I remember the comet, a dusty smudge on the black of the sky, pacing our car as my family drove north through the Missouri night. I watched it out the window with the wonder and engagement of a young teen who has just had his first kiss days ago on an Arkansas hillside, the kind of awe which I know I've lost to some degree as an adult. Only vaguely do I remember hearing about the cult that committed suicide to escape what they expected to be the coming doom presaged by the Hale-Bopp comet.
That was my first apocalypse. And there have been more than I have known since (someone is always predicting a rapture or doomsday) but I missed out on most. Next for me came the secular end of the world scenario Y2K, the changeover on computer clocks that would - experts assured the public - cause nuclear meltdown or launches, power losses, and widespread technology failure. People stockpiled water and canned food only for the year to begin without a glitch. Dick Clark counted down in Time Square. The ball dropped. I watched it on TV. No blackouts. No nuclear fire raining from heaven. No radioactive clouds blooming from over-heated Midwestern reactors.
And yesterday - the most popular doomsday of my life, apocalypse á-la Mayan calender, came and went. And life changed; ends came, at least for me - bad news about an old friend and, muted by national tragedy and political divide, the beginning of a Christmas season, happily white after months of dark and rain.
Our armageddons are personal and come without herald. They don't light up the sky. But before they come unannounced, we have this day and each other. Dear reader, I send you the fondest of Christmas tiding and, whatever dooms befall us, collectively or separately, I wish you a happy new year. My mind veers to an episode of M*A*S*H showing new year after new year ringing in during the Korean War. Colonel Potter makes the same speech each time, repeating a toast I'll leave you with here: Here's to the new year...may she be a damn sight better than the old one and may we all be home before she's over.
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