After a blurred month of excessive “to dos,” on this morning I force myself to sit still, shake the snow globe resting on top of my desk, pretend to catch a few snowflakes on my tongue and revel in the wonder of it all, quieting my mind while house guests sleep.
It’s that time of year. Memories arrive. Some treasured and cherished. Others uninvited.
This December sadly marks the sixth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting when Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children, six staff members and his mother before turning the gun on himself. I remember reading how the grown-ups had to walk students out of the school building, right past the bodies of classmates who had perished during the shooting spree. To keep the kids from seeing all the mayhem, a police officer instructed children to “close your eyes and hold hands.”
I had forgotten those words until recently hearing them again — this time during a yoga class and in a very different context. Our instructor, MaryAnn, asked us to move mats into a small circle, suggesting we extend arms, grab hands, close eyes and breathe. Not everyone reading this column is a yoga fan, so let me share what happened next. The room grew small, very quiet and still. More human. I heard hearts beating around me. Layering hand over hand, a sense of peace and unity was unfolding in real time. Emotions emerged in ways hard to describe here, but ranging from the deepest of deep sorrow to pure and unbridled joy. Slowly opening eyes, we exchanged smiles, tears, a good year’s worth of bottled-up emotions.
The human condition in all its glory and glitter: some of us overflowing with happy, others experiencing abundantly difficult and challenging times.
December holds an array of mixed emotions in the Bacon household. It’s the month our daughter, Danielle, was born. She recently turned 39, causing my husband and I to gasp before the series of flashbacks began, both of us reliving and instant replaying “rabbit test” results, false labor pains, real labor and finally her arrival — a pair of big brown eyes, massive curly hair, the “baby’s first Christmas” outfit (I received more than a dozen that December), and relatives vying for their turn to hold her. She was the first grandchild, first great-grandchild — my precious bundle of red velvet (more delicious than the cake). Almost four decades later she is a wife and mother of four. As the saying goes, life happens in the blink of an eye.
December is also the month my 91-year-old mother passed, exactly one year ago. No one did Christmas like her. When she took her last breath, I knew it was the last time I would smell the aromas born from her tiny kitchen on East Wolters Avenue. She loved calling and saying, “It’s urgent. Drop what you’re doing and come over,” words signaling Armenian gata, tourshi, soubereg, kuftas and other homemade delicacies would be blanketing her countertops. She also loved luring me into her sewing room to drool over her latest masterpiece. Last year she made quilts for all of the great-grands. A hard act to follow. Simply put — irreplaceable. Another empty chair at the dinner table.
A few weeks ago when the rains came, I had gone upstairs to assess my stash of holiday décor. What I found, instead, was a humungous leak in one of the closets — drenching the keepsake box holding vinyl albums Dan and I had collected since college days (Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, James Taylor and Barbra Streisand). All of them in pristine, mint condition, they told the story of our “coming of age” years, including the “falling in love” chapter that had changed our lives forever.
I lack the words or language here to explain the punch-to-my-gut sensation finding them drowning in water, album covers permanently stained with mold — the vinyls themselves warped, contorted, twisted.
Art imitating life.
Later that evening, when Dan arrived home, we hemmed and hawed until heroically, he found a large garbage bag and volunteered to do the honors, announcing in baritone they were simply unsalvageable. Another life lesson about letting go.
We hold on. We let go. We hold on harder. Tighter. Surrendering to life is a tall order.
I can’t think of anything else to say that hasn’t already been said about the bleakness of our nation and world. But here at home, despite everything, we remain close-knit. I experience this daily — at the grocery store, in restaurants, at the gas station. A few days ago while purchasing gift cards, an elderly woman stood next to me at Vons looking bewildered while hunting down McDonald’s and Panda Express gift cards for her grandkids. Sensing her frustration, I scooted my cart next to hers, exchanged a few pleasantries, and helped her find them in the massive sea of plastic. We do that here in the Valley. No big. Without fail, in less than five minutes of chitchat, we discover a deeper connection — the bond of shared friends and experiences. Lives intersecting. A support system second to none.
Next week we start all over again. A new year of hopes, dreams, and promise. Here’s wishing you and yours a healthy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.
Now, if only we can remember to close our eyes and hold hands.
Armen D. Bacon is a Fresno author. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org, @ArmenBacon.