2013. I wake up this morning far too early, the thought of a new year dropping into place as I listen to the furnace and feel two dachshunds against my back. I give thought to events in the last year, losses and gains, joys and sorrows. I think of those who are no longer here, sad at the dwindling list of cast members in my personal drama. My mind picks up speed, whirring into time machine mode.
1959. A memory flashes of my thirteen-year-old self, crouched along with classmates on an open playing field at Casey Junior High School. The air raid test sirens have caught us outside with no desks for shelter, and the gym teacher tells us to cover our heads with our arms. I sharply recall the moment I realize odds are I’ll never make it to thirty. Soviet nuclear attacks will take out Boulder early, and all the desks and cradling arms in the world won’t save me. And why am I thinking this today?
2012. Sunday night our granddaughter and grandson are here and we decide to make the gingerbread house we’ve talked about all through Christmas vacation. We mix the batter, bravely soldiering on without molasses, pressing the smooth dough into the silicon mold I had the cunning to order on-line. As the pieces bake, I remember the winter when our children pressed against me while I measured and sliced pieces of dough for walls and the roof, my eyes crossing as I tried to translate the recipe into supplies for 3-D construction. They squabbled over who would use which piece for what, just as the grandkids now announce how they’ll build their house, voices rising in the oven-warmed air. The crispy house rises on its foil-covered cardboard foundation, and the memory of that older cookie cottage recedes as the brave new structure is adorned with frosting and gumdrops and sprinkles.
1956. I’m in the backseat of our Ford Crown Victoria with my brother Mike, and Dad and Mom are up front. We’ve had New Year’s Day dinner, maybe roast beef with potatoes and carrots and parsnips cooked by Dad and a mincemeat pie baked by Mom. We’re out for a drive, and when Mike says he’s still hungry Dad steers the car toward Twinburger, our favorite drive-in restaurant. I can almost taste the tangy red sauce on the BBQ burger, my favorite. The Flatirons have a dusting of snow and the delft blue sky stretches over Boulder. We drive farther east, catching sight of a rabbit in the stand of trees beside the road. I smile now, thinking Mike & I were probably giving each other the fish eye, just as my children used to battle over the line between their places in the backseat of our car. I think I remember the satisfaction of believing we could go on forever in that car, together.
2013. The morning is winter quiet, and even the birds are sleeping in. It’s cold here in my garret and I reach for the wrap I keep nearby. Each January I feel such gratitude for what has gone before, such hope and possibility for what is to come. The present, the everlasting now, is sharpened by a sense of loss. It is that combination, I suppose, that makes me who I am. I wish the world a happy new year, knowing it both will and will not be.