New Year’s Eve, sometime in the late 1990′s, somewhere on the northern shore of the Long Island Sound. I am a guest at a small dinner party — I don’t have a date, but that’s OK because I have already accepted the fact that I am going to die alone and unloved in my wine-stained bathrobe in front of the TV tuned to the Weather Channel surrounded by a billion empty cans of cat food.
Then one of the women at the dinner party gets a phone call from her daughter in England — it’s midnight there and she’s calling to wish her mother a Happy New Year. The woman tells her daughter “Happy New Year to you too, dear” and shuts her phone and smiles sadly. “She went to Europe for the Summer when she was 20,” the woman explains about the girl who just called, “And she met an English boy when she was touring Monet’s garden at Giverny and she married him and she’s lived in London ever since.”
The parents around the table comisserate with her — it’s hard when your child lives an ocean away. I guess. Because all I could think was:
That bitch stole my life.
That 20-year old girl who when away for a Summer in Europe who met an English boy in Monet’s garden at Giverny and married him and lived happily ever after in London: That shudda been me. WHY ELSE did I hitch hike up and down the whole of freaking France the Summer I was 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, … until I was 29 except to have some dashing foreigner fall in love with me and whisk me away to his fabulous foreign country? [Oh, sure, I'd had my own fabulously foreign first husband but I wasn't going to let that get in the way of a good sulk.]
I don’t know who that girl is, the one who stole my life, but she’s making me plenty mad this New Year’s Eve. Seething, raging, get-drunk-as-quick-as-possible mad.
The wisest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say to me was “Vivian, everything works out in the end.” No, nobody said that to me that night – I was too busy working on giving myself what I still remember as The Worst Hang Over In My Life. It was about five years later when I got that wonderful piece of advise. …which I didn’t believe then, really, until the next year when I met the man I call Top Cat and he took me away to the wonderful foreign land called Long Island.
It’s true. Everything works out in the end. “It might not be the way you think you want it to turn out,” my friend told me, “But it does work out, you’ll see.” I’d like to add that it might not work out when you want it to, either; but it does work out in the end, just dandy.
I don’t begrudge that unknown girl in England her (my) life anymore. And I can hardly remember that version of me, that New Year’s Eve, who had almost given up on the future. But then again, I’ve tried to stay away from New Year’s Eve parties ever since.
Me and Top Cat are planning a picnic dinner in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace surrounded by our cats and some quilts for when the champagne makes us too drowsy to stay awake until midnight.
Happy New Years to you all, past present and future.
[I did this embroidery of Giverny in 1990, back before I had a grudge against the place which I have totally forgiven it for. I'm not the only person to have been robbed of my rightful life, am I? Or to have a resentment against a certain place on the map? I'm not that peculiar, right? Right?]