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A sense of place and time

by Brian Clarey

I wanted to write something beautiful for this first column of the year, something beautiful and brilliant that takes the entire decade and neatly wraps it up with wit and style, gathering the threads of our experiences both shared and personal and weaving them into a brilliant tapestry.

 

So far all I’ve got is this: You know how you watch one episode of a TV show, and then a few months later you decide to watch the show again, and the same exact episode is on? There ought to be word for that.

 

Deja view? Anyway….

I’m back at the house after an extended Christmas break in New York, with highlights that include warm moments with friends and family, frozen hours of post-blizzard seclusion and lukewarm miles in the car that, two small arguments and approximately 8 cups of vomit notwithstanding, went reasonably well.

I’m at the kitchen table, looking out to my yard at the melting snow, reduced here in Greensboro to a few thin patches that surely won’t last the weekend. Up on Long Island, they won’t be seeing the dead, brown grass for a good, long while, and there are cars trapped in snowdrifts that may not be loosed until March.

It’s just as well, I say — there are too many cars careening through the streets of the New York metropolitan area as it is. This trip I used my car’s horn more times in one week than I do all year, and I myself was honked at for infractions like stopping at yellow lights, driving below the speed limit in blizzard conditions and, I suspect, displaying North Carolina tags on my vehicle.

That’s the way it goes up there: It’s a tough town, and episodic road rage is one of the reasons I knew at a young age that I wouldn’t be staying. If I had to drive on the Belt Parkway every day to get to work, my body would be a boiling pustule of stress and I’d probably drink my dinner every night — which is also a part of the way it goes up there.

I spent the entire decade living here in Greensboro, on a path that wound through one new cat, two live births, three domiciles, four jobs and at least five hairstyles.

I should also add that this issue marks a full six years of YES! Weekly, an enterprise of which I am proud to be a part.

I didn’t know, when I left New York at 18, how generous life could be, how deep the well of experience could run, how things can build on one another to become something… significant.

Frankly, I didn’t know much of anything. And I suppose it is a mark of my age that I finally realize I know even less than I suspected, that life’s mysteries are just now beginning to make a sort of sense.

Here in the house, after a week snowed in at Grandma’s Long Island apartment, the kids are resettling into their lives: making up for lost internet and video-game time, rediscovering toys that they haven’t seen since Santa left them here a couple days before Christmas, sneaking pieces of stashed candy and gum, watching their father write on deadline.

It was something to see them last week, ensconced in four generations of family, enacting holiday rituals established long before they were born. Their entire lives, the taste of roasted peppers, lasagna and good, crusty bread will remind them of Christmas. Just like it does me.

They’re starting to realize the importance of getting away, of trading in the mundane things they do every day, all year long, for a prolonged vacation from the routine. And I’m beginning to sense in them an appreciation for all this we’ve given them: a mix of novelty and continuity, a breadth of cultural experience that we hope they will chase all their lives, the importance of eventually coming home.

The house is slowly coming back together here in North Carolina as the mottled snow banks recede: the mail gets sorted and read, the laundry rolls through its cycle and lunch will come hot from the oven. Tonight is New Year’s Eve — the end of something, but also a beginning.

It is not inappropriate to mark the turning of the calendar with revelry and communion, and maybe a little something to wash down the events of the last year and usher in the next.

Me, I plan to spend the evening at home — not exactly a tradition, but again not inappropriate to the occasion. Here we’ll have food and a little whiskey, a fire in the hearth whether we need it or not. We’ll play music and maybe some cards, and when the time comes ’round whomever is still awake will embrace and smile and wish for another year of love. And then we’ll step outside into the night, gazing at the new sky to look for fireworks.

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