Oh my, what a year! Right?! From insurrection to vaccination, Americans have experienced every emotion between hell and heaven in 2021, and will mostly be glad to see the back of it. Crawling out of the political fray, the misinformation war, and the day to day grind, still we are grateful for much that came our way this year. Here, in this transient moment, tiny sparks seem worth celebrating in our home and blowing up straight into yours. After all, this is the season of light and hope; so with the best of intentions, I want to offer one cheer for our one small world, spinning in the darkness, peopled with you and me and the rest of our loves, expressed with paint on wood to say through love that yes, yes indeed, we will do more than survive, indeed, we can live on to celebrate the great gifts of the past 12 months. Art allows for all that complexity.
Perhaps the best gift of 2021 is my dear Aunt, my mother’s oldest sister, who not only has survived both her sisters and two brothers, but endured the isolation of COVID. Miraculously, in July we spend a week together. This woman has peopled the earth with many, so her ‘we’ is a lot. I think, the latest count is 31: children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. And, equally important are all their partners, another 13 or so individuals. When they gather, it is an epic tribute to her and her husband’s commitment to love and faith. I count myself beyond lucky to crash her lakeside party in the Poconos. To know that she kept herself vibrant and hopeful during all the months of lockdown inspired me to no end, but to sit and wrap my arms around her again, a considerable blessing.
Two of my brothers were in that family gathering mix too, along with my dear spouse. This was our first family event after a long and tedious time sheltered in place. What an immense joy to hug again. With the dozens and dozens of cousins this was an easy employment for us indeed. Swim, hug. Eat, hug. Cheer, hug. Paddle, hug. All on repeat.
I also had the opportunity to see my sister last July. There are few people who will swim with me in the cool rain, and smile while doing it. But she is one. We could not have asked for a poorer summer day when we met in southern Vermont, but that concept didn’t enter the equation. We were lakeside, regardless, so we were happy. Much of 2021 ran divisive, but my sister and me found common language in the water’s soothing touch that afternoon as we stroked through seemingly without resistance. A rare gift for sure.
Finally, after what was more than a heart can fathom, I saw my daughter again, in her new city of roses, Portland. We biked and hiked and ate and laughed and hugged and were treated to numerous fabulous secret swims thanks to her lovely boyfriend. I thought I would cry when I finally saw her, but I was just too happy to waste a moment on sorrow. I am a happy momma to have such a daughter, and to fly through all to join her is delight.
Of course there is nothing like catching a sunset in Santa Monica, and that came next, with this sweet soul. I am not saying that I have taken them for granted, that second son or those pastel sunsets, but after a long year missing everything, we soaked in all the love cascading down the hills and crashing across the waves on the daily. Wasting time is never on our agenda, and certainly not this year. We made each day’s end memorable.
Saw my baby brother too. The guy who makes every effort to keep family possible. We had beach time and bike time and ocean time and all those conversations that hit hard. FaceTime and Zoom can advertise what they want, but being together in flesh and blood is how to feed the dream. And, after all, what are we without those dreams? Feet deep in the sand, eyes stretched across the hazy horizon, we discussed all the yearnings and longings that surfaced and flew in a straight line with the pelicans in our view.
Time with my eldest son, the guy who is conferencing with India and cajoling with his CEO, and holding together all his own aspirations too, was another treat of this year. Perhaps, a gift of COVID is the ability to work remotely and this guy is one of those lucky ones, while I’m the happy momma who got to watch him in action all the while. Mothering might not be needed anymore, but my pride in his accomplishments is endless.
In 2021 so many families were finally reunited, with vaccines in play, and we too were part of that truly fortunate crew. All in all, I am so grateful that my children understand and trust Science, but beyond that, they care about the elderly and vulnerable people who have succumbed to COVID, and are doing their part not to add to those sad stats.
I must say that during our week together we did our best to stay giddy with living and not dwell on much seriousness. Even today, months later, I can smile remembering all of that.
As children grow to adults, I learn how to let them run with the sunshine and fall when they do, and hold hope that they partner well. I am so pleased that each has found a remarkable person to exchange I love you’s in their private moments. 2021 brought slivers of light, and for these once three, now six, they beam out brightly with much hope for the future.
I hope you too found joy in whatever moments of communion you shared with your loved ones, and in the best of hopes, wish that there are many more to come in 2022. Whatever holiday of light you celebrate in this season of short and dark days, may yours shine brightly and last until the spring returns once again. For it will you know, return.