Friday, January 1, 2010

Something New

I fell asleep last night to the steady sound of rain drumming on the roof, and my last conscious thought of 2009 was a wish: to wake to a fresh snowfall blanketing the valley floor.

I didn’t.

The night air never cooled enough, apparently, and it was still raining at 8 am. My morning run was a soggy, messy affair. I came home with my calves and the back of my tights splattered with mud; when I pulled my shoes off at the door, my socks were soaked. The dog’s underbelly was brown-on-brown, wet from the puddles he’d sloshed through. I sent him straight into the backyard, knowing a full rub-down would be necessary before he could be allowed back in the house.

The kids had lost interest in the Rose Bowl Parade, and were wrestling on the living room floor. Calvin swung an empty Chinese take-out box through what I choose to assume he thought was free space and hit Toby square in the face, one sharp cardboard corner leaving an angry red mark.

Tears.

Accusations.

Protests of innocence amid righteous indignation.

Charlie left for work, leaving me still dripping in the entryway, peeling off my wet running jacket and listening to the dog scratch frantically at the sliding glass door and the kids tear through the house in a pent-up mixture of happiness and boredom and aggression, tossing a National Geographic globe beach ball and shouting. Toby was still wiping tears.

Nothing new about this.

No fresh-start, new-leaf, blank-slate-for-a-new-year feeling, virgin snow or not. I half-heartedly instructed the kids to find something productive to do as I dodged them on the way to the shower.

But set back the clock to last night: in contrast, we ended the year beautifully. Five pm on New Year’s Eve found us celebrating with Japanese stir-fry and family, party hats on, noise-makers already yanked out of little hands and allocated to the far end of the table. Seven pm found us spread out in the living room, pajamas on, pillows and blankets in full force, watching The Sound of Music and eating chocolate fondue complete with plates of bananas, marshmallows, pound cake, and graham crackers. We dipped and sampled and let everyone eat too much.

Now set the clock back a full week previous: the kids had just heard the ‘So long, farwell…’ song on a commercial and someone wondered aloud where it was from, and I thus became aware of a grave omission in the education of my children. So we righted that wrong last night…the last night of 2009. And sat through all 3+ hours of the movie. And they loved it, because they love musicals. And I love that I’ve raised boys who love musicals. Sure, they made some lame jokes to hide their squirmy boyhood awkwardness during the lovely-dovey parts between Leisel and her telegram boy and Maria and the Captain, but they didn’t want to leave, and they sat with interest through all the long music and dance numbers and the longer nun scenes at the abbey and they asked intelligent questions about what a baroness is and even more intelligent questions about the political implications of Nazi occupation of Austria and then a light bulb went off in Nate‘s brain when he realized that Disney‘s Matterhorn is actually a replica of something much grander, and much older, and much more lasting.

And now, move the hour hand forward again: an hour after that soggy run and that muddy dog and those bickering kids, we’ve found our pace, as we always do. I’m writing, and Sam is contentedly curled at my feet, and the boys are setting up their new army men all over the house, happy voices sharing strategy and planning invasions and negotiating tactics.

And they’re singing. I wonder if they even know they’re doing it, because Nate is just idly whistling and Cal is just humming, but it’s there, in the background of their play. Toby picks up the tune and sings outright, his voice carrying from the hallway to his bedroom to the kitchen where his soldiers wait in neat rows, at the ready:

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens….Bright copper skittles all tied up with string.

Apparently, these are a few of his favorite things.

And now they are mine, too. And I have a brand new, bright-shiny memory to file away on this first day of 2010. And it makes me wonder if a new start is overrated. When you have your favorite people all around you, maybe just continuing a good thing is enough, muddy paws and all.


(Check out Finer Things Friday at The Finer Things.)
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