Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Champagne, Leftovers and the Unknown New Year

I think a lot of people are cynical about New Year's. The first day of a new year is truly just another sunrise and sunset, and the night before can be nothing more than an agony of ridiculous cover charges and hangovers-to-be.

But it just might be my favorite holiday. Unlike most holidays, it is a two-day affair: the Eve, in which we remember the year that has gone, and the Day, in which we look with hope at the year to come.

I love, too, that it is that perfect mixture of all that is ordinary about our lives and those few unique moments that keep our lives interesting. We still have to fix meals, do laundry and buy groceries, but we get to wear sparkly clothes, drink champagne and stay home from work.

These last few days, as we finished up 2012 and coasted into 2013, I felt keenly the blend of regular and unusual in our house. Around the table, the last three days have felt like a cross-section of how we eat at our house: one-third mommy-scrambling to prepare something with leftovers, imperceptible vegetables and a gush of sauce; one-third patronage at Chef Matt's restaurant, shoveling lovely food while vainly trying to sedate screaming children; and one-third Matt-at-home concoction, wondering why we can't eat venison au jus and rutabaga-carrot mash more often.

Eating these three wildly different meals were my typical little eaters: a five-year-old who cannot eat a meal in less than 45 minutes, a three-year-old who can be convinced to eat anything provided it comes with ketchup, and a one-year-old who can sniff out a vegetable even when it has been pureed and baked in a brownie.

All of that smacks of the everyday in our house. But this New Year's was sprinkled with all those little things that make the ordinary gleam, just a little bit. We were eating leftover slop and venison chops in our new house. Matt worked a 14-hour day on the Eve, but was home all day with us on the Day, a rare family day. I skipped the champagne and went to bed at nine-thirty, courtesy of Baby Number Four. I wore sparkly clothes and stayed home from work.

None of us knows what a new year will bring, in the form of out-of-the-ordinary. Is that not the amazing, and scary, thing about our brief time on this earth? Our lives generally just continue as usual, and we get tired of doing dishes and changing diapers. But every year, New Year's comes around to remind us that there are champagne glasses and new babies, too, and we can feel hopeful again.

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