It is our New Year’s Eve tradition to have a sundae bar. It’s a pretty simple one, to be honest: vanilla ice cream, whipped cream in a can, defrosted frozen strawberries, chocolate sauce, maybe some bananas and Smarties. Whatever we can find half-empty in the baking cupboard like chocolate chips or the sad remaining pecans in the bottom of the bag. We aren’t really big on parties even in the Before Times and a quiet marking of the night seemed right to us. We FaceTimed with family.
We put our youngest to bed after that and I headed to the bathtub. (I might look back at this pandemic as the Year of the Baths. At this point, I draw a bath like a witch brews a cauldron.) I read a novel while the kids rewatched an old episode of Doctor Who downstairs. After we put our 9 year old Evelynn to bed, my eldest daughter, Anne, and I retired to my bed to read in companionable silence for the last couple hours of the year. Our son, Joe, and Brian played chess together at the kitchen table, listening to music and muffled fireworks banging in the neighbourhood. We really know how to party here.
A few minutes before midnight, I wandered out to the kitchen followed by Anne. Evelynn sneaked out of her bedroom, sheepishly admitting she set an alarm so she could be up for midnight (this is very on brand). Brian poured some good Scotch into a heavy glass as Jim Cuddy’s rich voice sang from the stereo.
Joe and Evie went to the bedrooms and took their little calendars off the wall. As the countdown began ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, they opened the back door and fired them into the yard, into the rain and darkness, hollering, “Good riddance!” Evie’s kitty calendar fluttered open and landed in a puddle, the ink of her notations running in the rain.
Four, three, two, ONE and I went down the stairs and opened the front door like I do every year. “Welcome to this new year!” I called as soggy fireworks lit up the clouds.
Brian joined me as I walked out to the grass and tipped my head up to the misting rain, closing my eyes in relief. He gathered me into his arms and I don’t take this for granted, not for one second. The past few years have taught me all over again how nothing we love is guaranteed to us and so I wrapped my arms around him and we stood in our jammies in the yard, kissing at midnight in the rain.
Even though I know there will be surly grumpiness as payment for my generosity in the light of day, I’m glad I let the kids stay up to see the dawn of a new year. They joined us outside with their faces hopeful and filled with wonder. Against all of my knowledge that magic doesn’t happen at midnight’s chime, I felt the thrill of hope with them. The stars were behind the clouds and I could see our breath before us. We made it to this milestone and in the midst of it all we held each other. This is more than enough. Noticing and naming these things feels like a practice of gratitude and a posture of worship now.
I do not know what 2021 will bring to us. I don’t have a “word” for the year, nor do I have resolutions. I only have stubborn hope and a love for prayer and so:
May the God of compassion and open doors, be with us this coming year.
Everything sad won’t come untrue this year and this year will hold its own tragedies and sorrows. We’ll relearn lament and fight for joy. May we show up with courage and faithfulness for our lives and our callings and our people. May we be restored and renewed even in exile. May the wilderness become our cathedral and our altar.
May we say good-bye to the things that do not serve us - the selfishness, the fear, the illusions of control, the bitterness, the doomscrolling, the self-pity, the martyr complex, the us-and-them fire stokers - and say hello to wisdom, to kindness, to justice, curiosity, wonder, goodness, generosity, possibility, peace making.
May we throw open the doors of our lives to the disruptive, wild, healing Holy Spirit. May this be a year of unclenched hands and new songs, of vaccines and reunions, of good food and some laughter, of kind endings and new beginnings. May we be given a mustard seed of faith, it will be enough to notice and name what you love in particular about your life as it stands.
May 2021 bring you goodness and courage, hope and love, resilience and a hand to hold even on the nights with no stars.