When the Year is Dying

It is a typical gray November day. The air is bitter and heavy with woodsmoke, the ground having just melted away the last of the heavy frost, and sweaters are now the normal every day wardrobe.

In the past few weeks, I have found myself with holiday burnout before the holidays have even truly begun. In a rush of activity, life has gotten hectic and seemingly all that could go wrong did. Our car was at the shop, our refrigerator is freezing everything solid, and I have felt that similar desire to clean out and empty the house–to start fresh and have minimal items–to tidy. It happens often before the holidays and gets to its height on New Year’s Day. But there’s an odd twist of emotion added to the changes this year. Gone are the baby bottles as well as the station where we would wash them, binkies are disappearing one by one, and the highchair that has been moved from room to room and used for meals and activities was discarded.

This is the first holiday season where I feel my son is a truly a member of the activities and enjoying them as much as we are, if not more. It is the first time he has talked to Santa and said reindeer fly and has noticed Halloween, autumn, and Christmas decorations. It presents a new world of exciting possibilities and magic to be relived from years past, but it also reminds me that without a doubt, we no longer have a baby in our household.

One can feel mourning for the loss of that time that will never be had again while also being glad to see their child grow and to be so lucky to see them grow healthy and strong. But that mourning is something I hadn’t foreseen. It isn’t something I suspected would be so sudden and heavy, appearing in evenings after my son has gone to bed when I am finally able to sit and breathe and look around the room and realize how much the toys have changed in the last near three years.

It hits me suddenly when we are eating lunch and he looks at me and speaks to me in a fully formed sentence, when he declares he will cook in his kitchen and serve me drinks and dishes and not forget the utensils, when he takes his empty plate to the sink or throws trash into the trash can. It is a realization as I place a keepsake on my bedside table again after these number of years because I realize I no longer have to keep it out of reach, that he will respect the item and leave it where it’s meant to be. It’s suddenly around me as some baby proofed items are put away, with hope of further use someday…if we are lucky.

In some ways, November days and winter overall are a time of reflection and mourning–at least for me. I’ve lost many people in my life, and nearly all of those were lost in the winter months (particularly the holiday months). With holidays that are family centered, the lack of those family members are felt all the more. Even though I rarely spent these holidays with these people, there were still cards and calls and general love shared, but now the calls are unanswered and cards are set to fire so the ashes may go up into the sky and mingle with their souls.

Time feels like it’s truly passing in the winter months as the old year dies and a new one is born. It’s there as I purchase new winter clothes for my ever growing child and we approach another birthday for him. My winter baby that was meant to be born in spring. And after the loudness of spring and summer, I find myself wanting the silence of snowfall and the peace twinkling lights and warm candles provide.

And so, you find me today on the final weekend prior to the true start of the holiday season sitting in a quiet apartment where the mirrors have been cleaned, the furniture dusted, the floor a little more empty without that highchair present, and my mouth silent and still while my mind wanders and thinks over all that has passed, all that has changed, all that will be new.

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