As a small, but meaningful event, it was a doozie.
I’d been sitting rink-side in the metal bleachers at Market Square watching the men in my life go around in happy circles. My rusty blades had rendered me a spectator for our annual pre-Christmas family skate. They’d also made me the recipient of this determined chunk of cardstock that was on a mission to deliver its message.
There was a decorative graphic, a burst of fireworks, on the upper left-hand corner. I figured it was some First Night takeaway courtesy of the City of Kingston that had prematurely flown the coop, let loose from a staffer’s pile of papers perhaps.
As holidays go I have a pretty tragic relationship with New Year’s Eve.
Between all the drunken, tear-filled cab rides home in my 20s, having had no one to kiss, wondering if I’d ever meet my soul mate, and all the failed battles with the bulge through the years there’s way too much history and baggage.
Nowadays the New Year’s view from mid-life isn’t that much sunnier. Having wandered the long way around my career I spend many days feeling frantic, making up for lost time—looking back is painful. And, like many of my friends, I have a young child who is growing up way too fast which makes the road ahead terrifying.
Altogether this annual reckoning between past and future is a bit much.
Having resolved to make no more resolutions, especially those that concern my waistline, I find it best to sleep through New Year’s Eve, opting for a glass of warm milk over a flute of Dom Perignon. I prefer to face New Year’s Day unceremoniously, as if it were a day like any other, even though I know it’s not.
But this year there’s this little wind-blown wish-in-the-making to contend with.
I brought it home on December 21st, freed up a magnet and stuck it to the fridge. For ten days it’s been hanging there, begging for my attention. And unlike wishes upon stars or coins, I need to write this one down, which makes it all the more symbolic and, thereby all the more problematic.
I write things down for a living and have developed a healthy respect for the power of written words—whether other people see them or not.
For example, if you think you can’t forgive someone, write the story of your struggle to find forgiveness and by the time you reach ‘The End’ you’ll have found it. If you want to see the end of those vexatious circular conflicts in your marriage—the stuff you’ve been fighting about forever—write it down: “I don’t want to fight about sex/money/the kids/your mother anymore” and watch it come to pass.
As much as I have witnessed this word-power at work in my own life, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to put a New Year’s Wish in writing. But this personal invitation to do just that sought me out and has asserted itself in my life.
Would that it were a genie and I could have one just for me, and two more for the people I love. But this is a singular wish, which is the problem, really, and the source of the blankness: I want to be selfish with it. It’s mine after all, it found me. Haven’t I earned the right to be a little bit selfish?
I care for my people and cook for them all the time. To quote novelist and columnist Elizabeth Renzetti I am a “Doris Day luxury in a Sheryl Sandberg world.” I squeeze my fledgling career into some very tight spaces around high-needs people. And even in the presence of these limitations the dreamer in me will not die—she wants to move the needle in spite of the challenges. But surely there are more important things to wish for.
I’ve learned more about ageing in the past year than I would have cared to. Part of me wants to save the wish for my mother-in-law. She’s lost her vision and her ability to get up and go wherever she wants whenever she wants to. And now she and I are losing some of the friendship we had to the caregiver dynamic—the loving but rigid treadmill of pills and meals and “should haves” and “why didn’t you?” and “that’s not good for you.”
No, this is going to be one whopper of a wish. I don’t know if I can blow it on me and me alone.
My wish for the New Year is... still thinking.
Don’t worry, I’ll make the deadline. I always do.