When I was little, I used to like New Year's Eve. My dad was a musician and usually worked that night, and my mom would go to wherever he was playing. We three girls would spend the night at our grandma and grandpa's, and that was my happy place: The house was overly warm and almost new. Everything was tidy and beige. In the spare bedroom where we slept, the bed was dressed in heavy cotton sheets and thick wool blankets. There was wall-to-wall carpet, and we would become wild on the floor in a way we never did at home on our hardwoods; we did headstands and somersaults and backbends and walkovers and my grandma would just have a fit. I don't know if she was more worried that we would hurt ourselves or that our underpants were showing. We were so oblivious to either concern. Our grandparents were very old, the oldest people we knew. We were their only grandchildren. I remember one time in seventh or eighth grade, when it was the height of fashion in my crowd to wear rolled-up men's boxer shorts to volleyball practice, I raided my grandpa's dresser and came out into the living room wearing a pair of his. I asked him if I could have them. My grandpa spoke perfect English with a heavy Italian accent, but in that moment he was sure he did not understand my question. Confusion ensued. You want to wear my underpants, to school? Me, French-braided, smiling: Yes! To school? Um, Yes!?!? Could he not see how cool these were? My father gave me $10 and told me to go to Marshalls.
At my grandparents' we would lay on the floor in front of the television and watch all the New Year's Eve shows, and at midnight we would muster a sort of imitated enthusiasm, not old enough yet to truly understand what a miracle another year really is. At bedtime, my grandma would walk around the house, turning everything off. She finally would pull the chains on her cuckoo clock, lifting the heavy pine-cone weights, and then stop the pendulum so the clock would not cuckoo through the night; she'd set the hands for seven so that the next morning it was always ready to start again with just a push. It was so quiet at my grandma's house at night. Our parents were night owls; almost never did I go to bed in a quiet house at home. But at my grandma's you could hear every possible noise: the bed creaking when you moved. The heat turning on and off. The freight train approaching and then going past. Every little house-click and house-thump. Almost twenty years ago I had a panic attack on an airplane in mid-air. Tears streamed down my face. I closed my eyes and was back in my grandma's spare bedroom, in the warm dark with the night-light left on in the hallway, my grandparents sleeping in their twin beds on the other side of the wall. Safe.
I've conjured that place several times this past year, trying to find purchase in my life and in what has, at certain times, felt like being in free-fall. I think that's how most of life is, in a lot of ways. You step forward, and step forward, and then you touch back — everything still here? Still here. Okay. Forward again (then). Life pulls you forward, even when you feel tired. I never was an adventurous person, in my own opinion; I always had big plans but only for little, mostly prosaic things. I always was and still am happiest in slow, mostly quiet places, with long, mostly quiet days. Winter suits me. When I look back on 2011, I am, I have to admit, still sort of bewildered and shaken, not sure what happened or even what to do next. I'm trying to be at peace with that gauzy, half-blurred feeling, and on certain days think it is easy to just — let it go away from me, a long piece of crinkled muslin tossed up and carried off into the wind. On other days I seem to wear it, spiraled and close, like a scarf. Maybe I'll just lose it somewhere, and not even notice. Leave it on a bench or a bus. I won't mind.
I'm not much of a planner, and never manage to remember to make any grand resolutions for a new year. My regular resolutions always seem so obvious. But I like how New Year's Eve prods you say them, even the obvious ones, out loud, along with everybody else. I want to appreciate the health, happiness, and home-life, and the people and pets, that I am so lucky to have. I want to be more generous and helpful, because I haven't felt like I've had much to offer anybody lately. I want to be a better friend and listen more when people are talking. I want my shoulders to relax because they're riding too high. I want to be outside more. I want to cook more and eat healthier. I want to have patience. I want to trust my intuition again, and have more faith in myself. I want to not always feel so left behind. I want to be more free, and even brave. I want to give more love than I do. Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. That is my wish for 2012.