Sunday, December 28, 2008

Taking Stock of the Year

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or Kwanzaa, I hope your December ends with warmth and light and maybe a glass of champagne and a roman candle or two as the year turns and the days begin to lengthen once more.

2009 arrives this week.  How will you celebrate it?   (And how is it possible that we are 25 years past George Orwell’s 1984?)

I have not been to a New Year’s Eve party since we left Italy.  Back then, we would gather at the house of a friend whose balcony overlooked the Bay of Naples for a ringside seat on fireworks that rivaled our Fourth of July.  The smoke obliterated the ships anchored in the harbor and the pops and bangs were punctuated by old tables and chairs smashing on the sidewalks below as Neapolitans literally threw out the old.

The parties were fun but for some reason, we’ve never been to any here in this country. Instead, we have always seem to wind up at home alone for our own private remembrance ceremony.  Before saying goodbye to the old year, we leaf through the greeting cards that have filled a basket, savoring again the messages from old friends and new.  We look at the pictures of our friends’ children and grandchildren and marvel at their beauty and how tall they’ve grown. Is that one really in college now?  How can it be that her baby is old enough to shave?

 We open a bottle of champagne and while the bubbles rise in the glass, I will page through my journal and read out the year’s milestones, some of which we have almost forgotten already:  the deaths, the divorces, the marriages, the births, Death’s Half Acre named one of PW’s Best Books of the Year,  the North Carolina Award.  There were trips:  Malice Domestic in DC, Bouchercon in Baltimore, a literary luncheon in Detroit, speaking engagements across the state.  And on the national level, the hard-fought campaigns, our first mixed race President, gas at $4 a gallon.  There were dinner parties, meetings, signings, and yes, I finished writing another the book—only two months late!

“Oh, yes,” we’ll say; and “Was that this year?”  Then the clock will edge toward midnight, the local television station will show a giant acorn as it descends (Raleigh’s the “City of Oaks,” you know), and we’ll go out into the dark night to ring the old iron farm bell long and loud.

Finally, as Samuel Pepys was fond of saying, “And so to bed.”

May 2009 be your best year yet!

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