Mama Madison: Just like starting over

Going out again on New Year's Eve

When I was a kid, all the parents in my neighborhood seemed to have mighty plans for New Years Eve. I remember my mom dressing up -- satin, pantyhose, and wicked high heels -- to go somewhere special. I'm not sure I ever actually knew where she and my dad were going, but it was clear you couldn't get there without perfume and shiny lipstick. And every year they landed my siblings' and my favorite baby sitter for the occasion. Her name was Diane and she was the embodiment of everything cool about the early 70s. She had stick-straight Marcia Brady hair parted down the middle, wore puka beads, and brought America's debut album tucked under her arm each time she came over. I still can't help but think of her whenever "The Horse with No Name" comes on the radio.

Once I got to middle school, my parent's NYE social life died down to stay home with my younger siblings, allowing me to become the early 80s version of Diane. Every year I looked forward to earning at least double pay (I think I cleared almost 50 bucks once) to watch the neighbor kids while their parents hit the middle-age party circuit. It is my sincere hope the three Michnick children, now all at least 40, remember me every time they accidentally encounter "Bette Davis Eyes" or "The Pina Colada Song."

But I've never once gotten a babysitter for my own kids on New Year's Eve. My husband and I moved to Madison when our oldest was 10 months old and settled, blissfully so, into a very child-friendly neighborhood. So child-friendly in fact, that for years the 'hood had a tradition of rotating New Year's Eve parties that you bought your kids to. If Auld Lang Syne was sung at any of these events, it was definitely done before the clock struck nine.

Eventually the number of kids in our four-block radius made it impossible for anyone to host these gatherings at their home without needing to call in a professional cleaning crew the next day. And with that, the party jumped the shark and moved to the basement of the neighborhood church. As you might imagine, it's a little hard to let loose New Year's style with so many statues of saints looking on. The all-neighborhood party tradition ended a year or two later.

On the NYE's that followed we tried outdoor ice-skating, at-home fondue and family trips downtown for US Bank Eve to check out the Rick Wilcox magic show. But the only person I've actually seen dressed to the nines on December 31 these past 14 years has been the magician's lovely assistant Susan, who sported at least three wardrobe changes, all involving sequins, at last year's performance.

I'm sure I haven't really missed much on the 31st since becoming a parent, but there is a piece of me that thinks it might be fun to do something grown-up this year. The holiday falls on a Saturday night, after all. But I'll be honest; I have no idea what to do. A four-course dinner at a downtown restaurant? Live music at a club?

Do any of you parents out there actually go out for New Year's Eve in the traditional "champagne popping, ball drops at midnight, I have something better to do than watch the weirdly intriguing pair of Justin Beiber and Carlos Santana on Dick Clark" kind of way?

If so, do share.

Because I'd be happy to share a sitter--I'm pretty sure my 14 year old is available.

And 30 years from now your kids can hear "Sexy and I Know It" and think fondly of him.

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