Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Ringing in the New Year


I’m ringing in the New Year in some hotel in the middle of Texas. My big New Year’s Eve celebration consisted of doing a week’s worth of road trip laundry for a family of six and playing board games from a sleeper sofa while enjoying my two complimentary drinks from the Manager’s Reception and polishing off the bottle of bubbly we picked up from the Target around the corner. We do this every year, my family and I. We have for about the past sixteen years. We lock ourselves together in the car with nothing more than a couple bags each, a loose idea of where we may be headed, and a stack of AAA road maps. I sit writing this with my laptop perched on a vanity counter, charger strung across the sink. My daughter’s toothbrush, my pretty pink gift with purchase cosmetic bag, and my big fat movie star make-up brush provide the backdrop for the essay developing in my head. My New Year’s resolution is to write, dammit, regardless the obstacles in my way. If this means pounding away at the keyboard while my family packs their bags and readies themselves for the next leg of the trip, then so be it.

I have committed to three hundred words a day.

This sounds like nothing, but believe me it is no small feat. I have participated in writing challenges in the past. The pattern is always the same. Start off strong. Finish miserably midway through. Curse myself. Vow to never make a commitment of any type ever again.

Excuses.

This is what always stops me. I don’t have the time. My schedule is full. An emergency came up. I have work to get in, work that pays, work that pays money. I don’t have the skill, the talent, the ability. I’m not as great as what I think. I don’t have the audience, the interest. I just don’t care, don’t feel like it, am not on speaking terms with my muse. I’d rather read, sit in the sun, have coffee with a friend, take a walk in the woods. I’d rather do homework, do laundry, do lunch. I’d rather do anything but sit my backend down, sit my backend down and write.

I could make excuses. I could make excuses now.

I have moved my essay from vanity to car. I sit crammed into my husband’s Yukon with him and my four kids. I say kids, but at this point in their lives they are adults, adults and one teenager. That seems wrong to me. I am beginning to understand the mothers who reminisce with, “Just yesterday she was standing on the chair at the kitchen sink in her tutu and cleats washing the mud from her soccer ball.” I am also beginning to understand the mothers who profess, “No matter how old you are, you will always be my baby.” I was chatting up a seventy-some year-old man once who was talking about visiting his mother. Good Lord, I thought. Will I someday be Mom to an elderly man?

I will not use these people as my scapegoats. I will not use them as the excuse for not doing what I am here to do.

If anything they provide me a rich source of material.

I could glamorize these family trips if I chose, but the truth is that the best of memories are those that have nothing to do with the destination of the journey. Yes, we have walked beaches, climbed mountains, enjoyed spectacular waterfalls, and photographed caves, countryside, and canyons. We’ve trekked major metropolitan sidewalks, poking through upscale urban boutiques as well as artsy funky small town shops. We’ve picked up postcards and visited little hole-in-the-wall bookstores at many of the major tourist areas in addition to a number of quaint little off-the-map spots as well. The best memories, however, have been those unexpected, day-to-day events that could have happened anywhere at any time.

“Remember when John threw up in front of the pink flamingo?” “Remember when I got sick in the van, and you had to clean me up in the men’s room?” “Remember the New Year’s Eve we couldn’t find a hotel and thought we were going to have to sleep in the car?” “Remember when Steven almost fell into the Grand Canyon?” “Remember the boys jumping over those trash cans in that park at Niagara Falls?” “Remember when that bird landed on your head at that winery in Napa?” “Remember when everybody saw a moose but Kate?” “Remember the Alamo and the wedding and how everybody was still really bored?” “Remember taking my picture on that giant bull?”

We’re exploring Waco now. Not that Waco needs exploring, but we’re here and what else do we have to do? And from my perspective out the passenger window, I couldn’t glam this up if I tried. But I have my family beside me, an essay before me, and sun all around. Writing challenge or not, I’d say it’s a pretty darned good way start off a brand new year.

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