Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Having a ball at New Year’s time

PANAMA CITY BEACH — There was a span of time during which we ushered in each new year with fireworks and a house full of kids. The open house reverberated inside and out, a statement to the energy and optimism of youth — as well as the influence of junk food, parlor games and comedy films.

New Year’s Eve has been quieter in recent years, a statement to the truism of the empty nest (though ours is not quite empty yet). Life goes on, kids grow up, and friends move in different directions — sometimes to far-flung cities, where they create their own annual traditions.

In anticipation of another quiet New Year’s Eve, and recognizing our lack of available fireworks, we have talked about going out to the Pier Park celebration this year, which would be our first visit to that particular madding crowd.

(Note that this was written a couple of days before the event, though it publishes a couple of days after it. Maybe you saw us there. Maybe we didn’t make it. If we did, I’ll let you know about it next week.)

It’s the sixth time Pier Park has held a New Year’s Eve event, and this year the fireworks will illuminate a second phase of the mall’s development, rising in a skeleton of steel on the north shoulder of U.S. 98. By this time next year, that part of Panama City Beach will be twice as bustling as it is today.

Little wonder that it looks like the city’s growing up, too, according to a friend who grew up here but recently moved to the Northwest. The old “tourist traps” have been replaced by an upside-down amusement center and a “beached” ocean liner, and the strip plazas by an open-air mall that is expanding even as we speak.

At least the beach is still accessible — and with the sunny weather we’ve had recently, it has been welcoming. I’ve seen people walking the shore, para-surfing and more.

Sunday, I was setting up a smoker grill in my front yard as out-of-state neighbors visiting for the holiday walked their pooch. I asked how their Christmas was, and they threw their hands in the air to indicate the blue sky and warm sunshine.

“It’s 20 degrees back home,” one of them said, and that was answer enough.

I suggested that, if they really wanted to make the folks back home jealous, they could always go to the beach and make sand angels — that’s what my daughter wanted to do on Christmas day.

I reflected then that we are ending 2013 with more sunny days than rainy ones, more grins than tears. We have made new friends, begun new traditions (and carried on a few of the old ones). I hope that, for each of us, the new year brings more of the same, as well as plenty of pleasant surprises.

Happy New Year!

Share Your Thoughts:

What are your hopes and aspirations for 2014? What memories of 2013 will you carry like treasures into the new year and beyond?
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