It was 1997. We were 16. Keelie’s family was hosting the youth group New Year’s Eve party, but I was scheduled to close at KFC. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was going to ring in the New Year at work, probably while washing dishes.
At 11:40pm, my boss says, “Hey, finish that up and then you can head out.” “Really?!” I reply. I quickly wrap up whatever I was doing and bolt out the door, almost forgetting to clock out.
Now, Keelie and I weren’t dating yet, but I had made up my mind that we would be soon. I desperately wanted to kiss her as the ball dropped. I was still debating the kiss part as I fled to the car, but I wanted to at least be with her at midnight.
By this time, it’s about 11:47, and Keelie’s house was, oh, about 14 minutes away. I’m listening to the radio on the way as it got closer and closer to midnight. “Only 10 minutes left… It’s 11:55, we’re almost there… just 2 minutes now…”
Probably because the roads were empty, and mostly because I was speeding, I made pretty good time. I nearly smashed the bumper on my dad’s Ford Taurus as I breezed through two dips in the road that are just before Keelie’s house. “Sorry dad, I’ll make it up to ya later, I gotta get to this girl!”
This was pre-cell phone, so I hadn’t had the ability to call Keelie and say whether I was gonna be there or not. Apparently she was holding out hope that we’d get done early enough for me to make it. As I lurch to an abrupt halt at the curb, she comes bursting out the door. “Hurry! Hurry! It’s almost time!”
I run in the door, hand-in-hand (she held my hand!) and cram into the room with the tv. As we come through the archway, they’re shouting “9! 8! 7!” Holy cow, I made it! Keelie was smiling ear to ear, and I probably was too.
Mostly because her parents were there, I held off on the New Year’s kiss. But the next year, we definitely kissed as the ball dropped. We’ve done the same every year since, minus that three year hiatus when we had stopped kissing!
We’ve had some interesting New Year’s Eves over the years. We’ve celebrated at friend’s houses. We put on a youth lock-in my first year as a youth pastor. There was the year we Skyped our friends in Japan at midnight their time and dropped a tangled up ball of Christmas tree lights from our ceiling fan. A few years ago, my first ever Instagram post was on New Year’s Eve. Tonight, we will ring in our 19th New Year together.
It’s been an interesting year, and we’ve got a crazy year coming up. As always, we’ll close out 2016 kissing and start 2017 kissing. There have been great years, horrible years, and average years. But for the last two decades, I’ve traveled through each year with the woman I love. She’s my best friend, the love of my life, the mother of my children, and the best New Year’s buddy I could wish for.