Taking stock at the end of the year

by Brian Clarey

With the air turning brittle and the sun settling into its wintertime arc as it moves across the sky I’m reminded that another year has passed and it’s time to take stock.

A lot has has happened since the last time we hung up the Christmas decorations in my house. Last year we had a brand new baby shaking up our household routines and covering our shoulders with spit-up. I also took a new job right around this time ‘— the one I’m performing right now, as editor of this publication.

Both the magazine and my daughter have grown and flourished in this past year, and while I don’t take credit for their progress, it’s been a privilege to be a part of their growth.

I will remember for the rest of my life the morning my daughter was born ‘— it was the day George W. Bush was reelected to the White House and I watched in disbelief as the election results rolled in on the small television in the delivery room at the same time my wife took her epidural and started to bear down.

I’ve had a pretty good time knocking W around in the pages of the magazine this past year, though I feel the damage he’s done to this country and her people will take a generation to undo, and there’s nothing funny about that.

The baby turned out much better for me than the election, and watching Rosaleen as she’s gone through the paces of the first year of her life has brought me more pleasure than I could ever have known. I cut her umbilical cord early that morning, a physical and symbolic gesture that I was unable to perform after the births of her two brothers due to a squeamishness inherited from my father’s side. I was there when the nasty little raisin on her belly button dropped off; I rocked her to sleep when her mother was too exhausted to open her eyes; I got on the ground and beckoned her when she began to crawl around the house like a private moving through barbed wire and trenches in WWI, using her elbows to propel herself forward, keeping her butt low and always maintaining eye contact with her destination. I’ve bathed her and fed her and made her smile. And today she looks at me like nobody else on earth ever has, making me feel better than a fistful of Vicodin ever could.

Likewise, my job here at the magazine has brought me pleasures that I couldn’t have imagined when I was an obscure New Orleans feature writer. Even now I’m reminded that when I came to Greensboro five years I had nothing save for my wife and newborn son, and some money I had squirreled away from a lucrative week of bartending during the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival of 2000. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a reliable computer. And I didn’t know a soul in my new hometown except for my in-laws, and back then they weren’t too sure about me.

But that was then’….

They say your thirties are an amazing time, years when all the things you’ve dreamed about as a young adult actually start happening

This past year, my 35th, they started happening to me.

I’ve lost a lot this year: Hunter S. Thompson, one of my heroes, is gone. Likewise with Saul Bellow, Johnny Carson, Arthur Miller and, just the other day, Richard Pryor. There have been others as well. But these losses are easily outweighed by what I’ve gained: a sense of duty to the magazine; a huge jump in the volume of my body of work; a renewed confidence in my abilities and an enormous sense of accomplishment both professionally and personally. The magazine is doing well. So is my family. So am I.

Which brings me back to Rosaleen.

She’s coming along nicely: her eyes are settling into a light hazel color as she grows, and her hair is easing into a coppery shade of red that is just starting to sprout into curls at the base of her neck. Her vocabulary has expanded to about 20 words, including ‘“backpack,’” which is a reflection of her love for a cartoon explorer named Dora, ‘“yes,’” which is the name of the magazine that came to be just as she made the turn from newborn to infant; and of course ‘“Da-Da.’”

That’s the word she saves just for me.

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