Friday, January 1, 2010

The Usual New Beginning

Someone once told me that if you do something once it's just something you did; if you do it twice, it's tradition; and if you do it three times, it's how you've always done things. I guess we've reached the latter stage when it comes to this holiday time. For the third year in a row, My Beloved and I closed out our year with a New Year's Eve Extravaganza All-Day Date. We spent all day in the city haunting one of our favorite book stores, shopping for clothes, eating out (twice!), and seeing a movie. It's a thrill-ride day of spending and acquiring and savoring that pretty much sates us for six months or so and keeps me awake until midnight, which is way past my usual bedtime.

This year's acquiring portion was a little different in feel. Living in one bedroom and part of a den in someone elses house precludes buying unnecessary stuff. It's freeing actually. No wandering around stores that might have something pretty or getting more of things you already have (except books). We bought only things we needed (again, except books), things the current life tells us that it requires to function, like farm jeans and office attire to replace the husband's shabbier items and a new printer/scanner/copier to replace our dead one. In cramped spacial or financial quarters, you rediscover that you don't need much; that if you won't use it and don't have a place to put it there isn't any point in buying it anyway; and that there can be clarity in limitation. What has made the cut is loved and used and guilt free--one of the silver linings to what seems at first a daunting and unpleasant challenge.

When I was younger, shopping days like these left me feeling as if a hunger had been activated but not sated. There might have been more to see. There never seemed to be enough money to buy all I did see that I thought I wanted. If I found nothing worth buying, that was a disappointment, too. I would head home feeling not quite done. Now, when we hit the stores, I feel only grateful. I appreciate having the funds to buy what I need and a few things I want. Each bag I add to the cargo area of the car makes me feel lucky, especially since I know that all of it is paid for. I didn't have that assurance years ago, either. If gratitude replacing greed is a benefit of passing years, I'll take it.

However moderated now, this little city treat day of ours is a thrill for frugal wannabe-farmers. But it's not the best part of our New Year's Eve. These are the supplies for the sweetest part.

When all the running around is done, we return home, get into our good pajamas, and have a quiet, private time of reviewing the old year passing away and welcoming the new one beginning. We look through the previous entries in the notebook listing the major events of our lives in past years, while we nibble on a little something and sip champagne, after which we record this year's milestones and share our hopes for the coming year.

This year's nibbly was ginger snaps because one of the bloggers I've newly discovered this year said that they were good with champagne (She was right). The bubbly this year was Spanish cava, bought just because the bottle was so pretty. We knew we probably couldn't finish it (although we tried mightily), but it was cheaper than the half bottle of good French stuff, so what the heck. We poured the last third out with just a little regret before we tipsily headed to bed.

Our little ritual reminds us, partly to our relief, that life can change so much in a year or in any of the moments it holds. The family-heirloom mantel clock was still bonging at midnight because my husband wound it well. He is the third generation to do so, and that winding was the first one by him. A baton has been passed in a small but poignant moment that deserves marking, like the turning of the year. It's just a clock stroke that happens on the same night of every year, but it gives us the hope of new beginnings. I'm a sucker for hope every time.

We had a bonus this year in our blended household. The mantel clock and the grandfather clock are a few minutes off from each other. We indulged ourselves with two kisses and Happy New Year toasts, one for each chiming. Double wishes can't hurt.

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