Tonight, we celebrated German New Year’s Eve with the kids, which means, we drank sparkling cider at 6pm and the kids watched streaming video of the Brandenburg Gate while we scrambled to finish up dinner and keep the baby out of the dishwasher. Tony found old video of our actual German New Year, seventeen years ago. There we were in Berlin, with four of our friends, the air hazy with smoke, the noise deafening. Even then we were joking it was like a war zone – everything gray, the sound of explosions jolting. We were a little nervous, sure, but of being hit by the fireworks people were throwing out of windows. Terrorism didn’t even cross our minds. It was ten years after the fall of the Berlin wall, and MLK’s moral arc of the universe seemed to be bending heavily towards justice.
We’d been there for the ten-year celebration in November, having stepped off a train in Berlin five months earlier with no idea where we would spend that night, much less the next year. Each of those days – our first in Berlin, at the Brandenburg gate in November, and again ringing in the New Year, felt so full of possibility and good things to come.
Seventeen years later, I wish I felt as hopeful. 2016 saw our family’s beautiful 5 ½ week cross-country camping trip – two adults, five kids and a pit bull in a minivan. It was without a doubt the most incredible experience of our lives. But we returned home to our beloved cat dying, and the rest of 2016 has brought a lot of hard, sad and scary things not just to us, but to those we love and to the citizens of the world. I want to feel hopeful, want to say, good riddance to 2016, but the truth of the matter is, the turning of a calendar page cannot undo death, diagnoses, elections.
Maybe tomorrow, I will walk in the woods, and breathe the peace of the trees, and feel hopeful. Maybe I will believe in happiness after grief, in peace amid worsening conflict, in the power of resistance. Maybe I will believe in good things to come. But tonight, I am curling up with my sweet man, my baby girl, and this love right here:
I will listen to the quiet breathing of my dear children, and be thankful for every single bit of my great good fortune. But I will not feel hopeful. Not tonight.