A New Year

(Photo credit: Tawnya Gibson Photography)

“My baby starts school today. There is no joy in my heart for this. I want to keep him home, safe, with me. I want him to never need anyone more than me, other than me. I want him to never know hurt or pain or sadness. I want him to be the one human on earth who coasts along, in joy, forever. I want all of this at the same time I know it can never be.”

That was the opening of a blog article I wrote nine years ago, but it could also be today. It seems not much has changed in the decade since I launched my child into the world outside the four walls of home. Sure, heights and voices have changed as have school must have lists and immediate concerns, but the core worry is still there, every year, without fail. My mother insists it will be there until the end of time, which doesn’t give me either hope or comfort, really, the way solidarity should. It simply reminds me that mothering isn’t for the faint and sometimes, ofttimes, I’m very faint. It also reminds me that years go quickly and that trite clichés are sometimes just truths, waiting to be realized.

Tick marks on an endless to do list or pages marked with dates and appointments, some kept, others not; pictures and words, true or trumped up. What does a year look like as you scroll quickly through your calendar app, time rushing by? How do you mark your time, your days, your years? When does a year begin and another end? How do you mark time in your life? Marking time. That seems a formal phrase for something we all do day in and day out without conscious recognition. Is marking time a construct of the middle aged, staring down a speeding countdown to children leaving or something that is kept for the elderly, a life lived stretched behind? Is it for the younger, wishing for things not yet ready and a life stretched ahead? Situational, from big event to big event? Fitzgerald said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” There are many reasons September feels like the beginning of a new year and I wonder if it will always feel this way, when nests are empty and I no longer sit, poised with school calendar, marking days and events. What will a year look like, then, the beginning and the end? Will it revert to a straight January through December mode with no more thoughts of academics or is there something about September that is innately internal that it will still need to be noted, however covertly, when back to school is a thought for only others? What will a year look like, then?

No one really writes about this parenting stage. I find a wasteland of nothing when it comes to the early to mid-teen years and I absolutely understand it. You don’t know where your story ends and their story begins. It’s muddled and messy, but so desperate for support. You have a need to find others who are wading through, counting days, clinging to years and looking at dates that stare, harshly, from the calendar. If nothing’s being written, is that a good thing? Or should the void be filled? We find ourselves here, in this new to us place, but it’s not new. Nothing about this is new. We think back, too many years to mention, to when we were in this place, but reversed and there are no answers there. We look to those who’ve gone before, but much like the birth process itself, the edges are softened, and memories are hazy. It seems this passage through is unique and difficult and one we forge alone. We flick the calendar, write down the important dates and tasks and mark the time. Routine. Routine is the definition of marking time. Ready? Go. Here we go…

New. Different. Started fresh. But with the new started a new countdown. A situational event to start marking a new year. It’s odd, marking time. A year is a year but it’s also a YEAR. The beginnings bring change and hope and a little sadness as one more milestone is crossed. Log. Archive. Try to exact meaning. But time sometimes seems cruel. Kindergarten or high school, it seems the same, the dropping off. The wanting to keep them home and safe and the sadness at bay. It’s always the running forward for them, the driving away looking through tears for you. Both seem monumental and life altering, in every normal and exacting way. Marking this time as significant in different ways and with different feelings, knowing it’s a before/after start of a big year.

Documentation is small. Unwritten. Not seen. Unsure about what to do and how to be. But your instincts say: don’t push. Don’t startle. Don’t make it about you. Smile now. Cry later. Mark it down, in some way. Here we go. Time, September. A start. An end. A year, all in a day.

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Tawnya Gibson

Native New Mexican who longs for the Oregon coast while living in Northern Utah. I’m an essayist and photographer who’s happiest when I marry the two.