A fresh new year, full of promise, is about to unfold before us. We’ll wish each other Happy New Year, often with our fingers crossed behind our backs. Happiness is so very elusive, and yet we are ever hopeful. The threshold we stand on today, between the old year and the new, offers the opportunity to review, reconsider, release the negative, reaffirm the positive, and resolve to treat both ourselves and those around us with a gentler touch in 2019.
I have a New Year’s ritual of sorts—releasing my artsy, new wall calendar from its wrappings. The entire year is laid out before me, clean and fresh. I turn the pages slowly, savoring all the stunning photographs. Each new page is a delicious blank slate, embodying the promise of what might be. I run my fingertips over the neatly delineated days, in their clean white squares. The blank dates tantalize and tease. Which will become noteworthy memories? Which will offer new opportunities? More importantly, will I recognize an opportunity when one presents itself, especially if it takes an unexpected form? A new year gives us all the chance to let go of our preconceived concepts and open ourselves up to being delighted and surprised.
Being a woman of contradiction, as much as I embrace the idea of spontaneity, I’m also a confirmed list maker and planner. Juxtaposed to the ideal of simply going with the flow is my to-do and project list for 2019. It’s already well-fleshed out with plans, goals, deadlines, and tickets purchased for events. I’ll most likely have many of the clean, blank boxes inked-in before the end of first week of January. Makes me wonder whether the part of me that craves security fears the unexpected? Do I need to ward off adversity by not allowing it to wedge itself onto my filled calendar? Does that mean I can accept life unfolding at the whim of the “powers that be” only if it doesn’t sidetrack my plans? One more thing to ponder as I move into 2019.
As for the close of 2018, I can say that I’m ending the year relatively content with life. I hope that my progress up life’s learning curve was at least commensurate to the rate at which my hair has turned grey. I took on some new and challenging projects and continued to build confidence in my abilities. I’ve also learned a few lessons to take forward with me, like changing an unrealistic definition of friendship. While being a good friend remains important to me, I’ve been around the block enough now to recognize that sometimes a friendship really isn’t, and it’s time to walk away. Maybe age has jaded my idealism a bit, but on the up side, I’m still young at heart with enough zeal to pursue my passions, develop my talents, set some goals, and put energy into nurturing some new friendships.
I’m pleased to be part of blended family comprised of interesting individuals, and I have a supportive husband who does his very best to understand me. I am blessed with enough material comfort to remind me that I should never complain and to spur me to give back. My prayer to the "powers that be" is that I can face next New Year's Eve with few-to-no regrets, and at least one dream or two fulfilled. If I am nothing else, I am an optimist.
That said, I can wish all of you a “Happy New Year” with enthusiasm, and my fingers are not even crossed behind my back.
Just before Christmas 2013, my husband surprised me with a large, gift-wrapped box. I wasn’t sure how to react. We weren’t supposed to be buying each other gifts, and I’d stuck to my side of the bargain. He picked up on “the look” right away--I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings—and he assured me that he hadn’t bought me anything, he was re-gifting.
Confused, and with considerable trepidation, I unwrapped the large box and pried it open. Beneath the packing paper were several cumbersome, bubble-wrapped objects. My confusion deepened. I pulled two of the oddly shaped bundles out of the box and ran my hands over them. I looked at David in disbelief. I could feel the unmistakable contours of a train engine and cars through the protective wrapping. Tears of joy started to flow. How had he tracked down my son’s long-lost, handmade, wooden train? It had been gone for fifteen years.
December 1982. I was a single mom and, without overstating, financially strapped. Nonetheless, I was on a mission to find that special gift from Santa for my almost, three-year-old son.
Wandering Tucson’s Fourth Avenue Street Fair, a booth filled with old-fashioned, handmade, wooden toys stopped me in my tracks. The artisans, John West & Sons, were true craftsmen, eager to show off the workmanship of each toy. These were non-mechanical toys, ready to be animated by a child’s imagination. The vendor pointed out solid maple biplanes with propellers that spun, firetrucks with ladders, and helicopters expertly doweled, but a delightful, four-car train won my heart. I ran the train along its shelf. It was perfect.
This gift had great significant to me. It had substance. It was handmade, not plastic, breakable, or fake. It was ‘real’ and would last. Somehow it represented stability. I held my breath and flipped the price tag over. I could do it. It would take every cent in my shopping budget, but that train would be under the tree, waiting for my son on Christmas morning.
That Christmas train claimed prominent shelf space in our home for sixteen years, until one day in 1998 when I noticed it was missing. Light bulb moment. My son’s stepfather had recently moved to Florida to remarry. The train must have made the cross country trip with him. I was crushed. That train set meant more to me than my ex, or even my then teenage son, would ever understand.
Fifteen years later (2013), during a phone conversation with my son’s stepfather, I asked whether he still had the train set. He’d been divorced for a few years. When he moved out of the house in Florida, he left most of his belongings behind. He had no idea where the wooden train might be. His guess was in a box, buried in the depths Liz’s (ex-wife), storage shed; they were not on friendly terms. My quest was hopeless.
My husband, David, saw my disappointment. He is a very resourceful man. Somehow he tracked Liz down, telephoned her, explained the situation, and while they were still on the phone, she found the train stashed in a box in her closet. She would be happy to ship it to me. She understood. And that’s how I ended up receiving the best, re-gifted Christmas gift ever.
Today the wooden engine and four cars are displayed in my living room, next to a framed picture of my son with the train, Christmas 1983. It will forever bring me joy, and I will forever be grateful for its return.
I’ve been out of the car-buying loop long enough for Goggle maps to replace a glove box full of folded maps, and for ignition keys to become a thing of the past. When I bought my last car, PDAs and mobile phones had not yet merged technologies to create smartphones, and I’m pretty sure Bluetooth was just static in some computer engineer’s brain. Connecting all this stuff to one’s car was still Star-Trekian technology. The newest thing out was cruise control—a very big deal.
Buying a car used to involve strategic planning. The first rule of the sport was to keep your cards close to your chest. Having the upper hand was essential to avoid driving off the lot with a “deal” that left you bankrupt, or worse, with a lemon and no warranty. Once a gleaming prospect was winnowed out of the pack, the hood was lifted. I limited my comments to the engine’s cleanliness. Tires were kicked--never sure why--and gas mileage and RPMs were discussed. The driver’s seat was adjusted, mirrors checked for visibility, and the key turned in the ignition to listen to the engine. The radio was checked for reception and static. Was the antennae retractable? A major bonus. Sensing a serious interest, the salesman waxed eloquent about reliability, air bags, improved construction, and windshield wiper speed. It was show time. Calculator in hand, negotiations could take the better part of a day.
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