Monday, January 6, 2014
It can feel like the new year crept in, stealthy like a cat, when you no longer stay up to witness its raucous arrival. Sometime during the night, the old year slipped away and the new year padded into place so softly I didn't even stir when those who were watching its arrival sent fireworks up to welcome it. It all happened so quietly, I did not even dream of new beginnings or wake feeling I had missed something in the night.
Sure, that means I'm getting old, and all this raising children and rushing out the door before dawn for work have marked me. I am not who I once was, not the night owl who would never miss an opportunity to wear something sparkly and drink champagne, not the girl who had a new scheme for every new year, always a new resolution that read like a manifesto designed give purpose to my year.
Don't worry, this is not an existential crisis. This is a love song, of sorts, for the soft mid-morning of my life. Sometimes I miss short skirts and champagne and the way the downtown streets at night are somehow cheerful with the reflection of streetlights. I miss sleeping in on days I don't have to work. I miss eating dinner in front of the t.v. because the table was where we piled everything we didn't feel like putting away and there was no one we were afraid we would corrupt with that behavior. Sometimes I miss the freedom of those days, but mostly I am glad to have lived them and moved on to something else.
Out with the old, and in with the new.
On the New Year's Eve, Lincoln fell asleep in my lap. We were watching one of the pre-ball-drop shows that switch from performances by pop artists none of us recognized to shots of cold New Yorkers clustered together behind celebrities who are paid to fill the air time with nonsensical (but forcefully cheerful) banter. Nico was curled up beside me under a blanket, asking over and over again if we had to watch that annoying show, and Linc came climbing up my legs to take "his" spot on my lap. Bit by bit, Linc began to grow still, began to lean against me, began to blink for long seconds. I watched him fall into sleep, his body growing soft and heavy in my arms, and let him sleep against me for a while, remembering how many times he had fallen asleep in my arms and calculating how few were the times that remained for that particular sweetness.
Nico lasted another hour, never giving up the argument that there just had to be something better to watch, but eventually he was slumped against me, eyelids heavy, too tired even to lobby for a better show to watch. He climbed up in his bunk bed, said goodnight to his fish, pulled the blanket up under his chin, and told me "Happy New Year" no less than three times before he would give me a goodnight kiss.
In the morning, I woke to the sound of the bedroom door clicking open, and by the time my eyes were properly open, Linc had climbed up in the bed and wriggled down under the covers. He put his tiny, warm hands on my face, said "mom mom mom," then planted a New Year's kiss on my forehead. Sam woke just long enough to ask if the fireworks had kept me up in the night, but no, the new year had crept in unannounced.
There will still be champagne toasts for me, and late nights, and shiny downtown streets. Maybe even next year, I'll have those things. But, this year, I can't help but reflect on the way the new year tiptoed in, on the way it sneaks by now that I am not always looking for a fresh start or a way to fix myself, now that I'm not cooking up manifestos about all the things I will get accomplished this year. Sometimes it seems, in retrospect, that all the glitter and noise were just a way to cover up the sad death of another year in which I felt like I had gotten it all wrong. Because the way I made resolutions was like a desperate person trying to catch the rope that would pull her out of her own mess. In the year that was dying, I had never been enough, but in the year to come, I just knew I would be, I could be.
Out with the old, and in with the new.
The new year is less than a week old, and don't let my quiet observation of its entrance make you think I have anything but high hopes for this year. As this year unfolds as gently as it entered, quiet, with a steely cold today, I think about being in the soft mid-morning of a life. There is a steady kind of joy in these days, a warmth of everyday comforts, the weight of a child leaning against you, the constant, poignant realization that they are as small and as innocent as they ever will be, right now, in this moment. I have not smoothed all the rough spots, and I have not even once gotten it all right for even one fraction of a second. But, I have found a kinder mirror, I have spent years cultivating an inner solace, and I have perhaps matured a bit past the fascination with quick fixes and schemes to get it all right this time around.
This new year crept in quiet, like a cat, and I am still waking up to it. Yes, yes, I missed the fireworks and the noise and the glitter and the champagne. But, this is a love song of sorts for the early nights and the early mornings, for the sloppy, wet New Year's kisses that come too late. This is a celebration of sleeping through the party but being more present than ever for the celebration. In with the new.
Happy New Year to you all!
Image credit, used under Creative Commons License.