Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Saint Louis,

When I was a little girl, I believed in magic. Christmas always brought snow for Santa’s sleigh, and at the stroke of midnight on December 31st, the New Year would arrive with a promise, late into the night, of a taste of sparkling cider and a host of wishes to be answered in the days to come. As I grew older the bubbly in my glass matured, as did my wishes, but the magic remained. Where I once anxiously awaited the clink of a plastic glass and the thrill of boisterous laughter, now I anticipated a kiss.

The New Year offers each of us a clean slate, a fresh start. True magic reveals itself in new opportunities and gently reminds us of those still there for the taking. Even as we dream of changing attitudes, set in stone only moments before the countdown lands on ‘Happy New Year!’, feelings of inspiration and motivation seep into our hearts and our minds, luring us in, if only to say to ourselves, “What if?”

What if – I could summon the courage to Forgive, to Love, to Live my life with eyes wide open? 

The year was 2010 – New Year’s Eve. The plan was – there was no plan. My husband and I would wrangle the kids into the living room once again for a raucous game of Win, Lose or Draw, maybe some shrimp, some wings, some punch – well, maybe something easier than punch. On second thought, what’s easier than punch, I ask. A few cans of silly string would then be revealed outdoors – for this lesson we learned long ago – and all would hoot and holler as we ushered in the New Year. Not long after midnight, the lights would be dimmed and the lot of us, furry and otherwise, would fall asleep to a movie, making our way upstairs much later to lock doors, tuck in a stray kid or two, and retire to that place, where we just might follow through with that promise the adults made to each other hours ago when they were more awake and enthusiastic about the late hour – or maybe not.

In our efforts to prove to our kids that we are not stagnant or dull human beings after all, my husband and I searched secretly, frantically, to find the perfect New Year’s Eve celebration with less than twenty-four hours to do so. Somewhere affordable topped our list – warm and dry would be nice. Well, two outta three ain’t bad! What we found, in our city and in ourselves, was the magic we were looking for.

In 1991, St. Louis organized its first community wide New Year’s Eve celebration. Nineteen years later, the people continue to gather along the outskirts of North Grand Blvd. in the hopes of creating memorable experiences with friends and loved ones, through the visual and performing arts of First Night.  This year’s theme, “Fantasea” transformed the Grand Center District into a playful ocean of glow-in-the-dark bubbles, bigger-than-life jellyfish floating on air, a forty-foot wall of wishes, shared in post-it notes painting an undersea mosaic, a fifteen ton sand sculpture of Neptune, numerous performers who sang and danced and entertained us all into 2011 – and two spectacular fireworks displays over the city!


First Night’s mission was to broaden our horizons and to deepen our appreciation of the arts, to share a cultural experience, in and with our own community, and to make it as accessible and affordable as possible. This evening, the evening after, I can honestly say, they achieved their goal with our family, despite Mother Nature’s efforts early on to send us home, with cold rain seeping into our shoes and chilly winds whispering at the backs of our necks.

Nearly seventeen years ago we moved further west of St. Louis with our first child, out of the city life and away from the madness of crowded streets and neighborhoods. Our small family of three grew to five over time, and though rich in our new rural community with friends, and opportunities wide open spaces provided – our simpler, more modest way of life kept us so comfortable, so out of touch, that we missed out on a few of the more extraordinary, remarkable experiences within that madness.

With the exception of many affordable trips to the St. Louis Zoo
(Free Admission)

The St. Louis Zoo

and more than enough to the St. Louis Science Center and Planetarium
(Also, Free!)

The Planetarium

 and lets not forget the Art Museum, where my children, literally, climbed the walls
(Yep, Free As Well!)...

The Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri

...we’ve missed out on the excitement and the cultural growth to be found in
The Muny, St. Louis, Missouri
The Fox Theatre, St. Louis, Missouri

Powell Symphony Hall, St. Louis, Missouri

and *Here*
The Repertory Theatre, St. Louis, Missouri

...and numerous other venues there for us to experience, and join in with our world community. 

This New Year’s Eve, our very first First Night, welcomed us onto the streets of St. Louis, lit with the enthusiasm of the performers and the crowds, there to celebrate the harmony within us all, each uniquely the same. After snagging a free parking spot close by we headed north up the boulevard.

Jeff, The Juggler

Jeff, the Juggler lured us in quickly beneath the Fox Marquee and the dancing jellyfish, entertaining the crowd that had gathered with his interactive comedy and flaming batons. Huddled together beneath the warm brilliance of the stage lights and a very tall, blue man on stilts, who easily accentuated my shortness, I knew it was going to be a good night.

St. Francis Xavier Church, St. Louis, Missouri

Accompanied by a host of street performers, we eventually turned our damp brood southeast, aiming for the main stage and looking for St. Francis Xavier church. A man with a smile and a steel drum played island music beneath the eave of a building as we passed, while another stood on a box as a human statue, entertaining a break in character only when a passerby dropped a show of appreciation into his cup. The light rain hurried us on past the diver in scuba gear enveloped in a life size bubble, as she floated her way down the boulevard, stopping to touch hands with a small child in a little pink coat. That was us once, I thought.

There are moments in a life when something just sticks – a kid grows up, a cold rain seeps into more than just a coat, perhaps even a shared experience that moves you on a special night. We accept an active role in our world, among the human race, when we participate. We made new friends along the way when we met up with the family of our oldest son’s girlfriend. Who would have thought our kids would be setting us up on play dates? Gone, are the days when our little boy would have weaved and ducked a girl’s attentions. Spying her hand in his, as the lot of us welcomed the New Year, I was reminded yet again that he had grown into a mature and loving young man. My husband and I shared gentle nudges, some not, throughout the night, painfully aware of two more of our children who would follow soon enough. Once we have teenagers, birthdays aren’t the only thing that reminds us of our age or disposition. Here I am – that place I thought was too far in my future to ever become reality. Happy New Year to Me!

Start Over!

Our New Year’s Eve ended brilliantly to music and dancing and pageantry in the streets. However, it was our attention and our appreciation, which we gave to...

 The Reventones
when they shared harmony in their guitars and voices. 

 Buckets and Tap Shoes
when they entertained us all with their witty, distinctive talent.

Creative Pandemonium, Justin Kredible, The Cadence, and so many more we would love to have seen! Their energy and showmanship drew us in and will keep us coming back for more year after year!

My New Year’s Wish
for You and for Me
  ~This year I want to know Peace,
through exhilarating dance that will move my feet,
inspiring music that will move my soul
and passionate,
sidesplitting theatrics
that will move me to laugh.~

"Nobody can go back 
and start a new beginning,
but, Anyone can start today
and make a new ending."
~Maria Robinson


  1. Scarlett, thanks for sharing. You have a lovely way with words. So nice to "Visit" with you this way!