to be a friend first without expectation. He was always doing things for our neighbors… cleaning up, fixing things, helping out in any way he could, without expecting anything back in return other than friendship. He was the guy who would pull over, anywhere, and clean up a turned over garbage can and place it back where it belonged… and now I am too.

  2. Sharon says:
    Jan 6th

    Aaron, you make breathing seem fun.

  3. Aaron this is just beautiful. We did a lot of party making with our kids too – including a bd party where we decorated paper plates with stickers (4 or 5 yrs old), one where we made a video with all the props made out of cut up shirt cardboards, etc. I know the memories stuck and now my son is a father (or 2.5 weeks….) and I know he’ll do it too. They talk about “ghosts in the nursery” – the way we offer our kids, good or bad — what was offered to us. This story you tell is one of the great ones! Those ghosts are gifts.

    Happy New Year!

    • Cindy – I had the chance to talk about your “those ghosts are the gifts” line today…it really had an impact on me. Thanks for your reply to the post. It helped me try to speak a little more kindly and do a little better today when patience was running thin w/the kiddos! Happy New Year to you as well and thank you for what you do to improve the world!

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