On the night of New Year’s Eve, before the celebrations began in earnest, I took the dog for a walk. The mind often wanders when outdoors, and I began to reflect on how, being on the cusp of 2015, I would, in the coming year, be turning forty four. With my attention turned inward, I started to think of all of the ways we, as a family, celebrated Christmas and New Year when I was a child. And, for the first time ever, I felt a sudden, brief, twinge of sadness. Sadness that I am moving still further away from my beginnings, and sadness that some of the loved ones who contributed to those happy memories have been left behind, some far behind.
It was only a fleeting emotion, for I am seldom morose and normally quite sanguine and accepting of the order of things. On life’s journey we all move on, but remain forever attached to our roots. It’s like we wander with a safety cord. Moving on to situations new, but with a stored, constantly developing, frame of reference.
As I walked in the darkness, connected by leash to my Golden Retriever, a fox suddenly shot out in front of us, paused to look back as though to confirm that we were not beginning a pursuit, and then continued on its way. I remembered reading somewhere, about animal symbolism, that in (I think) Chinese folklore, a sighting of a fox indicates a signal from the spirits of the deceased. In that respect, this would have been quite an expedient and timely sighting, wouldn’t it? But, personally, I think it was just a local scavenger fleeing the sound of some premature fireworks. But, in fleeing, what the fox did do is jolt me out of the past and refocus me back in the present.
I continued along the way, still connected to the past, but acutely aware that I am now creating new memories for my own children to take away.
The year trembled upon the edge of extinction.
From my seven year old daughter Millie, when I told her that it is nearly time for the clocks to go back:
“I remember last year, last October, when the clocks went back. It was dark, a little darker than this, and my teacher asked me if I was alright because my tongue was sticking out.”
Well as conversations go, I couldn’t see the problem.
The end of the year seems to make all of us into philosophers and analysts, and my wife was in suitably reflective mood. Looking back on 2013, she considered the highs and the lows, the blessings and the challenges. She paused when thinking of loved ones lost. She talked of the things that she had found trying, the uncertainties of life that caused her to worry, but also the successes that brought her great joy. She talked of our growth as a couple, and as a family, the way our children were continuing to blossom, and looked forward to greater opportunities for us all in 2014.
Then she asked me to give my perspective on 2013.
“Well, the most emotional parts was Agnetha Fältskog coming out of exile, and Tom Baker appearing at the end of the Doctor Who anniversary special.”
It was when I saw the look on her face that I began to falter.
“Erm….” (where was I? Oh yes-emotional) “James Herbert dying too….I loved his books when I was younger.”
She seemed to be waiting for something else, but I couldn’t fathom what, and as the silence grew between us, she then said, in a very clipped fashion:
“And what about plans for 2014?”
I didn’t feel, exactly, that she was testing me, but I did begin to feel uncomfortable, and thought that the best policy was honesty:
“Well, I am expecting City to win the league.”
Best Wishes to you all from North Manchester General Hospital. Hope the year is a good one for all of us single people.