My Turn: Eves that went from bad to great

Eileen White Jahn, of Rockville Centre, and her

Eileen White Jahn, of Rockville Centre, and her husband, Chris, flanked by their six children at the Garden City Hotel in 2011. (Credit: Handout)

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Act 2 readers share their stories about a New Year's Eve that started out as a 1, but finished as a 10.

 

Thirty-five years ago this New Year's Eve, my college boyfriend, Chris, reluctantly agreed to drive to Brooklyn on the condition that we'd be back by midnight. We were Long Island kids, and our families and friends were here.

The plan was to have dinner with my college roommate and her boyfriend, who was home from medical school. We drove to Brooklyn in Chris' mom's station wagon, the one with a broken gas gauge and no heat, then planned on taking a cab to Little Italy for dinner.

We arrived at the apartment to discover that this was not the intimate evening we planned. Three other couples from medical school were there, and it was clear that they had little interest in the undergraduates. We bundled into two cabs; I ended up in one, Chris in the other. The traffic was horrific and it took forever. Sitting in front, Chris and I were each stuck with the fare.

My roommate's boyfriend had made reservations at the wrong place. Instead of an elegant, candlelit eatery, we were in a loud, bright, family-style place with shrieking kids and rude waiters. We thought it was hilarious; the others did not.

After an uncomfortable meal, the group wanted to cab uptown to The Plaza. Everyone threw in some money and ran to hail two more cabs. Chris and I and our friends were left with the check and discovered that the money left barely covered the meals. We were stuck with the tax, tip, and extras. Funds were getting low and Chris was losing patience.

We wanted to go home, but with our dwindling funds, we would have to take the subway back alone. We didn't know how to do that. So we ended up in The Plaza, having drinks and watching the fireworks in Central Park at midnight. I knew Chris was upset. He must have jumped up from the table a dozen times, presumably to fume about the whole debacle. The other couples finally relaxed. They even bought the drinks and paid for the cabs back at 3 a.m.

We got back to the car parked under the lights of the Verrazano Bridge. I was miserable, having totally broken my promise. Chris started the car and turned to me. Hoping to avert a fight, I suggested that we get going, as we had no idea how much gas we had. To my dismay, he turned off the car.

Just when I expected to hear his rant about our night-gone-wrong, he put his arm around me and asked me to be his wife. He had repeatedly checked his coat to make sure the ring was still there, explaining his jack-in-the box behavior at The Plaza. We got back too late to spread our news.

The next morning, my dad's response was the best. Not realizing there was a ring, and assuming excessive Champagne was involved, he looked at me with pity and advised, "Honey, see if he mentions it again today." Thirty-five years and six kids later, we still laugh over this. And we try to never stray too far from home for New Year's Eve.

--Eileen White Jahn, Rockville Centre

 

A ruined New Year's Eve? Not a chance

Many years ago (today I am a few months from 90), what started out with bad news, turned out to be the best darned wonderful New Year's Eve I would ever have.

My husband and I had been invited by our close friends to a country club dinner-dance. I looked forward to it for months; planned to wear something beautiful and expensive. I would explain it to my husband in January when the bill came.

I made my appointment with my hair stylist for cut and color a month in advance and brought my husband's tuxedo to the cleaners. On that day, I started getting ready early and did my makeup with care. As I was doing the final touches, the phone rang. I thought it was my husband, saying he was leaving the office. But it was my friend, and she was crying. She and her husband had a serious argument, she told me, and she refused to go to the club.

I could not believe what I heard. I pleaded with her to kiss and make up -- it was New Year's Eve and no way to start a new year.

She apologized and hung up. I started to cry. I was so looking forward to this night. My husband's key in the door sounded. He looked tired, hungry and cold. It was a freezing night, but he had a big smile on his face, and he yelled, "Sweetheart, give me one hour to get ready and tonight we will be Fred and Ginger on the dance floor."

I started to cry and he ran over. I told him through sobs and tears what had happened: "It's New Year's Eve and we have no plans, and it's too late to figure it out now. Our New Year's Eve is ruined."

Then, he said the words that are written across my heart to this day. "Hey, lovely lady, look at me. I am your date tonight and you are mine. We will go out to dinner and we will catch a fantastic movie, and the two of us will have the best New Year's Eve in history."

He looked at me, as though for the first time, and said, "You look beautiful and I love you sweetheart."

Sadly, my husband has passed away. However, I can say without a doubt, that night, so many years ago, turned out to be the most precious and the very best New Year's Eve of my whole life. I treasure that memory. That night in the movie theater, when midnight was announced, there were cheers, hugs, kisses and laughter everywhere in the audience. My husband kissed me and said, "One door shuts and another one opens."

I look forward to the New Year because I have learned how to dance in the rain. Happy 2014, everyone.

--Ruth Greenstein, Roslyn Heights

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