I'm feeling suddenly overwhelmingly melancholy about the changing of the year. And it must be the sleep deprivation, because it rather escaped me that it's the changing of a decade, too. All of a sudden, the media is full of songs, books, meals, events of the decade. Shit. How did I miss that? It's bigger than I think, and I guess it's making me sort of panic over the relentless passage of time.
Oh my god, ten years. Ten years ago, I had just visited my parents in Santa Fe for a week, for my last Christmas in Santa Fe ever, because my parents were planning to move to Idaho in the summer. I was devastated, because they were moving away from my home, the place I had always (will always) come back to, the place that was my bones and soul, entwined in me and who I am as only your true home can be. I had so many plans for food to eat, friends to see, farolitos to marvel in, snow to play in, revelry to be had, sunsets to watch.
It was awful. Despite having gotten a flu shot, I got the most godawful flu ever, passed on from my mother's little germ-monger second graders to her to me. I laid in bed or dragged myself to the sofa the entire week. I tried to go out and see friends, only to bail at the last minute, because I got woozy and had to put my head between my knees every time I got off the couch. It was nothing like I had planned.
Then I got on a plane to New Orleans for Act II of my winter vacation. I was meeting my boyfriend John and my close friends Steve and Paula to say farewell to the millenium as only the City That Care Forgot can do. I was sure I was going to marry John, that we would live in Bethesda, that I would have a baby before age 30, that I would stay at home and be a pampered suburban mom, while he followed the footsteps of his father and became partner at the same law firm. John and I had met in New Orleans, at Mardi Gras. I was in law school at Tulane, and one of my classmates had a twin brother who was John's good friend from Vanderbilt Law. The brother and his Vandy friends were doing their annual decampment from NYC to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I'd met John briefly the year before, but he didn't really register, and I'd hooked up with the twin brother instead, leaving a trail of shed clothing and beads and plastic krewe go-cups across the floor of my Garden District apartment.
But somehow, John and I were destined to meet again, and we did, successfully dating over long-distance as I took the Massachusetts bar, and then a judicial clerkship in Florida. His mother loved me because I loved New Orleans, and she was a Crescent City native. His father loved me because I was smart, and also a lawyer, and because his father was the best of southern gentlemen.
So, New Orleans was our city. I forsook a millenial New Year's night under a cape of stars by a bonfire with my oldest friends in Glorieta for the man I thought I loved forever, and a debaucherous, gluttonous, glorious weekend in New Orleans. We Bacchanaliaed at Bacchus, at Galatoire's, sucked down oysters by the dozen, wandered the streets of music, took refuge at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop, dallied with the Hand Grenade, had the best martinis in town at the Bombay Club, and toasted the New Year with a bottle of Dom Perignon on the banks of the Mississipi River. We went highbrow and lowbrow, and had ourselves a grand old fais do do. We waited to see if the power grids and ATMs would go down, because of all the binary code and its inability to process four digits in a year. It didn't. Nothing at all happened. Even if it had, New Orleans would have gone on like always, lighting hurricane lamps, and opening another bottle.
I look back over ten years and see how my path branched, and forked and wound and branched again, leading me to somewhere else than I thought I would be, but better than before, righter than before. I did go to Washington. I discovered that John didn't love me, might be incapable of love, that the southern belle mother was actually crazy and selfish and controlling, and that the southern gentleman father just muddled on being pleasant because he did love his family and didn't know what else to do. I was unemployed, gutted and horrified and grieved beyond comprehension by 9/11 and the death of a friend on one of the hijacked planes, battered by a bad economy, temporarily homeless, taken in by friends who became like my family. I found a new home, a new self on Capitol Hill, as I obsessively played Ultimate, looked for a job, tried to be strong, tried internet dating, real life dating, and gave them all up out of dissatisfaction and decided to set the goal of buying a house and getting a dog. I made friends, lots of friends, great friends, went out, and had a great time. I stumbled onto a great government job, and started a real career. I made true friends, good friends, at my new job, and the path wound its way around to meeting my husband. We met in a time-honored way - in a divey intern-laden bar on Capitol Hill.
We hit it off. We dated. He decided to marry me. We bought a house, one of the Capitol Hill rowhouses that I had craved, coveted every since I first laid eyes on them over ten years ago. Our first week there, we sat amongst boxes drinking wine, and I said I couldn't be happier. And then, to my shock and surprise, there was a dazzling ring, a family heirloom, and I was happier.
We ate and drank and traveled and explored. We survived injuries, illnesses, deaths, including the sudden death of my father two weeks before our wedding. We carried on, we married, we spend two magic weeks in Hawaii, drifting in our honeymoon bubble, in a safe and stunningly beautiful place where I could enjoy my new husband and remember my father and be both joyful and grieving.
A wonderful life is what we managed to build, full of love, family, travel, good wine, amazing friends, exotic places, food, and adventure. We had fun, so much fun. We decided to (finally) have a baby, before my advanced maternal age advanced any more. She was probably conceived on a Leap Year day, and I realized she existed after a weekend of carousing, friends, Brie, sushi and wine.
The long months of pregnancy, heaviness, and heartburn were only lightened by the feathery kicking inside that gave way to outright rebellious pokes and punches. Nothing could prepare me for how much I would love my daughter.
The last year of this decade has been blurred by sleeplessness, but colored by delight, and I can't believe that I wake up in the morning and that I am a mother to this tiny person with so many new thoughts and skills and preferences every day. It is the relentless march of time that makes me melancholy today, at losing all of the things I loved yesterday and now, that they are lovely and beloved and fleeting and gone.
It won't be Dom Perignon and debauchery at midnight to mark this new decade. It will be takeout and champagne with friends at home, and bedtimes at a baby-friendly hour. I hope that all of us will be fast asleep at midnight, dreaming the dreams of the past, but not lingering there too long. The future beats on, rolling at us in the soft light of new dawn. It's a little scary, that future, because I don't know what it will bring, and I love the now. But that's just it: I don't know what the future will bring, and the now is so much better than I ever imagined in the past, so much bigger, and brighter and fuller and lovelier, that I have to embrace that new dawn light, meet it head-on and run with it.
Happy, happy New Year.