The year was 1984, I think. It was New Year’s Eve. Mom was giving my brother and sister a bath, and I was sitting on the couch with Dad. We were watching the Christmas tree’s lights flicker in the darkness.
We did weird things like that.
But by god, DO NOT tell my mother I let the whole world know we still had the tree up on New Year’s Eve, capisce?
Anyway, I was talking to Dad about how much had changed in the past year…I can’t remember why it is I felt that way…We must have had a presidential election and the Olympics, Mom may have gone back to work part time, that may be the year my Aunt moved closer….Now that I think about it, I think we got a cat. For whatever reason, in my seven year old mind, it had been a big year.
Dad said something about how some years are full of big changes for entire families; others will go years and years with hardly any changes at all. That’s how life was, and there was no predicting it.
That struck me for some reason, and I’ve kept that conversation, and the closeness we felt in that moment, in my heart all this time. 27 years, wow.
And almost every year after that, Dad would find a few minutes to sit with me in the darkness by the tree. Sometimes we would talk, reflect on the year gone past. There were years when there weren’t any words…I guess all parents and children have times like that.
I haven’t put the tree away yet. I know it’s stupid, the waiting. I think I’m waiting to see if one of my children will come and sit with me in the darkness. So far no one has. And tomorrow I’ll give up and put the tree away, only to try again next year.
This has been one of those years where a lot has happened, but maybe from the outside you can’t see it. None of the people in this family are the same as we were 364 days ago. We’ve all taken steps. Some were measured and planned, like walking to school alone for the first time. Other times we were pushed by forces we couldn’t foresee and still don’t really understand.
Like Dad said, that’s life: there’s no predicting it. But if we’re all alive and well this time next year, you can meet me under the Christmas tree. I’ll be waiting.