The charge cards are still smoking and the Christmas tree boxes are being packed up and shoved in closets as this Happy Old Year turns into Happy New year. Yes, the end of the season of celebration, and back to the real world we all go with are travel mugs full of coffee to work, and the marketing geniuses of the world begin pushing the white sales as if they were a holiday of their own.” Happy New Year! We will be saying that a lot in the next few days. Happy Old Years…they pass so quickly. It’s the time of year we say good by to 365 days of what was, and ponder on what we wished it would have been. We reflect on the good times, opportunities, and disappointments, and if we are lucky, we get to smile, and say “oh well”. But what New Year’s Eve is about really, is that we get a “mulligan”, a do over, which are bravely stated every year in a silly thing called “A New Year’s Resolution. In our Happy New Years, we grow, change, laugh and cry. We find ourselves saying hello to new people that walk into our lives, and sadly, bid sorrowful farewell to those who left us. And so, finding a pot of gold, whatever that is for us, is always our carrot. We get to hope for anything we want, because in our hearts, we understand the Happy New Year is nothing but a big empty canvas, and we get to use whatever brush we want. And so on New Years Eve, we celebrate the anticipation of a brand new canvas to paint, with a bubbly toast, a night out on the town, or soft lights, a couch, and a good pizza.…and for those who are luckier than they ever know..get to kiss someone they love
My dreams were full of things that go bump in the night lately. Dreams of sad and unrelenting thoughts that seemed to hammer away at me at times when I least expected them to.
Happy Old Year seems like such a better celebration to me, because I know what it was. Happy New Year is full of the scary unknown…not sure what Happy New Year really means for me anymore. An so when I feel the most vulnerable, I find myself landing on my parent’s doorstep, and they seemed to understand that. “Sit your skinny ass down in the chair!” my dad ordered as he smiled around the pipe in his mouth, and my mom was already putting on the coffee.” I sat in the kitchen chair and looked out into the living room and saw the green couch that I slept on when I stayed at their house for awhile after Mike died. I wanted to sleep there today, It looked like a good place to take a nap and return to the Happy Old Years.
With my skinny ass in the chair, I felt at home. The conversation, coffee and the presence of what was known, and never changing, was sitting across from me at the kitchen table. It was so great to be with them, and we talked about the Christmas celebration, and caught up on family gossip. My father’s last remaining sister had recently died and he was finally getting some old pictures and mementos back from her daughter soon. Things of Happy Old Years that he wanted very badly. Cards, letters, Korean war memorabilia, and the ray of hope that his purple heart would surface. The Happy New Year’s resolution for me had just been stamped and declared. “Find it, find all of it.
Later in the day, my mom and I began to look through old boxes of pictures. Looking at pictures of “Happy Old Years”, up until recently, an impossible task for me. But today was a good day; a day with mom and dad. Dad found a chair close by and we shared memories and we fumbled through pictures…It was a good day to keep them warm. Then I had the most amazing moment. There was a box of pictures that caught my eye that was meticulously packed full of my Grandmother’s things. Grandma Chris, a wonderful woman who adored her grandchildren. This box contained all her Happy Old Years…that she wanted kept warm after she was gone. I loved and missed her so much in that moment, and so did my mom. I felt an urge to keep looking through the box.
Her husband died when she was a young mother of two little girls. She left the farm to work in the big city, and this good Lutheran woman lied about her age to get a job. She worked hard to make a living during days when work was difficult to come by for a woman. She was a warm and wonderful grandma who smelled of good soap and knew how to make children smile. She was a woman who loved to write and paint, and it became her passion as she grew older. The box was filled with letters, pictures, and my grandfather’s razor. It was in an old worn leather box, and as I opened it I noticed some remains of soap on it. A man’s daily ritual; very personal for a wife. I understood why she kept it. I smiled and felt her close in that moment, for you see, I have one in my box of Happy Old Year’s too. For the first time I saw her in my heart as a woman, not as my grandma. She was a woman who was in love, married a man, and felt his loss for the rest of her life. She was speaking to me today.
On the very top of the box there was a picture of her. I had never seen it before, but there it was, right on top. She was standing by her easel painting. She was in her 50’s and was taking a painting class, carefully and passionately looking at her canvas. I wondered what it was she was painting? I couldn’t see the canvas, but I saw the passion in her eyes and knew it was important. She had learned to fill her life with things that she found to make her Happy New Year’s meaningful. As I looked at the picture, I understood her message to me that day. She understood a man’s razor, heartache, and the importance of chasing your passions. I was not meant to see her canvas in that photograph, but to figure out mine, and create it spectacularly. She was still in my life with her presence and love. I felt her smile, because she knew I understood.
My Happy New Year is my Grandma Chris’s canvas. A profound blessing. A canvas not revealed, but ready to be painted. The greatest mulligan ever! A very very Happy New Year to all of you. Find your paintbrushes and go for it!