Endings . . . and Beginnings (Or, “This IS Next Year!”)

When I was growing up, my mother would plan holidays like no one else.  For Halloween, she’d have literally hundreds of candy bars at the ready for the throng of trick-or-treaters that showed up, without fail, year after year.  For Thanksgiving, we’d have so much food, it’s quite possible we could have fed every soldier in the 82nd Airborne.  And Christmas.  She went all out for Christmas.  Every year she would try to top the previous year’s tree, and she’d hand-make gifts for her brigade of friends–hundreds of people.


But things at our house were curiously quiet for New Year’s Eve.

“It’s the death of a year,” my mother would say.  “I don’t want to be awake when it happens.”  And she never was,

I sometimes was.  It never was a big deal for me, one way or the other.  But if I could stay awake and watch the ball drop in Times Square, why not?  After a while, it set me to thinking.  Why did “the death of a year” depress my mother so much?  And was that really the way to look at it?


Maybe the end of the year is not so much a death, but more of a chance to take a step back, look at the months that have come and gone, and reflect.  Certainly where I grew up, and still live–in the northeastern United States–it is a fitting time for reflection.  It’s cold and dark, the days so short it often feels like you wake up, eat breakfast, blink a few times, and then it’s sunset.  It’s a time for quiet contemplation, for warm fires, hot chocolate, ruminations.  Deep thinking.


Like the end of a story, a novel that has traversed hundreds of pages, we can look back, assess, and recognize the highs and lows, the lessons, the areas still ripe for improvement.  The next story looms.

The next year. The new year.

My mother was okay by January 1.  The old year had been snuffed out–it was over and done.  The new year was upon us.  Beginnings.  Resolutions.  Promises.  Fresh vistas of opportunity.


True, it is all man-made, arbitrary, artificial.  There are several different calendars, of course.  And no doubt there could have been dozens more.  Even so, the new year means something . . . just as the new story does.  The new creation.  The new endeavor.  There is always something new to accomplish, learn, pursue.  There are new sunrises to savor.


“Every moment is a fresh beginning,” as T. S. Eliot once said.

Decades ago, fans of the old Brooklyn Dodgers would struggle to keep the faith.  Every year, it seemed, the Dodgers would win the National League pennant only to lose to the cross-town New York Yankees in the World Series.  It wasn’t every year, of course, but it was a lot!  1941, 1947, 1949, 1952, 1953.  Like clockwork.  The Dodgers perennially felt they had the more talented team–why did they always lose?  Indeed, their roster was dotted with a veritable who’s who of the all-time greats: Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Carl Furillo, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges.  They were overflowing with talent.  But they could not beat the Yankees.


“Wait ’til next year!” the Dodger faithful would say, year after year after year.  “You’ll see.  Wait ’til next year!”

And then, finally, after all that coming up short, the Dodgers defeated the Yankees for the World Series championship in 1955.  Pandemonium in Brooklyn.  “This IS next year!” the fans proclaimed.  And, in fact, so did the front page of the New York Daily News the day after the victory.  It had happened at last.


And now, nearly seven decades after the Dodgers finally triumphed, let’s make 2023 something to write home about.  Write that novel.  Paint that portrait.  Sing that song.  Pursue that dream.

When 2023 arrives, let us all proclaim, “This IS next year!”


Thanks so much for reading!



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