Sunday, December 23, 2007
End of the beginning
This last week contained the birthday of the now middle son of our good friends. Now middle because his baby brother was born, safely, in April. Last year the actual birthday day fell on a Tuesday, the party was on Saturday, but we were also invited to their house for cake baking and eating on the weekday birth day. Just us, no-one else. We were invited again this year, and when I got that call, a week ago Friday, it shook me. Last year the winter was so mild that it didn't even register with me as such until that birthday, the date of which was unmistakably December. And so this year's invitation heralded, shoved in my face, really, the fast approaching closing of the circle.
New Year is our big, important winter holiday. For a number of years now, we have been renting a house in ski country with a group of friends from the Old Country. The group shifts a little year to year as someone bails to stay home with a baby or to try something else, but overall it's a consistent core. This year the house is the same as last year, and even the room in it where JD and I will be staying is the same. Can you spell dread? The birthday invitation, it made the winter, the New Year, the January coming all too real. And inescapable.
I tried to think, yesterdays morning, about last January, and at first I drew a complete blank. January 2nd, leave the ski house. January 29, last good day. January 30th, the day my son died. I knew there was more in the middle, and after I gave myself a prod, things started to come out of the shadows of my very tired brain. My parents were here for a week, and left six days before A died. My dad painted A's room then. While they were here, Monkey had her first piano recital. The week before that we had a potluck party at our house. We spent a lot of time with the friends who now have three-- we are friends, our older kids are friends, we live reasonably close by, and we were pregnant together.
There is a karaoke machine in the box in my family room now. JD bought some karaoke DVDs last year, and we brought them and a small mike that plugs into the amp from his electric guitar to the ski house. We had so much fun with this very limited set up last year (we did it one more time at that January party at our house, and kids got in on the act that time), that we wanted to do it again, make it a tradition. Hence, the machine. JD opened it yesterday, to test-drive. I had a few moments of levity when the three of us shared the two mikes that come with the machine to sing songs in two languages and many-many styles (for the record, I apparently can't pull off country; a pity, really-- I do much better when I am singing along with the CD in my car). But mostly that machine sitting out in the middle of my house made me very very anxious. The machine is back in the box now, and I feel better. Maybe the controlled exposure will be enough to prevent me from freaking out when it takes up its residence in the living room of the ski house.
A is bound in my mind with Natan by the trick of the calendar-- they both left us in January, even though almost nothing else about their stories is even close. Recently I discovered that their yahrzeits are exactly one Jewish month apart. Connected, again. Natan's yahrzeit has come and gone. A's is less than four weeks away now.
It's coming, the New Year. It will be here in no time at all, and there is no hiding from it and that coldest, longest month it will drag in.