It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and as I review what I wrote in 2015, certain truths leap off the page, some more pleasant than others. Somewhat chronologically, I learned the following, whether I wanted to or not:
The miles between you and your grown daughters and sons are just markers on the side of the road. You may see them less often, but those visits may deepen into something richer than when you all shared a kitchen, bathroom, and car.
As much as I want my lipid levels to straighten out (up with the HDL! down with the LDL!), there are certain foods I am just not going to live without. Eggs for breakfast. Cream in my chai. M&Ms on car trips. (Mmmm . . . what was the question?)
Social media can be both a time suck and a lifeline, sometimes simultaneously. Just ask someone who broke her foot and can’t get out of bed unassisted for months.
Even the highest quality television series or theater production (live or filmed) is, at heart, a soap opera. We must save Downton Abbey from the auctioneers! Luke, I am your father! Hermione marries Ron?!
Make new friends, but keep the old. This goes for cars, too. I love our new Subaru, but I cherish the old RAV4. Every dent may not be a cherished memory, but oh, the places we’ve been.
Car travel can be exhausting, boring, and uncomfortable, but it beats flying by air. You can listen to books, sing along with satellite radio, eat all the nostalgia candy from Cracker Barrel, hang your bare feet out the window, yell at the GPS, and, most importantly of all, you can take every single thing you want, including a picnic lunch and two-liter bottles of Squirt. Try that on a plane.
Blood is thicker than water. As Robert Frost famously wrote in Death of the Hired Hand, “Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.” Sometimes that means you go to where your family member is. Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night should keep us from showing up for family.
Water (see previous paragraph) is necessary for life. Just in case you thought I meant that the friends you choose are less worthy of your time and attention than the characters with the same mother and/or father, nope, not what I meant. I could not have endured what this year brought without regular contact with friends to make me laugh, help me cry (or to stop, depending on the day), and to make sure I’m eating enough. (Chocolate. These are true friends.)
When your children have children, well. It’s something else. You think you know about babies, because you had them yourself. You have no idea how much you have forgotten, and furthermore, this relationship – think of it! the babies of your babies! – is not about “kids say the darndest things” or baking cookies with Grammy. It is – or it can be – an immeasurably profound and astonishing and unique relationship. How convenient that nature makes these creatures so sweet and precious you cannot help falling in love with them.
Having kids messing up your yard is far preferable to a neighborhood with only old folks who yell at the neighbor kids.
The death of a pet is a death in the family. Oh, Leo. I still sometimes think I hear your meow when I walk in the door.
I left my heart in Colorado. It has gorgeous clouds in a sky-blue sky. It has black-billed magpies that bark like small dogs from the trees. It has a fascinating capital city. But most of all, it has mountains (surprise!) that appear like magic as you drive west, like a mirage, a shock, and dream. You can drive up winding roads and be in those mountains, breathing that rarified air, and it’s worth the trip. Even an exhausting, boring, uncomfortable car trip.
The house where you raised your family, the one you painted and furnished and hung lights on and invited people into, may be torn down at any time. So take pictures of the kitchen faucet that drove you nuts and the secret red room in the attic.
Accidents are called accidents because they happen accidentally. I can tell you to watch your step every day from now until the apocalypse, but I can’t save you from missing a step and breaking your fifth metatarsal, the way I did. But you could at least get rid of those throw rugs.
Holidays are what you make of them. Your kids might appreciate fewer cookies, fewer gifts, fewer mandatory Santa viewings if they get, in return, more time with Mom and Dad doing nothing, which often turns out to be everything.
The Family Medical Leave Act, designed to protect your job if you can’t work because of your own or a family member’s illness or other crisis, will do just that, but only if 1) you worked at least 1,250 hours the year before, and 2) you are gone no longer than twelve weeks. After that, all bets are off.
Finally: Anyone can lose a job, no matter how professional, dedicated, passionate, brilliant, productive, kind, or helpful she is. Once they – the Powers that Be, or just the dismal bean counters – decide your position is expendable and, more to the point, will save a gazillion dollars if outsourced, your days are numbered. But it’s not your fault. You were good at what you did, and the people who mattered noticed.
[One other lesson learned: Two columns a month is one too many. So I’ll see you back here in February!]