Surviving New Year’s by Rebecca Crichton, Seattle, Washington

My parents were married on January 1, 1940. I got married on January 1, 1965, on their twenty-fifth anniversary, in our home on Long Island, New York. They were going to celebrate anyway, and it seemed like a good choice for ceremonial convergence.

I ignored an important message from Thornton Wilder’s classic American play, Our Town. The main character – who dies and wants to return to earth and witness her life again for one day – is warned that if she does, she should go back on an ordinary day, not a significant one like a birthday.

I admit to having lingering doubts about the January 1st choice but barreled ahead anyway. There were moments that bent toward the surreal: a college boyfriend calling as I was preparing to descend the stairs to the waiting judge. “I’m just getting married,” I said. “Have a good life.”

The judge, persuaded by a client to perform a New Year’s Day ceremony, was hung over. He mangled my newly married name as the lights from someone’s camera glinted off my generously Vaselined ring finger. Nonetheless, we proceeded and for five years, started each New Year’s Day with a call to my parents wishing us all a Happy Anniversary.

When the marriage ended, it took my father years to get over the habit of uttering those words. He couldn’t help it and I gave up correcting him.

I didn’t spend too many New Year’s Eves or January firsts alone, but it took another five years before I instituted my own rituals. I hosted small gatherings where close friends gathered to eat well, review the year, toast the new one.

I have been a (mostly) devoted journal keeper for most of my adulthood. Since 2000, I have been faithful to my daily journaling habit with a special folder devoted to New Year’s Day entries. I write a long summary of the newly passed year, trying to capture its highlights: family and friends, work and travel, learning and discoveries. Before writing the one for the current year, I read what I wrote the year before.

It didn’t take more than a few years to discover the repeating themes and rhythms of my life. The recurring resolutions about weight, work, and exercise. My hopes for continued health and meaning in the coming year. My friendships stayed mainly stable. My family and close friends experienced their variety of triumphs and losses; the world outside my own life was mentioned in passing unless it had impinged dramatically.

This year I will read what I wrote in 2021 and be curious to see how Covid affected my life. I will smile when I read about my grand-dog Ginger, the sweetest Chihuahua in the world, who looks like she might make it to 15 in February.

As always, I try not to take anything for granted. And remind myself that while I can imagine myself and my life moving forward, I don’t know and can’t know what will happen that will require new learning and new strategies.

I accept that and feel gratitude at surviving and mainly thriving through the past year. I wish myself a Happy New Year and send that wish to the people I know and to the world beyond.

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