May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you are wonderful. And don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the new year, you surprise yourself. — Neil Gaiman
Three years now. And running. This still is, in my mind and in as far as forwarded messages go, the most lovely New Year’s wish that ever found its way to my inbox — the kind that makes you stop and smile, even when fireworks are going off and everyone is blowing kisses in the air; the kind that makes you bless Neil Gaiman for putting such a happy, gentle thought together. It is one that I want to read over and over again. It always pretty much sums up how I want to meet, and greet, and live each new year.
Last December I officially turned another year older. I am 35 now, and bursting with dreams. I am pregnant with lovely ideas, some I am even too shy or too scared, too overwhelmed to start on. But within that adventure still waiting to happen there is also this itch to get started on some or all of them already. But how do I even know which one to start on first? Where do I begin? I have not figured out that part yet, I guess that adds to the fun of it all. I just have these goals, these opportunities all within reach. Maybe I will just have to concoct the recipes for it along the way.
What do I know for sure? I know I want to keep on doing the very things that make me feel alive. I am thankful for the work that I love that I have, and that I have that I love, the gift of family and friends, a funny daughter, with hopefully even more along the way. I asked her to write out a card for the present I got my sister’s unborn baby (she is seven months pregnant now) and with a puzzled look she asked, “What do I say? Dear who?” I answered “Dear Baby Boy.” “I don’t like that Mom, what if the baby is a girl?” A short silence. And then with bright eyes she declared with a flourish, “I can write… ‘Dear Human Being’! Or ‘Dear Mammal’!” We all had a good laugh.
I also know I need to get us a new TV for the bedroom. Read that sentence again: I do not want to get us a new one, I need to get us a new one. Ours is over 17 years old already, not that there is anything wrong with that. Richard bought it when he was yet single, and it is perhaps the only bulky, box-type unit of its kind still alive and breathing — sometimes, that is. And that is the problem. Most of the time now it just plain dies on us. And then when we are about to give it up completely it feels threatened and comes alive again. But it is really more dead than alive now, and I cannot watch my favorite cooking shows on the AFC channel in the wee hours of the morning. I will most probably still get the same brand because it is so durable; 17 years is a long time to be in faithful service.
I know I want to read even more books and eat more cake, literally; bake more, too. And I want to just be me. When I was growing up my friends collected not only stickers and stationery but bills and stamps, too. I was not too keen on the last two, I was happier with stickers and stationery but I started a collection just the same because everyone else was into it already. It fizzled out after a while because my heart just wasn’t into it. I’ve also always liked big jewelry, nothing too dainty. The same goes for watches. I’ve always liked them big. But whenever I would wear something big and chunky my classmates then would say it was either too matronly, or in the case of watches, not feminine enough.
I think I really grew up and found myself when I became a wife and a mother. I listened to myself more. I celebrated my choices more, was less apologetic about them. And I am at that age and stage now when I am comfortable doing things my way. I simply like what I like and I don’t bother anymore with what I’m sure I don’t, never mind if it is the latest and trendiest.
I have come to terms with the fact that despite my best intentions, my Christmas will most probably last all the way till February. It is easier, and happier, that way for me. I was looking at my rose-strewn magenta tree yesterday and I told my mom, who happened to be beside me, why I felt like keeping the tree up till Valentine’s Day because it makes me happy. “By all means then, keep it up all the way till February,” said the indulgent mother who allowed me as a child to play with her makeup and try on her clothes and shoes, turn over the chairs in the living room so that I could pretend they were hills from the movie The Sound of Music. I want to watch that movie again, very badly now. And as soon as I finish writing this I think I will go to Amazon and order myself a DVD of it.
I have come to accept, too, although I will fight it with all of me, that I will always be more organized in my mind than I am in real life. The daily grind always gets in the way but I still hope to shorten the gap. I will also always have my little fears — of performing live, of public speaking, slimy lizards falling off the ceiling, and fortune tellers — but as I say that, I know I will continue to stretch and grow and widen my corner of the world.
The holidays are officially over now and with it the ebb of butter and parties, sugar and calories. I. Am. Fatigued. Both of body and appetite. But not of spirit. I am still loving that I still have gifts to wrap and deliver, a few cards to send. Like I said, in my world Christmas is until February.
I love this quiet time now, a time in limbo I always call it, when part of me still feels I am on holiday even while the rest of me already knows schedules have normalized because I have gone back to work and my daughter has resumed school. Every day I open a present from under the tree, and today it was two long strings of padded, happy birds made of a fabric in my favorite colors. I hang them on the door of my closet because the bell suspended at the very end tinkles happily whenever I open or close it.
I love this quiet time, time I have thus far used to take stock of things as I step ever so enthusiastically on the threshold of a new year; time I have used to decide that no matter what the day before has brought, I will face each brand new day serenely. I pray I will be even more aware of God’s hand especially in the little things, and to always be grateful, to never be jaded even when life is so good.
I already know I will be dancing and doing yoga more, so in the next breath I dare say I will also be enjoying even more dessert, and more savory sandwiches stuffed with potato chips or Chippy in the middle. The former will give me the license to indulge in the latter. I will also make an effort to write more, and further what I have learned in the cooking classes I started. I have found another venue to work with my hands, but this time in the kitchen! This January, I will start making jam!
Today I played with my four-month -old nephew Marcial who looks like a little emperor to me. He has a cocky, lopsided smile that makes me chuckle. I wanted to see it many times when he visited this afternoon, so I started doing all sorts of funny faces with matching funny sounds. Major no reaction from him. He would give me half a smile, half a chuckle but nothing in full. And then, about eight minutes into my earnest efforts, somewhere between a sigh (from me) and a yawn (from him), he just chose to stare into some space behind and through me, at nothing in particular. On cue, I followed suit. I stared into my own space and settled into stillness. I realized did not have to entertain this little man sitting on my lap, he did not need/want that. So we just sat together, the two of us. On my part I was relishing how it felt to hold a tiny little thing in my arms. It was very nice; I could really get used to the feeling.
And then it happened. He just suddenly looked straight at me and smiled. A full smile. And then a series of more full smiles in rapid succession, as if rewarding me for my patience, his cheeks pink and chubby like a ripe fruit. Thank you for the gentle lesson, Marcial. I will remember that the next time I get so caught up working so hard on something, waiting impatiently for a breakthrough. I will remember how it can just sort of land gently on my lap when I sit still and relax, and least expect it to. Then it feels even more of a gift.