Dancing numbers under a rotating disco ball smile at me. The 4 stands awkwardly to the side, eyes shifting between me and the 3, and I begin to wonder if, as the day goes forward, the 4 will get just that half-step bolder, eventually shoving the 3 into the trash heap and taking its rightful place at the end of the number conga line.
Google has changed its masthead. The year, it seems, has come to an end.
And so I sit, as I do every year at this time, at my parents’ kitchen table. My husband and son are still sleeping, preparing, no doubt, for the festivities of this long, long night, as if we can stockpile sleep. I have learned that that’s not possible, but I don’t disabuse them of the notion. I get more done this way.
So I’m sitting in the kitchen, typing on this old laptop that I’ve been dragging around for closer to a decade than the marketplace would like to see, and there’s a big red mug of coffee to my left, and empty plate of breadcrumbs on my right, and various sticky notes, loose pieces of paper, and Christmas detritus nestled in the between spaces. My parents are going about their business in front of me–dad is on the phone, my mom is climbing a ladder to get some rarely-used piece of party equipment from atop the fridge.
“Do you want me to get that for you?” I ask.
“No,” she replies, and so I watch her perform this simple act of independence. She lost her mother earlier this year. She’d been in bed for a long, long time, unable even to lift herself to get a sip of water. Her only daughter, my mother did what love compelled her to, working with her brothers to provide round the clock care for a woman who had spent her entire life caring for others. They honored her desire to be at home–in her home–until the very end when there was no other option. This was something beautiful.
I lost my grandmother earlier this year, and with her, my role as granddaughter. It was hard to lose her but even harder to imagine wanting to keep her from a well-deserved rest. Shortly after, something snapped deep in me, and I knew that I needed to be better at doing things for myself, that a life measured out in coffee spoons was no life for me. I have always written in private, words shrouded in the quiet terror of the imagined judgments of others. My grandmother told stories her whole life. She could not read. She could not write. Her stories died with her. My stories will not die with me.
So I wrote. I write. I will (keep) writing.
I should help my mother, but I know that she wants to continue to do for herself for as long as she can. Bowl retrieved, she shuffles about the kitchen putting out drinks and cups and ice buckets for tonight’s party. I am thankful for the time to write right now. I do not want to think about the day when I won’t be able to escape into writing because my mother can’t give me that time any more. Truth be told, I understand now that I won’t want it.
I don’t know what it significant about any of this. Time rolls relentlessly on. We are born. We grow old. We die. We play our part in the course of human history, and if we’re lucky, we manage to infuse into the march of time a moment of the beautifully humane.
To the soon-to-be-bounced 3 I say “thank you for being the year where I found the strength to be me.” To the shifty-eyed 4 I whisper “bring it on.” I will write or photograph or speak every day. I will not be afraid.
Happy Old Year. Happy New Year.