Last night I was sitting here waiting for it to be midnight, listening to firecrackers hissing and booming in the neighborhood. Ghosts of the past tapped me on the shoulder.

In early days, just out of high school, I celebrated New Year's Eve on the Michigan-Wisconsin border. There was one hour's difference between the two states. Our motto was: “Quick, quick, drink up at midnight”, followed by a dash down U.S. 2 to a bar just across the state line for a second beery blast. It is a wonder we didn't kill ourselves on those icy roads, driving with one eye shut to avoid seeing double.

One year I celebrated in Saskatchewan, visiting a childhood friend who had married a Canadian. We went to a railroad club dance somewhere out in the boondocks. A bring-your-own-booze kind of place. I was in a party of eight. A hip flask was passed around, then a bottle of soda for a wash. The woman who passed the flask to me didn't drink; she kept the soda for herself. I was left with a burning mouthful of whiskey.

The first time I drank champagne was in Cleveland. Pink champagne. I was sicker than a dog the next day. It was years before I touched the stuff again.

I remembered sailing in Sydney Harbour on New Year's Day, with Aussie friends telling me I would end up looking like a lobster. Little did they know I have Italian blood under this fair northern complexion. Nothing really looks worse than a sunburnt English rose. One up on you, mate.

Several years later. halfway around the world from Neutral Bay, New Year's Eve was celebrated in Africa. We put soap suds on the window panes to simulate snow and the air con was cranked up on super cool. Just so we could wear sweaters and pretend it was Holidays at Home.

The year after that I was married to Jean-Albert. We had a special dinner at Julia's, probably the best French restaurant on the Mosquito Coast. He insisted I at least try a tiny spoonful of caviar from his hors-d'œuvre. Followed by a sip of his Champagne, a dry white. OhMyGod, that is unbelivably good! The best thing in the world! And this Champagne is the second best thing in the world. Why didn't I ever drink this before?

New Year's in Nigeria, in Sierra Leone, in Gabon. Fête de la Saint-Sylvestre in Provence. All fun, all in the past.

The AA crowd I hang with these days refers to December 31 as "amateur night".