Sometimes, endings aren’t synonymous with an overt break, a startling shatter or a definitive finality. Sometimes, endings are quiet.
There is no burning flame, there is no swirl of chaos. It could be the subtleties that shift; particular nuances that roll in and out of our lives like a low tide, unbeknownst to us as we experience moment to moment.
Sometimes relationships begin to alter ever so slightly or fade completely. Sometimes special traditions cease. Sometimes life changes and moves onward. And we may feel hints of loss when this realization hits us.
A J.D Salinger quote (from Catcher in the Rye) comes to mind:
“Certain things should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and leave them alone. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.”
But we could still retain the memories, the lessons learned, and the essential growth from those periods. We can forge new beginnings as well.
With the New Year behind us, I began reflecting upon one particular childhood tradition that was truly cherished, one that lasted until my late teen years. The day before New Year’s Eve, my family would pack the car and drive a few hours up north to visit my aunt, uncle and cousins in a small New England town.
My senses usually were heightened as I inhaled the scent of burning firewood and homemade cookies. I’d take in the sight of the beautiful, sometimes-snowcapped mountains and the charm of the house itself.
On New Year’s Eve, the adults would dress to wine and dine at a nearby restaurant, and the kids would bicker over who got what from a fast food joint – but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We were content just sitting at the kitchen island, simply being with each other.
And after our stomachs were full from hamburgers and French fries, we’d watch a movie until our parents arrived back at the house, promptly before the ball dropped in Times Square. The rest of the night comprised games (“Outburst” always was loud and always a favorite), music and lots of laughter. There was both physical and emotional warmth — from the fireplace and from the company.
Following a delicious brunch with everyone on New Year’s Day, we’d pack our car once more and say our goodbyes; those goodbyes were always hard. Excitement was replaced with feelings of sadness and longing as we drove away from this New England town, away from the mountains and away from the past three days.
I miss that weekend, but life happened. People grew older, or moved, or schedules changed, and our New Year’s tradition became difficult to maintain. Yet, I’ll hold that experience and slice of time close to me, while knowing that new traditions can be ignited as well.