…maybe next New Year’s Eve!

Times Square ~ New Year’s Eve

Here I am standing in Times Square at 11:30 at night on New Year’s Eve. For the last nine years, my wife and I never miss being right here.

This is the most famous location for New Year’s celebration in the world.

Our first New Year’s Eve celebration together happened on this very spot where we are tonight, twenty years ago.

Let me start at the beginning and tell you the whole fantastic story from that fateful night so many years ago.

I’m Victor McCarthy and I work as a senior actuary for a large life insurance company. Boring so far, right?

Well twenty years ago, I was six months out of college and six months into working for the company I still work for. Getting the picture? I have been a rather unremarkable person since birth, reliable and predictable.

Except for one adventure I decided to go on twenty years ago tonight.

I woke up New Year’s Eve in the small apartment I had rented in New York City’s upper west side and suddenly a strange feeling came over me. I had a growing compulsion to go to Time’s Square that evening and watch… no, be part of the most publicized New Year’s celebration in the world, the ball dropping at midnight.

I didn’t have a lot of friends then… still don’t for that matter, so this was going to be a ‘lone ranger’ event.

Me, the guy who didn’t go into crowded restaurants because I was painfully shy. Me, the guy who had never taken one girl on a second date because I couldn’t get up the nerve to ask, was going to go into a crowd of one million people and celebrate the arrival of the New Year.

I believe very strongly that there are no coincidences. All events happen because they play a part, regardless of how small, in moving us along the path our lives are supposed to take. I have believed this most of my life because my Grandmother held it as one of her deepest convictions and passed that faith onto me.

I therefore accepted this inclination to do something completely out of character and prepared to spend hours in the cold streets of mid-town Manhattan awaiting that magical moment when the ball (aluminum studded with red, white, and blue bulbs twenty years ago, crystal today) slid down the seventy-seven-foot pole and lit up.

Although it was cold that night it was not unbearable, one million people tend to generate a lot of body heat. So, at one minute to midnight, I was on the corner of Broadway and 45th Street joining the crowd in the countdown to midnight.

At midnight people all around me were hugging and kissing each other, passing glasses of champagne about (definitely against the law in New York City streets), and screaming ‘Happy New Year’. Of course, I was not one of the participants in those festivities. My God, being there was a huge leap for me, grabbing a strange girl, hugging and kissing her was to me just an unattainable fantasy.

It was taken out of my hands!

Before I knew it an adorable, smiling, screaming little blonde beauty, tapped me on the shoulder and when I turned to see who was doing the tapping she threw her arms around my neck, said “Happy New Year” and kissed me.

I believe she was about to turn and do the same thing to another reveler when the crowd started moving north up Broadway… as a crowd. There was no separating at that point; we were part of the largest moving mass of humanity one could imagine.

Somewhere between 45th Street and 50th Street we began holding hands and at 51st Street I started easing, with her in tow, towards the east side of Broadway and at 52nd Street turned east into a far less crowded thoroughfare.

I knew this area well because my office was six blocks away.

At this point, I mustered up enough courage to introduce myself and ask her if she would like to have the first cup of coffee of the New Year with me. My knees started to buckle when she said, “Yes”.

We spent over an hour together in an all-night coffee shop I knew would be open. She told me her name, Annemarie Padelford, and a little about herself. Mostly we were silly and laughed a lot. There was not a minute of awkward silence and I wasn’t shy for even a second, for the first time in my life.

It was the best New Year’s Eve of my life to that point… hell, it was the best hour of my life to that point.

At one-thirty she said she had to go, but we swore that we would get together in the New Year. She gave me another kiss and left.

It would be another hour before I realized I had no idea how to reach her nor did she take any information about me.

Annemarie Padelford and the happiest hour and a half of my life had slipped from me forever.

Destiny had another plan!

~~~~

For the next eleven years, I worked hard and smart at the insurance company rising to the position of Senior Actuary, Director of Actuarial Services. I made a good living, had a much better apartment and dated occasionally, sometimes for even more than one date.

However, without fail, I returned to the same corner each New Year’s Eve, always alone and always looking, hoping and praying to find the girl of my dreams, Annemarie Padelford. Finally, after the vain effort nine years ago, I decided to become proactive.

I woke up one Saturday morning two weeks after the New Year and said to myself, “How many girls in their late twenties or early thirties named Annemarie Padelford can there be? Find her, it is either meant to be or it’s not, but use your head… and technology and find her.”

Well, I did just that.

First, let me point out there are a hell of a lot more Annemarie Padelfords than you would ever believe. But, by narrowing down the field, I wound up with a list of three that fit all the characteristics I knew… which were very few. Once I had the list, I composed a letter and sent it to all three, one via e-mail the other two on Facebook. Two answered that they had never been to New York at all, much less on New Year’s Eve eleven years earlier. The third didn’t answer for two months, and then one day I got an e-mail saying she thought she might be the ‘Annemarie Padelford’ I was looking for and she enclosed her picture.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was my dream girl, petite, blonde and a smile to die for. Sure she changed a bit in the intervening eleven years, but who hasn’t and probably my recollection of her was less than accurate.

Well, the rest is history. Since she lived in New York City, Brooklyn to be exact, we got together for dinner. It was a repeat of that fateful New Year’s Eve twenty years ago. We laughed, we talked non-stop, we closed the restaurant, but this time I knew how to get in touch with her… which I did the next day. We dated for three years and six years ago we were married.

My advice to everyone: don’t fight destiny, listen to your instincts and if a strange feeling is encouraging you to do something, listen to those feelings and do it. The path to happiness is not always straight, so watch carefully for the signs along the path.

I never thought I would be as happy as I was that hour and a half on New Year’s Eve twenty years ago. I listened to those feelings that day and again eleven years ago and I am the happiest man I know. I love my Annemarie and I am loved by her more than I ever thought possible for me.

~~~~

I’m Annemarie McCarthy, formerly ‘Annemarie Padelford’ and I’m going to add a few lines to this tale of destiny, love and happiness.

When I got Victor’s e-mail, I was completely negative on relationships and had accepted that I would be alone for the rest of my life. His e-mail read like some kind of fairy tale. I didn’t erase it for some reason and then one day I decided, ‘why not give it a go’, so I answered him and as he says above, the rest is history.

I cannot believe I have been blessed with the man of my childhood dreams. I was so skeptical of men and relationships that I held off his efforts, to make the relationship permanent, for three years.

Thank God he didn’t give up on me; he is and always will be the center of my universe as I know I am his.

However!

  • I was in New York City that New Year’s Eve twenty years ago.
  • I was at the celebration in Times Square to watch the ball drop.
  • I never got below 57th Street and Broadway.
  • I didn’t kiss Victor or have coffee with him.
  • I realized this three months into our dating, but didn’t want it to end.
  • I promise myself to tell him each New Year’s Eve… but don’t.

I thank who I call ‘the original Annemarie Padelford’ at least thirty times a month for her giving my husband that wonderful hour and a half twenty years ago and me a life beyond my dreams.

…and I am the strongest believer in my husband’s advice, “The path to happiness is not always straight, so watch carefully for the signs along the path.”

Oh well, I’ll probably tell him… maybe next New Year’s Eve!

New Year’s Fireworks
New York

If you enjoyed this short story you will want to visit Mysteries With A Twist by G. Hugh Bodell



G. Hugh Bodell is an Author, Freelance Writer and Blogger
Visit him and his books at:
ghughbodell.com

© Copyright G. Hugh Bodell 2019

…and to all A Good Night

This tale really began ten days ago, two weeks before Christmas…

“Well we got her everything she asked Santa for, thank the Lord she has simple wishes.”  This was my wife, Karen,talking and breathing a sigh of relief as we began the drive home from the mall with the last of the presents for our four year old daughter, Faith.  Fortunately, she had fallen asleep in her car seat after half a day of walking the length of a mall about three times.

It had been a tough year.  Karen and I both worked at an auto parts manufacturer, the town’s biggest employer that had closed just after Christmas last year.  We hadn’t found anything but a few temporary jobs for the past twelve months and with those, we were doing better than most of the rest of the town.

I’m Brendan,Karen’s husband and Faith’s father and these two girls are the center of my universe.

We managed to hang onto the house and keep warm and fed for the last twelve months. But, there was no work in sight and we were down to our last four-hundred bucks this morning when we started discussing Faith’s Christmas and Santa.

My daughter, God bless her four year old heart, had with her mother’s help,written a Christmas wish list to Santa that looked like a child’s letter to Santa fifty years ago.

Faith wanted a doll, doll’s clothes, a doll carriage, a child’s tea set and picture books.  Not a single electronic toy.  This was good news from two perspectives;Karen was really excited about shopping for good, old fashion, little girl’s toys and since our Faith was probably the only four year old with these items on her Santa list they would be still in stores and probably on sale.

We counted our four hundred dollar cash reserve three times when Karen said,“Let’s split it down the middle, two hundred for Faith’s Christmas and two hundred for an emergency.  How’s that Honey?”

I laughed to myself thinking, an emergency like eating, but with a smile on my face I said, “Sounds good to me”.

So, off we went and spent the next four hours shopping for the best prices on every item on Faith’s list.  First, I would take Faith to various places far from where her mother was tracking down an item then we would reverse roles and Karen would occupy Faith while I shopped.  I have to admit it was a fun outing.  The final stop was for hamburgers and fries at McDonald’s, a big treat for Faith in and of itself.  We left the mall a happy trio for the half-hour ride home.

As we turned into our block Karen said, “Honey, it’s only three o’clock, let’s put up the tree and decorations.  We’ll do the outside first while we have daylight, and then do the tree.”

The turn must have woken Faith up because she began gleefully shouting, “Can we Daddy,can we?”  She was soon joined by her mother chiming in, “Can we Brendan, can we?”

At this,Faith joined her mother and started chanting “Can we Brendan, can we?”  Karen and I couldn’t believe our ears and suddenly all three of us burst out laughing.

Needless to say, the decorations went up and the whole house looked warm and festive and Karen went up to the attic to get the final decoration that was a must each of the seven Christmases since our marriage.

When she came down the stairs, Faith screeched with excitement. Karen was carrying Faith’s favorite decoration, a very old Swiss Cuckoo clock that only came out once a year at Christmas.  Each year it was placed on the mantle with sprigs of evergreen on either side.

The cuckoo clock had been bequeathed Karen by her Grandfather.  It was the only item in his brief will that was specifically left to someone.  Her Grandfather had been a clock maker whose business, once providing a comfortable living, had deteriorated to almost zero by the time he passed away.  Another victim of technological advancement!

All through her childhood, Karen had loved to watch the workings of the clock which were in all honesty a marvel.  In the image of a four floor Swiss chalet the clock was fitted with a music box with eight melodies.  Not only did the cuckoo emerge through the little doors above the clock face and announce the hour, but each half hour a music box contained in the clock would play one of eight tunes and pirouetting Swiss maids would emerge through doors at the base and revolve until the song ended.

Anyway,up on the mantle it went where Karen wound it and after hearing both the cuckoo and the music box and watching the dancers, off went Faith to dream the dreams only a four year old girl can dream.

~~~~

On the Saturday evening three days before Christmas we had all gone to an early pre-Christmas ‘bring-a-dish dinner’ at our church.  Since we were expected to bring a large enough dish to be shared among many of the parishioners in attendance, we had to dig into that two-hundred dollar emergency fund to buy the makings of a three pound string-bean casserole, including the dish.

It was worth it though.  There was caroling,skits by the teenagers and a general good and uplifting time.  Pastor and his wife had even gotten little gifts for all the young children explaining that Santa had dropped them off when he came by to see Jesus in the manger on the altar.

Since almost the entire congregation was in the same financial boat we were in, the whole celebration was a very bright spot in what for most of us was a stressful period.  We had no idea how stressful it was to be.

As I went to put the key in the lock on our arrival home, I realized the front door was ajar and the frame near the lock was smashed.

Trying to look calm, I picked up Faith and grabbed Karen by the hand signaling silence and ran quickly across the lawn to our next door neighbors where we called the police.

Two squad cars arrived in less than five minutes (one of the benefits of living in a small town) and two police officers entered through the broken door while the other two went to the back of the house, guns drawn.

A half hour later Karen and I were standing in the center of our living room shocked at what had been done to our home.  We  had left Faith at the neighbors fearing the effect of what the Police officers told us to expect.

Our tree had been flung into the fireplace and smashed with the poker destroying decorations that dated back three generations.

Garland had been ripped off the entrance to the living room and torn apart.  Suddenly Karen went running upstairs where there was one of the officers making notes on a pad.  The thieves/vandals had broken lamps, mirrors and pictures and then I heard the scream.

I went running up the stairs followed by the three officers only to find Karen at the head of the stairs, the fourth police officer staring at her.  She was alternating between anger and tears.

“They took them, every last one.  They took them all,” she was shouting.

“They took what?” I asked.

“Faith’s presents, every one of them”.

I didn’t know what to say, she was so distraught, I just wanted to make things better so  I stupidly said, “Don’t worry Honey, we’ll go back to the mall tomorrow and replace them all and get some new decorations. By Christmas Eve, we’ll have everything back to the way it was and Faith will have her Christmas.”

“With what, Brendan?  We don’t have enough money to replace the presents much less get Christmas decorations and a new tree.

“Whoever did this deserves to burn in hell, Brendan, and I’d like to light the fire.”  She turned and started back down the stairs.

She reached the landing and screamed again, “They took Grandpa’s clock.  The little pieces of pig dung took my baby’s Christmas and Grandpa’s clock.  Burning in hell is too good for them they should start burning here and now.”

I agreed with her, but one of us had to be calm and since it was pretty obvious it wasn’t going to be her I figured it had better be me.

“Honey,it’s divine intervention, if we had not been at Church, God’s house, with Pastor and our friends we may have been here when they broke in and what could have happened then is anyone’s guess or nightmare.

“We are all safe and all we have lost is material things that can in time be replaced.”  Except maybe Grandpa’s clock, I thought to myself.

Karen looked at me and began to smile as tears came streaming down her face, “Always positive, Honey, I guess the next thing you’re going to say is, ‘This too shall pass’.

“Let’s start to list what’s missing for the police report and clean up as much as we can before we get Faith.  I love you my unbearable optimist.”

~~~~

Two of the officers stayed to help clean up (another benefit of small town living) and to make the formal police report and list of stolen property.

We were about an hour into the process when the older of the two officers, that had stayed, came upstairs where I was with Karen sorting all the contents of our closet and dresser that the creeps had thrown around the room.

“Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, it seems as if the two other officers that were here have nabbed the three vandals that broke into your house. All three of them are high on something and apparently were trying to break into a home on the next block when they triggered a silent alarm.  The officers think they found all of your belongings in the trunk of their car.  As soon as the van comes to take the three down to headquarters and lock them up,they’ll head over here with the stolen property for you to identify.”

“What do you mean, ‘take them to headquarters and lock them up’?  Bring them here; I want to see them… I want…”

At this point I interrupted, “Karen, it will not make things any better if the officers bring the crooks here so you can accelerate their burning in or out of hell.  Let’s look on the bright side.  If we actually get back all of Faith’s presents we can afford to get a new tree with the money we have so we will have a merry Christmas.”

At this point we were interrupted by the younger of the two officers.  “Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, the guys are here with the suspects’ car and your belongings.  If you come down, we’ll confirm it’s your belongings then we can proceed from there.”

We went down and they unloaded all our stolen belongings onto the driveway.  There were all Faith’s presents, (I was glad she was next door, no need to create more complications around Santa delivering presents), some miscellaneous items and Grandpa’s cuckoo clock.

“Can we take these in the house now,” I asked?

“I’m afraid not, Mr. Anderson,” answered one of the two officers that brought back the car and the loot, “they’ll be needed as evidence of the crime and the more items we have the stronger the case the DA can make against the suspects.”

“I think we can let the Andersons take their daughter’s gifts from Santa into the house.  After all, since they’re from Santa technically they weren’t stolen from the Andersons.”

I noticed for the first time that this older officer was a sergeant and the other three younger guys were not.

The three younger guys looked at the Sergeant like he’d lost his mind and all at once they began to smile.

“And,” continued the Sergeant, “I don’t think you’ll need anything but Grandpa’s clock, to make a pretty heavy case against the suspects.

“Mrs. Anderson,” he said, turning towards Karen, “what do you know about this clock?”

“It was my Grandfather’s and his Grandfather’s before him.  My Grandfather’s family were Swiss clock makers going back many generations and my Grandfather brought this with him when he came to this country as a boy. Why do you ask?”

“Well,I’m no expert,” said the Sergeant, “but I spent three years on the Arts and Antiques unit of the Chicago Police Department’s Fraud Division and I think this piece may change the crime from low-level misdemeanor vandalism to felony burglary.  We of course don’t have there sources in our department, but the State Police does and I’ll get their experts to look at it tomorrow and get back to you.”

We finished listing all the stolen and damaged goods and the vandalism, signed the report and the officers left… leaving a stack of wrapped Christmas presents in the upstairs closet where they had been that afternoon.

We put the living room back together as best we could, picked up Faith and went to bed.

~~~~

The next day at about three in the afternoon the Sergeant showed up after calling to make sure we were home.  He brought some papers for us to sign and told us that the State Police Art and Antique experts came immediately to view Grandpa’s clock after he e-mailed them a picture.

Sure enough the value of the cuckoo clock is great enough to make sure the DA will prosecute for felony burglary and the three creeps will go away for anywhere from three to seven years.

“How much does it have to be worth for the DA to prosecute for felony burglary,” asked Karen?

“Usually the stolen property has to be worth more than twenty-five thousand dollars before the DA will take on that charge.”

“Wow,” I piped up, “Grandpa’s cuckoo clock is worth twenty-five grand?”

“Oh no,Mr. Anderson, I’m sorry I didn’t make that clear.  The State guys identified the clock as … let me check my notes, yeah here it is, ‘A Swiss Brienz chalet mantel cuckoo clock,fitted with a music box with eight melodies, hand made in Switzerland around 1860’.  They said that they would have a more specific identification before the arraignment.

“I’m sorry but we have to keep the clock and the lesser items until after the trial but you’ll get them back as soon as the case is closed.”

“How much is a Brienz… whatever you called it, worth,” asked Karen?

With this Faith strolled in from the kitchen and stood next to her mother.

“Oh what’s the matter with me,” said the Sergeant, “I should have told you that first off.  They figure at auction it would draw between one and one and half million dollars.”

At this my eyes rolled back in my head and I collapsed… fortunately onto the sofa.

Faith looked with her eyes wide and said to her mother, “What happened to Daddy?”

Laughing that beautiful laugh of hers she picked up Faith and said, “Honey, do you remember what Santa says to all at the end of the Christmas Carol”?

“Yes Mommy,Santa says ‘…and to all A Good Night’.”

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©Copyright G. Hugh Bodell – 2018