I’m not very good with years. I’m not one of those people who says, Remember New Years ‘86 when we went to Lulu’s party and you got wasted and barfed Chinese food out of your nose? Or, remember in ‘04 when I wept for two days because Bush got re-elected? Or, remember in ‘90 when I didn’t graduate high school?
I remember things more in terms of food or songs. I remember events by the details, like the odd way someone held their hands or the way my mother’s sweater smelled after cooking latkes or the way that David Bowie looked onstage awash in blue light. I remember details well, but years lose their edges as soon as they pass. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t even tell you what year I met my husband.
I get a strange anxiety when looking at all of those end of the year lists and wrap up of the decade special features. But I know it’s important to mark time, to asses ourselves, to get a chance to start fresh. I was in Iran during the Persian New Year (a few years ago- I couldn’t tell you what year) and my group found ourselves on a beach in Bandar Kong, a town on the Persian Gulf where they construct traditional lenj Gulf boats by hand. As the sun went down, a few of the carpenters built a fire for us and taught us the traditional way of greeting the New Year, which involved taking a running leap over the fire while saying something that roughly translates to, “Take from me my yellow and give me your red.” Take my sickness away and give me health. Renewal, light.
The one commonality between all of the holidays that meet at the Solstice crossroads seems to be the ritual of bringing light into these dark days. And I can get with that. Also, I appreciate any opportunity to get crafty and to break out some vintage table linen.
In ‘08, I boycotted the holidays. I think about what Tariku’s room looked like this time last year. There were lists taped to every surface, open suitcases, every baby and adult medication known to mankind, piles of baby clothes in two different sizes, jars of baby food wrapped in baggies, cans of formula, hats, blankets, hiking shoes, “modest” clothes, water purification tablets, a first aid kit, boxes of donations from friends to take with us for the other kids at the care center etc etc etc. Blanketing our dining room table was incredibly important paperwork, which I examined and re-examined obsessively, trying to insure that no detail was out of place. Plus Scott was on tour and I was completely re-organizing the house to get ready for T’s arrival. I was a wreck.
Ten days later, we left for Africa. 2009 was a year when a couple of personal dreams I had for a long time were realized. And on a global scale I felt a glimmer of promise. Though I’ve subsequently been disappointed on that level, nothing can change the moment of sitting in the living room of the guest house in Addis Ababa and holding a sleeping Tariku in my arms while we watched Obama’s inauguration via satellite.
In 2010 I’m looking forward to the publication of my memoir, which is going to force me into a whole different level of honesty. It isn’t that I was particularly secretive before. I don’t think anyone was under the impression that I was a nun. But the level of vulnerability in the book is a different story. The thought of people reading it is scary, but it’s freeing at the same time. What are people going to say about me now that can hurt me? I’ve already said it all. So bring it on 2010.
Happy holidays, all. And thanks for reading.