So here's to us, for the rest of our beautiful days...
Another year! Do you believe it? I don't. It's been too busy to stop and think, too full of change to spend much time reflect on all the changes. And on the world spins, whether we like it or not.
We had dinner last night with friends from the Sandlands, a couple who also returned home this year after years overseas. We compared notes on all that's happened to us (oh, okay, we mostly griped about having to do our own laundry) and remembered the New Year's Eves we'd spent out there. We all agreed we're happier here, despite the dishes in the sink and the dogs to walk (they have a cat, but still), although I think we're both more than a tad prone to wanderlust and all too likely to be off again some time, if not in the year to come, than before too many more years roll by.
Tonight, though, we'll stay at home, the Mister and I, and pop the cork on a little something to celebrate that may or may not carry us through to midnight. Years ago, Australian friends brought to a very gay (in the old and the new sense) Christmas party in Cairo bottles of Antipodean sparkling red, and this year we happened again on the stuff while perusing the aisles of a local bottle shop (something that after all those years in the Gulf is still a guilty pleasure). So that will be a treat, and if it's a calmer New Year's Eve than some gone by (remind me sometime to tell you all about the one that ended up with sailors in a Times Square dive), I think we'll be content right where we are. We've been told that our neighborhood is rife with fireworks and firecrackers on this night of nights, so we'll have terriers to soothe, which can actually be very gratifying.
Last weekend I went to visit Miss Rheba; we had a nice pre-Christmas lunch and caught up. I don't think I've mentioned it, but in the last couple of years my old chum has proven herself to be the bravest person I know. A couple of years ago, she took an enormous leap of faith, signed up for her local foster-care program, and in startlingly short order found herself caring for a newborn boy, a ward of the state. Within a few months the adoption was in train, and now she is, at our august age, the mother of a toddler. I can't imagine the energy and dedication it would take to do such a thing, being the least paternal of men, but I can still admire it. So this year, she's looking to the future.
Earlier this month, the phone at the office rang and the caller turned out to be my freshman-year college roommate, a very nice man whom last I saw sometime in the late '80s. His own sons are off to university now, which has turned his mind to the past, and he tracked me down. We'll be having dinner, with our respective spouses, sometime in January.
Togther, these two things - especially perhaps coming as they do at this time of year, when the evenings gather in early and one is so conscious of moving from one year to the next - have set me off thinking about time. Talking, in the course of our lunch together, about the 30 years and more we've known each other, Miss Rheba said, "The only way I feel any different, really, is that death is nearer. I've started to think about that."
I know what she means; it's not a morbid feeling, really, but a new shade to the way one thinks about time - as something finite, more fragile than we knew even if we've gone, as we have, through the deaths of relatives and friends. Mortality, in middle age, becomes the unexpected guest at the party of living; I think there is some measure of how well you live in the equanimity with which you welcome this new visitor.
But that all seems very gloomy, and today of all days, in the face of winter's cold and early darkness we must be (in the old sense) gay. How brilliant is the lyric that Carolyn Leigh wrote for Little Me, how it captures the slightly hectic edge one feels this time of year, but even so, how gallant, how brave. And how beautifully dear Judy sings it - the last number of her ill-fated television adventure, but she is undimmed at what must at the time have seemed a crushing defeat.
Let's face the great unknown of 2014 in its spirit, muddling through and ready to throw the occasional bouquet...
Here's to us, my darling, my dear,
Here's to us tonight -
Not for what might happen next year,
For it might not be nearly as bright.
But here's to us, for all that we have,
And the road that we've travelled so far,
Skies of blue, and muddling through,
And for me and for you as we are.
And here's to us for nothing at all
If there's nothing at all we can praise,
Just for spring, and wanting to sing,
And for feeling like flinging bouquets.
Here's to us forever and always!