I was channel surfing on New Year’s Eve when I ran across Anderson Cooper chortling on his CNN special. My mom used to love Anderson Cooper and while she was usually shocked by Kathy Griffin, my mom couldn’t help but laugh right along with Anderson at the outrageousness of her humour. Hearing his giggle reminded me of my mom, who used to call Anderson her boyfriend. And knowing that Kathy Griffin was no longer there to make him laugh in the way that spurred my mom to giggles made me a little melancholy.
My wife and I spent most of the evening in the living room. We listened to music and Valerie read while I tended to the fire. I didn’t feel like reading so I searched where I store fireplace accessories, the kindling and newspapers, looking for an old crossword puzzle to do. I found a Saturday edition of the Toronto Star and uncovered a whole section of puzzles. I didn’t know why I had a Saturday Star because I don’t buy that paper in Ottawa. It was dated April 2014. Almost four years old. And then my wife reminded me that was the month when my father died and I’d bought that paper for his obituary. I had saved the obituary long ago but the paper remained in my living room for years unbeknownst to me. I did the puzzles tonight and I burned the rest. One newspaper provided me with a short summation of my father’s life, a few hours of fun diversion and fuel for the fire that helped keep my wife and me warm on a cold winter night. Over the span of almost four years. I’ll miss newspapers when they’re gone.
We drank sparkling wine and ate seafood and had cheese fondue. To light the burner I grabbed some matches from my desk. It was an old box of wooden matches from a restaurant I worked at for a long time. On the box was a list of all the restaurants in the company. I think three or four of the eight are now closed. And I thought of all those people who worked so hard on New Year’s Eve for so many years. Myself among them. I wondered what they were doing tonight. I’ll never forget what a slog it was. Even in the best of times. Respect.
I saw on-line that some of my old musician friends were playing NYE gigs. I don’t know how guys my age can still do it. I never liked performing, mostly because I didn’t feel like I was good at it but also because I never felt comfortable doing it. I guess some people have it in their blood and some don’t. I never did. I can’t help but remember though the rituals of a gig. The smell of the black magic marker I used to write out the set lists. The banter and the words of encouragement before the show. The sense of brotherhood, sink or swim. And there’s the unique moment on stage when you know you’re doing well and the feeling is shared among you not with words but with a simple smile. For those still doing it, who still love it, you are very lucky indeed.
And so here we are on New Year’s Day, a time when we reflect upon that which we’re leaving behind and look ahead to what will eventually unfold. It’s only natural to think of the end of a year as a time when we’re turning a page in our lives just as we turn the pages of a calendar. But really it’s just another day in a long line of days. The past is never far behind and the future is only a night’s sleep away.
Yesterday, my memories were stirred by a matchbox, a newspaper, the smell of a magic marker and the sound of a stranger’s laughter. And I can only imagine what I may experience tomorrow or next month or next year that will evoke something in me further down the road. I have no way of knowing what might trigger my future unexpected reminiscences but I look forward to finding out.
Big memories have a strange way of re-surfacing in little ways.