“For the sake of old times!” As close as I can get to a translation that makes sense to me of the words “auld lang syne.”
“Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon”
A slight variation of the Robert Berns words, but the words that sang out to me this morning. Yes, I admit to wanting to not cast too many glances back. It has been a hard year. It has been a brutal almost two years, and all my heart wants to do is to turn and face the winds of the new, hoping and praying that the new will be much, much more pleasant than the old. As a friend wrote as a wish to another friend, a wish for a more cooperative new year.
I have kept a blog for a long time. Julia came home from China in 2006, my first post on my first blog was in September, 2005. The focus has changed over the years—adoption and its fall out, diagnosis and more fall out, more diagnoses, more fall out, therapy, school programs, transplant, death, single motherhood, autism, attachment, travel with my girl, moving, transitioning, shut down, covid and all of its fall out. And through it all I’ve kept writing, not always every day or even extremely regularly, but I’ve kept at it and, dare I say, somewhat improved in saying what is in my heart as much of the time as possible.
The process of writing is essential in my existence but rarely have I studied the process or routinely subjected my work to critique, save the kind words of friends and visitors to this blog. David was the one who took the courses, got the graduate degree, taught multiple kinds of writing; and he was successful in finishing and publishing novels. I have merely and persistently written—mostly journaling since a teen with a few forays into fiction.
But now. Now. Now. With a new year. I feel the tug of what may be next.
“[W]henever well-laid plans are unlaid in an instant . . .”
Melissa Kirsch wrote in the NYTimes two days ago in How We’re Holding It Together: “These lines keep coming back to me — when a long-anticipated trip is shelved indefinitely, when my family decides to postpone gathering for the holidays — whenever well-laid plans are unlaid in an instant”
By the time I read her lines, our holiday plans had already been upended. Julia and I went up to Conway, New Hampshire, as planned, to spend time in the enchanting land of snow with the good company of Justin’s family; however, absent from the gathering were Cheshire and Justin due to positive Covid tests.
Justin who has worked from home for years (and not just since the 2020 shut down), travelled for work for the first time in two years two weeks ago and came home with a bad cold. A take home Covid test the day before we were all to leave for NH was positive and Cheshire followed two days later but only after a P.C.R. test, her rapid test was negative.
Whew! Yes, I’ve gotten this far. This far into this year and this far into life. But I’ve been wasting more than my usual share of days dithering. I wonder if I am alone in this? Courtney Martin, whose, newsletter I subscribe to, called this a “liminal pandemic moment.”
“We’re opening back up. We’re not opening back up. We want to open back up. We sort of actually don’t. We forgot how to socialize with a wide variety of people or in larger groups, so it all feels heightened—like waking up from a nap and being violently thrust into a brightly lit room of smiling, chatty people.”
Well, I am not intending to burst into any rooms of chatting people in actuality or even figuratively. Still, I feel the liminality of the moment. We are gathering tomorrow with our ‘pod’ from the last two years—Cheshire and Justin, his parents, Julia and I–which is quite comfortable. There remains, however, the rest of life–transitions, community, and what the future holds.
I am sad and angry. Trying to find thoughts to share but it is all too raw.
I do have three things to share that are lovely things that should not be hidden away because of all that makes me sad and angry.
First, is Julia’s senior pictures. The sitting for these pictures, like everything else that Julia does, was not typical. One of the two photographers who was working that day was immediately sensitive and took extra time and care, trying to make Julia comfortable and trying to capture some of the joy that is Julia. From the proofs, I picked four. One will go in the yearbook.
I have been trying to be succinct all day. To formulate new resolutions as that is my yearly custom. Or to reflect on this last year—well, you know what that has been like. To feel some inspiration. To engage some new or renewed energy for a noble task.
At least, I think that is what I’ve been trying to do on and off all day.
But nothing comes. Instead, I scribble, starting down one path, following it awhile until it peters out. And then I turn to chase another path and do the same. Nothing sticks.
Holiday lights and the Christmas tree are still a blaze. I am still enchanted by the tree—crowded with decorations shimmering in light by night. Admittedly during the day, I cannot help by see the tips of branches turn downwards and the angel on top has become crooked. I don’t know which look is true, or maybe I should say that it is hard to hold both images in my head—the wilting fading greenery with crooked angel and the fairy lit confection—and know that it is the same tree.
The popourri that is December. I have not had the discipline to finish what I start. Here is what I have been scribbling . . .
Near on predictably, the December holidays have barely started and are already different from any other. The questions that echo in my head are from the Passover Seder. “Why is tonight different from all other nights?” introduces each of four questions. The questions and answers have always been ceremonial and tell a story about ancestors and why we must continue to remember and apply it to our lives. These days the questions and answers are so very present.
On all other nights we . . . but on this night . . .
During all other winter holiday months we . . . but during the winter holiday month during the pandemic . . .
I’ve spent the day today waiting. Busy outside, inside quite pensive, anticipating. I packed clothes, washed one load for the last few things to pack, cleaned the kitchen and living room—the dining room is full of what is coming with us to New Hampshire—vacuumed the hall and my room. I asked Julia to clean her room and she got lost down the hole of rearranging her bookcase. Just like her cleaning and arrangement of the CD rack, this was be her task of the day. She found a few books she had been “looking” for and the program of the Milwaukee Con that we went to last year, long before the virus put an end to the costumed gatherings. Over the past year, Julia as been gifted with two costumes that she intended to wear to the Boston Con this August. Maybe next August?
Periodically, I look at my lists and add another something to the to-go pile. I have some food shopping to do tomorrow before we leave but we cannot check in until after 4, so there will be no rush.
Tomorrow we leave for the house on Lake Winnipesaukee for a week of gathering together with Justin’s family to celebrate the wedding of Cheshire and Justin. Because quarantine has provided endless time, everything I need to prepare and pack is finished. I think. I hope. Continue reading →
Julia took a long bath and then settled into working on our virus-designated puzzle.No real work has been done on it since our house guest of a few weeks ago left.I’ve fiddled some nights but I am pretty dismal at putting pieces together.After bathing, I ask Julia what she was doing and she said the puzzle.I let her be. About an hour later, the outside pieces of the puzzle finally all fit together and a significant swath of the dragon fire was done.
I spent the morning getting ready for tonight’s Seder.We are zooming with Cheshire and Justin at their home and a few young friends, each in their respective homes.Cheshire sent directions and this year’s Haggadah.We have a tradition of writing or putting together our own Haggadah each year following what David did for years.This year version is more serious, perhaps a three Kleenex affair, and reflective of our circumstances. I approve.It is sad to have moved so far to be together on celebrations like this and still be apart.It is sad to have hoped for a big gathering and to have to make do with two of us sitting in front of my laptop.Still, we gather to be together and nurture joy.Continue reading →
恭贺新禧 (gōng hè xīn xǐ) Literal translation: respectful congratulations on the New Year.
Yesterday, after cello lesson Julia and I went to The Dumpling Palace in China town for lunch and celebration.The restaurant was noisy, tables too close together, everyone was either leaning very close together to be heard talking or speaking loudly. We were asked to sit at a round table with two other small parties. The wait staff hurried from table to kitchen and back to tables. The arrival of dishes was announced and diners shouted to claim what was theirs. Julia had beef stew noodle soup, I had hot and sour soup, and we shared beef and crab juicy dumplings. Ours was a very small order for two compared to our tables mates but it filled us up. There was no encouragement to rush through the meal and the tea pot was replaced more than once. As we left, waiters wishes us a Happy New Year and when we returned the wishes, there were smiles.Continue reading →