So we’re home now. As I suspected, it was startling at first. We got back around 8 pm last night, New Years Eve. I turned on the heat, watered the Christmas tree. I smelled your shirt that hangs over your chair. I tried to ease the blow of returning by letting Audrey stay up a little bit later and I was so thankful I’d left a bunch of presents here for her to open, because watching your child open up presents can’t help but bring you some joy. And then routine kicked in. I spent today slowly unpacking. Audrey and I took a walk in her “no boots” and I shoveled what snow was left on the windshield of the car and around the tires. We went across the street to get a half gallon of milk for her. I made breakfast, lunch, dinner, changed diapers, bathed our daughter, and dressed her. Routine.
Now that we have crossed the threshold into 2011, I feel a certain relief. I can’t even remember what I did last night, after Audrey was asleep. I felt glad that apparently no one expected anything of me for this holiday. I could just ignore it. I listened to a sermon while a dull boom of fireworks went off somewhere nearby- maybe at the park next door.
I thought of all of the New Years Eves we’ve spent together. One of my favorites was the one where we spontaneously decided to get out of the subway at Times Square after dinner downtown with friends. We wound up herded all the way to Central Park with a million other people- standing on top of a rock, we could see straight down to Times Square when the ball dropped and fireworks went off over the park. You kissed me and I said something about this next year being a good one- we exchanged a knowing glance- we both knew we’d get engaged that year.
There were a couple of New Years in Brooklyn watching fireworks at Prospect Park, and a couple at my parents clinking glasses of champagne and red wine. There was one when we were dating, where you didn’t seem like you were going to come over to spend the New Year with me, but were secretly taking the bus over at the last minute. I was feeling miserable and full of self-pity in my childhood room- writing feverishly and dramatically in a journal about how much I hated life when you called to say you were on your way.
I used to think that life was relatively harmless. I thought that I was deep. Ha.
We went to a nearby diner where we were the only ones there. The waitress took our picture I think and put it up on the window. We held hands from across the booth and laughed at the whole evening.
Three years ago, we had dinner with my brother and his girlfriend who were visiting from California and watched the fireworks at Prospect Park before heading over to a friend’s for champagne. I pretended to drink mine and slipped the glass to you- I was just a couple of weeks pregnant, but I already knew and had told you my suspicions.
Last year, we turned down an invite to Regina Spektor’s party to stay home with Audrey. It’s hard to find a babysitter who wants to sit in your bedroom on New Years’ Eve- especially when you have no TV. So, we sat on our bed, and kind of as a joke, you brought up the ball drop on my old computer. We watched the action in Times Square on the stuttering screen…”Heee rrr eee wwweee rrrrrr in Times Squaaaaare.” We laughed at our situation and were together. I’m sure we kissed at midnight because we always do that, but I don’t remember. I wish I did.
Last night after I went to sleep with the quilt up over my head, I dreamt I was back at my old grant-writing job- my first out of college before I met you. A few of the same people were there, including my old boss. As I walked around, people seemed embarrassed for me to see me there again- and they knew…my husband was dead. It was a horrible dream.
And then today, a day replete with the darkest kind of malaise, I had a message from you. It’s an inside joke and not really something to share with anyone else, but it made me smile at you and acknowledge your existence as highly plausible for just a moment. I danced with Audrey and thought, “Yes, I believe.”
“To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be on to something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.” Walker Percy- The Moviegoer