Some historians say that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago. But though the tradition may have had its ups-and-downs in the hearts of St. Helenans, the desire to “do better” lives on in the town’s shops and stores.

We started down on South Main Street, asking as many people on the street as we could about their New Year’s resolutions. But too many were busy with their cellphones to be bothered, while others said that the question was far too personal for a newspaper to print. So we determined to ask real St. Helenans, who live and work in our small community.

Down at the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company on Adams Street, Rebecca Ostric was taking the orders of customers with a smile.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions.” But then she gave a radiant smile and added. “I just haven’t found that they work. So I’m just trying to be the best person I can be, day-by-day.”

But a quick trip over to Vasconi Drugs gave us a whole slew of real resolutions.

Selma Osegueda, behind the front counter turned over the question in her mind for a few moments. “A New Year’s resolution,” she asked? “I think my resolution is ‘Forgetting someone.’”

Of course, that’s one of those resolutions one should never follow with a more personal question, so instead we asked. “Did you have a Christmas present that you especially liked?” To which she replied, “Oh yes! My mother paid off some bills that I was worried about. That was really nice.”

At the back counter, a co-worker, Miguel Bautista, seemed to be embracing the idea of a New Year’s resolution. “My resolution in 2018 is to learn Spanish.”

Bautista said he was in his second year of college at Napa Valley College. “I grew up here in St. Helena in a bilingual family,” he said. “But I don’t really speak Spanish. My father does, but I never picked it up. So I think that’s a good resolution: To really learn Spanish.”

Over in the pharmacy Steven Bowen and Jessica Martinez were busy filling prescriptions, but they paused for several moments to consider the proposition.

“I don’t know that I have a New Year’s resolution,” Bowen said. “I think these days people think of it more like a ‘Bucket List’ of things they want to get done. But do they really make changes in their lives? I don’t know.”

Martinez seemed to agree. “I’m not sure what mine would be. Maybe to go back to school. I started, but I didn’t finish. Maybe that would be my resolution.”

Bowen came back to the question, putting his arm around Martinez in the true New Year’s spirit.

“You know,” he said. “I think my resolution would be ‘To be more optimistic.’ I think that would be a good one.”

Across the street, Bob Mathewson was standing behind the back counter at Steves Hardware on Main Street, checking out people. Mathewson also holds a part-time job in Safeway where he helps people at the counter, and he said he was preparing a surprise for his co-workers at that store.

“I’m bringing over a pot of home-made chicken soup back to the crew. It’s something I do over there. I like to do it. They seem to appreciate it.”

And Mathewson’s New Year’s resolution?

“Well, you know, I’m in the customer service business,” he said with a smile. “I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke. So I’m not certain what else I could resolve to do. So I guess my New Year’s resolution should be ‘To be more patient.’ That’s something I believe in.”



Tom Stockwell is currently a staff writer for the St. Helena Star. He is an author of fiction and non-fiction books and has been a working journalist for a variety of technical publications as well as a consultant for numerous wineries in the Napa Valley.