An Italian traditional New Year's Eve meal is not complete without a serving of lentils. In fact last night we learned of a dilemma on the local news: 'cenone' (mega dinner) or discothèque? We were amused. People were interviewed in the streets of Cortina and answered earnestly, faces hard. What will we do? Are we doing the right thing? (Cameras swerving from portions of 'zampone e lenticchie' to flashing disco lights over bronzed babes.)
Eating lentils on New Year's Eve ensures that the next year will be full of money, lentils representing riches. Of course every second uncle will lament that he has consumed lentils by the bucketful and failed to increase his bank account. But lentils will always be on the menu. Growing up in Australia I don't remember any tradition other than the campfire down on the rocks by the lake, and the lazy beer-soaked hours ticking by until fireworks sprouted up miles away on the coast. One by one we would trail off to bed.
Tonight, in this mixed-blood household, I'm not sure who is off skiing, or drinking and partying. But I do know that I don't want much fuss. Other years when my kids were younger I used to party hard, way hard. I would tuck in their warm bodies then drive off into the night to a party in an alpine village, hot dancing in a snow-drifted hut, a sweet boy and a drunken sled ride through empty streets; then driving away at dawn under the heave of the mountain.
Is it really going to be 2012? I feel such trepidation before the New Year. Perhaps that it why I used to happily get so drunk. All the things that could happen, that will happen. It makes me feel as doubtful and restrained as ever, hoping for goodness and strength, hoping that it will all hold together, that we will be safe in our beds.