Saturday, January 10, 2009

More Like a New Year's Musing

Although SRH and I are very compatible, as evidenced by 25 years of joyous, peaceful marriage, there are naturally ways we are very different. Some of them are quite fundamental (and no, I’m not talking about plumbing, either our own biological sort or our abilities to fix the pipes in the house, although certainly we are yin and yang in both those areas).

The fundamental difference I’m thinking of today might come under the heading of general world view. SRH tends to focus a lot on the past, deriving his pleasure from memories of happy times, enjoying his ability to recall them and the young, healthy fellow who features in them. I tend to focus on the future, imagining exciting things to come, of cures found for what ails us, of weddings, of grandchildren. I muse not on fun cruises past but wonderful cruises yet to come. The next is always going to be the best one.

The ability neither of us possesses is that of living for today. We both get up each morning and proceed to muddle through the next 15 or 16 hours, doing our routine, mundane things without much thought. While we’re doing them, SRH relates them to similar situations from 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, and I think about how different things will be next year, or five years from now. (I tend not to go so far ahead as he goes back!)

His is the safer track. The past is a known quantity. It is fun to remember happy times, and sad times can at will be either ignored or recalled as something successfully survived and moved on from. My fellow dreamers and I live with the constant potential of shattered hopes and derailed plans. But I can’t be any other way, and with age seems to come improving ability to accept that life zigs and zags and tunnels and bridges and takes you places you never imagined. You have no idea what stations your train is going to stop at, which ones it will pass by, and which one will be your terminus.

I think what has led me to follow this train of thought (sorry, carrying that metaphor into this paragraph was a mistake) is that my family, both nuclear and extended, is at a kind of turning point right now, moving out of one era and into the next. This was brought home to us by events of Christmas Dinner 2008, a.k.a. The Last Big Dinner that Never Happened.

My extended family: my parents, three sisters, three brothers-in-law, and all the grandchildren, have managed all these years to get together for Christmas dinner. It was not always easy; it required understanding in-laws and inconvenient travel and the numbers got to be a little unwieldy, but we kept it going for a long time. We were finally, ultimately stymied by the Great Snowstorm of 2008. What was to be the biggest gathering to date, with an aunt and cousin and her family to join us, was thwarted when Mother Nature kept everyone in their own homes.

Subsequent sisterly conversations revealed that everyone had very much enjoyed the quiet Christmas season at home with their own families and friends instead of the hectic running around to prepare, travel and congregate for the mass clan dinner. Accordingly, a rather momentous consensus was reached: it was time, at long last, to stop gathering under our parents’ banner and settle into our own family Christmas dinner traditions, under any one of whose banners our parents would, in future Christmases, be welcome to join. The majority of the grandchildren are now grown up, or nearly so, and are already beginning to head off and make their own lives and traditions. The clan is on the verge of branching very quickly into a dozen different directions.

This is something that you can be sad about, and wallow in nostalgia, and weep a little tear for an era’s end. Certainly I’ve been known to be a sucker for that sort of thing, having cried like an idiot when my children graduated preschool and sang Skinnamarink-a-dinky-dink to me, but in this case I’m just interested, excited, apprehensive, all those things, about seeing where the L Clan all go on their train journeys during 2009. Where will we all be next Christmas?

Watch this space…

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