The picture above was taken at the end of December, 1981. I love the little paper sign: “Make sure the storm door is SHUT.” It’s a mildly chiding reminder, the upper case letters conveying the exasperation of someone who has had to say this a bit too often.
And I love my red coat. It was actually more of a rich magenta color, or maybe you would call it a burgundy red, a gorgeous wool garment with a silky lining that had been my mother’s in the 1940s. I wish I still had it.
In any case, my days of shutting storm doors were about to end. This was my very last week in Syracuse, and the journey I was about to take marked the start of a new kind of life for me. My gaze is lowered, somehow both shy and brave, not looking ahead or behind me, as if I were instead contemplating some interior amalgam of secret possibilities. And it seems that I’m almost smiling, or on the cusp of speaking…but what would I have said, and to whom?
Now, nearly forty years later, poised at the doorway between an old year and a new one, I want to shake some sense into that young girl in the photo, and I’d like to warn her of a thing or two, but I can still relate to her. She had some guts, although it’s easy to be brave when you’re young like that, when consequences seem mostly abstract and negotiable. She had lost her beloved father just three years earlier, but there came in the eventual aftermath an unfettered free-falling abandon that could be either craziness or courage. It was fueled by a flicker of faith, and pushed along by the drive, until then dormant, that her father had bequeathed to her. She finally saw that she could freeze in place, settle into the slush of springtime in Syracuse, and gradually melt away–or she could script a different life.
Today, at the threshold of another new year, I stand with heavier burdens, but I stand. Sorrows have accumulated, but also wonders that I never even imagined. I wish I had been more loving, but somehow I am loved nonetheless, and what was left undone cannot be done, nor can what is done be undone, but there is still a little time to do better. It has not escaped my notice that in 2018 I will turn the very age my father was when he died, and I have recently been given a tangible reminder of my own physical vulnerability, but that is all the more reason to step through that door and fully engage in the world. I am discouraged now, but I care about what happens, and I resolve to act accordingly. I resolve, and I am resolute, and even if nothing is resolved, we must keep trying.
So another year is about to end, and here I am, lingering at the doorway, somehow both tentative and tenacious. It’s time to close the door behind me, make sure it’s shut, step out, and move forward. I am without a red coat, but I have silver hair now, and some hard-won smarts and wrinkles, and I live at the edge of the land, where the sky is vast, and citrus trees grow, and anything might still happen.
Happy New Year…to friends I’ve met, and friends I haven’t.