Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year and a Word

For a long time New Year's Eve felt like an empty holiday to me.  So much of its sparkle and glamour is borrowed from the leftovers of Christmas, like some hand-me-down of a once-fabulous party dress that's been worn a few too many times.  Of course I understood the symbolism of the holiday; I got the idea of starting fresh. Resolutions are important, even if we abandon them a few weeks later when the three-layer chocolate & raspberry cake is hauled out on a bier at some cousin's birthday party. The thought that we can make serious changes for the better in our lives is profound, indeed, but I've always felt like I make such changes better in a quiet way, without the hoopla.  After all, every day is the eve of a new year, if we choose to make it so.   

When I was a girl, my parents and their friends took turns hosting New Year's parties, complete with canapes, streamers, and champagne.  We kids would be shooed upstairs to play Twister and drink punch with Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve blaring on an old TV in the background.  Periodically throughout the night, we'd sneak downstairs to restock our supply of chips and onion dip.  I remember running back up the grand staircase in the elegant old sea captain's home of some friends, cupping a napkinful of cheese cubes in my hands.  Glancing down into the living room, I suddenly felt positively tipsy from the laughter of the grown ups, the pipe tobacco of the men, and the flashing costume jewelry of the women.  The whole world was a film reel that had been speeded up, clicking faster and faster, and so I ran as quickly as I could to keep up with it, rushing headlong into the next year, making myself stay up all the way until midnight to see the great glittering ball drop on TV and all those people in Times Square hugging and kissing and singing "Auld Lang Syne."

Around me at the party the other kids who had managed to stay awake were watching the ball, too.  We didn't hug and kiss.  It was a strangely passive moment watching other people celebrate in a city far away, accompanied by the sound of our parents' cheers drifting up the stairs.  What exactly were they celebrating, I wondered?  Before I could even begin to answer that question for myself, we were bundling into our heavy coats and hats and scarves and gloves, and heading back out into the crisp, cold night.  The rest is a blur until morning, when I awoke with the knowledge that I had stayed up later than ever before.  Not much else had changed.  I was too young to make resolutions, because I didn't have any truly bad habits yet (little did I know that those would come soon enough), and the only thing different was that I would have to start training myself to write 1975 instead of 1974 on papers and quizzes at school.

All that noise and cheer had felt a little bit hollow to me.  Years later, when I was old enough to drink champagne, it felt even more hollow--fun, but hollow.  New Year's possessed none of the delicious fright of Halloween, none of the romance of Valentine's Day, no stirs of the patriotism I felt on July Fourth, and definitely none of the joy I felt at Christmas--that one holiday that can make even a small child wax nostalgic.

My cold regard for the holiday was reinforced when I was a teenager and my father died a few days into a new year. Nearly two decades later, my grandfather died on that very same day.  Last year, on the 26th anniversary of my father's passing, I received news that turned 2010 into one of the most difficult years of my life.  Honestly, I've come to dread January.  And yet . . . there is a part of me that is happy to mark another year alive and the chance to make the coming year a better one.

Each New Year, several of my friends choose a word for the year that lies ahead.  I've never done this before, but I've decided that I want to this year.  I thought the word would just come to me, maybe just fly in through a crack in the window frame or land softly on my head like a snowflake when I was out walking.  No such luck.  I've had to really think on this.  After much searching, I've found my word: grace.  Now that it's here with me, it feels like a perfect fit.

Here's to the new year, to health, to peace, and to grace.


  1. Dear Friend,
    I think you have found the perfect word for the year to come. Grace is my mother's name and the middle name of my daughter. There is something so calming and comforting in that word.
    May this be a year full of grace and goodness for all.
    With love,

  2. First, that last photograph just knocks my socks off. :) Wow! Second, I just think of my word for the year as a gentle reminder, a tap on the shoulder. It stays with me in a way resolutions never do. Grace sounds like a wonderful way to go. I think it fits you already. (And ps - you had MUCH better New Year's Eves as a child than I did!!)

    And yes, here's to grace in the new year. And health and love and inner & outer peace.


  3. Absolutely beautiful piece of writing and I can relate to the holiday being lost on me. I don't have any memories of celebrations growing up and as a grown-up, I just don't get it. The party part. The resolution thing. But last New Years I chose a word for the first time and I am soooo very glad I did. That will be the path I take from now on.
    I'm glad you decided to adopt a word of the year (or at least give it a try). I'm glad you found your word.
    May grace be upon you in every way this new year.

  4. You've inspired me to let a word for the year come to me. I love Christmas; it's passing is a little sad. But Christmas also comes with sadness when 3 years ago, my dear brother-in-law whom I had known for 56 years died. His forever optimism has inspired me - heh, I think I've just found the word. Love your posts. Joan

  5. Wow,what a beautiful post,Gigi! February has that down feeling for me, as that is the month I lost my father and two great friends, had a fire in our house and got burglarized. I hold my breath thru that month. I agree with you,Grace is a wonderful word to have chosen. Looking forward to more of your wonderful posts & photos in this New Year!! Much love, my friend xxoo

  6. That last photo is absolutely gorgeous.

    I know what you mean; summer is becoming that time for me, the time I dread, the time of bad tidings, bad news, sad times. At the same time, though, my heart leaps a little bit to greet another one.

    Grace is a perfect word; serenity and steadfast courage in the face of adversity.

  7. Beautiful post, love your word (and I wish mine came through some crack, I haven't decided on one yet).

  8. Grace is a perfect word. May your new year be overflowing with it. I love you, my friend. Happy new year.

  9. Aw Gigi, happy new year. It's been quite a year for you, and your heroic attitude about embracing this new January is, well, herioc. Here's wishing you grace, joy and peace in 2011. xoxo

  10. Wishing you a wonderful 2011. May it be a happy and joyeous year for you xo

  11. ahhh, grace - that truly is a gift isn't it? grace - something not earned but given. what a beautiful word.

    you're right - everyday can be the dawn of a new year. i'm ready to start anew as 2010 was rough. and yes, whether its 26 or 10 is never easy to remember those that left way too soon.

  12. Hello dear Gigi. Thank you for sharing what was on your heart....with grace all things are possible, a perfect choice.

    Wishing you happiness, health and peace in 2011.
    xxx DJ

  13. To 'grace' word is 'contentment'....not dissimilar I think. Happy New Year and thank you for your beautifully reflective post....xv

  14. One of your best posts Gigi and you captured the young New Year's feeling so well. I remember it just as you described it, the onion dip too (and those dip trays). You are very good for my insomnia tonight. Only the DD gets insomnia on New years Eve! I also hope 2011 will be a year filled with grace for you my friend. Much love XO

  15. GRACE is the loveliest word & way of being to begin a new year, Gigi! My own feeling are much like your own regarding New Year's. I never got it, still don't in many was as my inner new year clock has always been geared in the autumn... But I've come to appreciate the kick-start that January can offer for trying new things, etc. My word/phrase for 2011 is Live Slow--Live Well, which I'll be writing about on Monday. I look forward to the days ahead! Wishing you all the very best in the New Year, my friend :o) ((HUGS))

  16. Huge grace to you
    and your pen:)
    ...and a shiny new year
    to you and your tribe.
    Thanks for the beauty
    you are
    and you share,

  17. New to your blog - love the photography and your way with words!

  18. Wonderful, wonderful post! Thanks so much for these thoughts. Grace is a great word to go into the year with.

    Hope your New Year is a wonderful one!

  19. i know that feeling....finding the word you hope finds you first. and grace...well there you go. i think 2011 will be an amazing year for you...

  20. Grace is most definately, your word. So much so!
    You embody grace.
    So that said embrace this new year with grace as I know you will and lead the way. We'll willingly follow you.
    January has been blah for as long as I can remember too. I retrained my brain to enjoy the clean slate January brings. New beginnings. I see why adults would cheers to that!
    Happy New Year Gigi :)

  21. grace is a wonderful word, gigi. its a word that sounds lovely to say too. i do think this whole holiday period is a toughie, i think it comes with too many expectations that tend to fall flat. for me, today - sunday - i'm glad it's over. it wasn't at all awful, lovely NYE party under the stars, but probably...because i tried to have no was a lot better than i thought :). and now, we can move forward into 2011..i'm excited, mainly for creative reasons and just feeling in a very 'inspired' place at the moment...fingers crossed that it will last :)

  22. Grace has such meaning in it's five letters, and such beauty. Reading your description of parties past took me to my own home, with my parents and their friends celebrating, only it was about five years earlier, we were downstairs and it was late night movies we watched. The chips and onion dip were the same I think, as was the pondering.
    But New Year's Eve is one of the few holidays I really love; I never go out - it's a quiet, reflective one for me.
    On the millenium, I rose before dawn and walked to a favourite secluded place and watched the sun rise on the next century. It was the best ever, and a memory of hope and peace I hope I never lose.

  23. My dear friend Gigi,
    No wonder New Year's Eve isn't your favourite time..... and, there is no rule that say's we have to celebrate it. I feel that you are a very strong person and have coped well with loss. It isn't easy to lose a relative at any age but when we are young it is very difficult.
    Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful 2011, filled with joy, happiness, special moments and, of course, grace. Thanks too Gigi for all of your lovely comments and support throughout 2010. With much love. XXXX

  24. Happy New Years to you my dear Gigi...and I do hope it is overflowing with grace and love and fun:) And may this January be gentle with you...

    I always found New Years Eve celebrations underwhelming too...and I always seemed to be having less fun than everyone around me. September and the start of a new school year always seemed oh so much more of a time of fresh beginnings!

  25. Your words spin magic in my head. Yes, New Year's Eve has always seemed abit shallow and empty to me. Most years I don't even stay up, but this year I did make the effort and I am glad I did. Your word Grace is a good word. I had that word a few years ago and did learn from Grace. I realized I was a person who didn't accept help well. I always did it myself. It was a real challenge that year to learn to accept with grace from others. Yes, a very good word.

  26. dearest gigi ...
    every time i read your words, you envelop me and pull me in, in a way that is indescribable ...
    ... every day is the eve of a new year, if we choose to make it so
    with these words alone you have bestowed your grace upon us ...
    the grace that is so perfectly you ...
    your perfect word for every new day ahead ...

    with much love, great gratitude
    and a great big bowl of chips and onion dip ~

  27. I learned to pick a word for the new year from my journaling friends. River started us in painting a rock however we want and to pick a word to be our goal or what we wanted to happen in the new year. I tried summoning a word ahead of the time of our gathering together, but that turned out to be fruitless. When we met, River had us take a quiet time, a meditation time. After awhile, a voice whispered in my inner ear, "trust." It is a marvelous way to anticipate the new year with hope. Your word "grace" opens a world of possibilities! May the new year bless you!

  28. Beautiful post. My first time visiting your blog.... It is lovely. Peace to you in the new year.

  29. Well,
    I know I am late, sending you best wishes for the New Year, Beautiful Post.

  30. It's funny, but oftentimes when I visit you, I feel that you exude grace... in your writings, in the way you see things, the way you live your life, the way you connect with people. It is a word that already belongs to you, my friend.
    Wishing you an inspiring year ahead. xoxo


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