“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
—Zora Neale Hurston
It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m trapped in a sunroom making small talk with a child psychologist.
My husband Jay is here somewhere, as is my oldest, plus our dear friends from college. We’re staying with them for the weekend, and tonight we’ve accompanied them to a neighborhood house party.
“The truth about picky eating,” the psychologist says, and I hold my breath because I don’t want to miss this, “Is that it ebbs and…”
‘WAAAH!” my 11-month-old screeches and arches his back while I pull him away from a very fascinating (and dangerous) outlet. My cheeks burn.
“Excuse us,” I shout over Adam’s screams. “I think this baby’s expired. So nice meeting you.” I dart toward the laundry room, where our coats are stashed. I spot Jay in the kitchen and wave him over. “Here, hold this baby for a sec,” I say, transferring Adam into his arms while I put on my puffer jacket. “He needs to go down now.”
On the trek back, I survey the Christmas lights adorning my friends’ neighborhood. Back when we were young and well-rested, the four of us celebrated New Year’s in the heart of Chicago. I remember cocktails, a private party room, kissing at the stroke of midnight. No doubt I spent part of the night quizzing my friends on their goals and resolutions. I’m a New Year’s gal through and through — I love the champagne toasts and dressing up and dancing. I love big dreams and vision boards and setting intentions. There’s something about the promise of a fresh start that’s irresistible to me.
Adam shifted in my arms and laid his head against my shoulder. The past few years, I haven’t wanted to celebrate New Year’s. The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic and a country struggling with political discord, racism and gun violence tempered my mood and dashed my social plans. Hope was hard to hold onto. How could anyone plan or dream when the day-to-day was so precarious?
I let myself into my friends’ place and start Adam’s bedtime routine. By the time he’s asleep it’s only 9 p.m. Going to bed early seems really lame tonight so I creep into the kitchen and help myself to a shortbread cookie before settling into the easy chair to watch a movie.
Our hosts’ new puppy whimpers from her crate. I better give her what she wants, I think, finishing off the cookie. I open the crate and Macie bounds right into me, all gangly legs and a thumping tail. I pet her back and chuckle, “Did you miss everyone?”
She races around the room and stares at me expectantly. With an older, wiser dog at home, I’d forgotten about New Dog Energy (™). “What do you want, Macie?” I ask lightly.
She cocks her head to the side, and without warning, leaps into the easy chair.
“Scoot over, girl, that’s my spot,” I laugh, sliding into the chair pulling her onto my lap. Macie rolls onto her back and cozies up against me. I run my hands across her belly, grateful for the company, this comfortable chair and the gentle entry into 2023. Maybe a new year is like a puppy. She’s eager to be released, whether we’re ready or not. She’ll need a little guidance, but also space to explore. Before we put too much pressure on her, we might step back and pay attention to what the new year wants to offer us. Only she knows what she can become. Perhaps we can see her newness, her energy, her possibility for what it’s always been: grace.
I close my tired eyes and snuggle up with Macie. For the first New Year’s in years, I feel something akin to hope.
A version of this reflection first appeared in my monthly newsletter, Nourish.