The first winter of Writing Boots was 13 years ago. At that time, we were entering The Great Recession and my father was dying of pancreatic cancer. This December, feeling a little discouraged, I looked back, for a little perspective. I got it—and I thought maybe you would, too. We’re shutting down here until the New Year. We’ll pick it up then, my friends. Together. —DM
In addition to the usual chaos at home, in addition to the additional chaos provided by my dad’s epic final adventure, my new mother-in-law Duan is here. She’s Thai, she’s charming and she speaks pretty good English, but we’re getting to know one another without the benefit of Cristie’s Dad’s facilitation and clarifications. (He’s in Romania, attending a work-related crisis.) It’s joyful—and it might be, actually, for the best—but it’s exhausting, for all of us.
And today Uncle Randall and Aunts Patty and Marty are coming the big party at our place. And that’s not mentioning the frozen-tundra golf tournament tomorrow and my Plimptonioan tryout a couple days later for the local women’s pro football team ….
All to explain to you why I carved out a couple cozy hours this morning and skated down the frozen sidewalks to sit in the cavernous Mercury Cafe and read The New York Times and edit an out-of-work family member’s resume. I brought my laptop down here, too, because on this New Year’s Eve I feel a strong urge to take stock, to list some facts for reference next New Year’s Eve.
• My daughter is what Thai people would call—I haven’t memorized their word yet—a “sweet mouth.” What five-year-old, on your return from a trip away, lists the things she misses doing with you—cuddling, talking, wrestling, urban adventuring, reading? And why would that five-year-old be given to me?
• My wife and I, college sweethearts, still fight ferociously about all the small stuff, still agree wordlessly on all the big stuff.
• My dad remembers, when he was a very little boy, lying beneath his parents’ dining room table and looking around the furnished house and doubting he would ever amass such wealth. Now it’s with a similar sense of blinking wonder that he talks about my life—the unfathomable cast and the organic plot—and really, he doesn’t know the half of it.
• The only thing I ever ask, I continue to ask: Dear God, if you are up there (and even if you are only in my head), keep the grindstones coming and make the work as useful as you can. I’ll do the rest.
• And no matter what happens—whether I am cranking out copy in my upstairs office or counting out pills in my dad’s kitchen—there is the Great Compensation. That’s writing—and this blog, where have only to stick out my hand and I find someone to touch, and get touched back.
That’s where things stand at the end of 2008. Recession, depression, or all-out cabin decompression, if all the above is intact at this time next year—and this is some pretty sturdy stuff—I’ll be happy.
So Happy New Years: the last one, and the next one.
Onward, my friends, together.