Saturday, January 10, 2015


Year 1066 (MLXVI) was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. The year was a turning point in English history due to the Battle of Hastings and ensuing Norman conquest of England.

"I have to say, I love this."

"This?" my friend shrugs.

"It's so perfectly January."

She laughs.

"No, I love it.  The metal's so hard and icy and the vases empty.  And the little caged bird and the greeny blue eggs, everything's so contained," I am cupping one hand all around the other, "all ready to be served up on a tray.  It's perfect."

I'm not surprised.  Appreciative.  This friend runs a vintage shop.  Every month this space changes with the weather.  A nuanced commentary on the year's turning, a mingling of the past with the just about to happen.  It's not decoration, but installation, an exhibit you can walk around in, sit down in and talk.

Her laugh bubbles up, "Well, it wasn't on purpose.  I put it down here just before you came.  I was gathering things together for what I'm doing next."

Which is even more January.

As I should know.

1966 (MCMLXVI) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1966th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 966th year of the 2nd millennium, the 66th year of the 20th century, and the 7th year of the 1960s decade.

January's child,  I can still remember when I first realized the parties the neighbors' were having were not to celebrate my birthday.  I realized it, but didn't quite believe it until I was nearly grown.

Because the year and I have always come running in on the same day.

Maybe for anyone it's hard to believe at first that there was really anything happening before you happened.  Didn't the world start rolling only about fifty years ago?

All I know for sure is that 1968 may have been the watershed year for the rest of the world, a cultural turning point neatly cleaving modern history into Before and After, but 1966 was mine.  1066 was the fertile mingling of Anglo-Saxon Celt and Viking French that made my mother tongue.  1966 was the marriage and months that made me.

A morning or two after their January wedding

A year I never breathed a bit of.

My father spent it finishing his last year of a mechanical engineering degree.  My mother spent it working in the hospital, a medical clerk, collecting doctor's orders and keeping the patients' records organized.

It was the same hospital I would be born in.  It had only two floors back then.  She worked on the medical floor, or maybe it was surgical post-op.

Not maternity.  Not pediatrics.
That was all to come.

Though they didn't know it at first, I was always coming.  Their very own April Fool's joke, played back on them nine months later.

When she couldn't fit into the green scrubs any longer, my mother made herself a green dress to wear at work.  Round collar, short sleeves, gathered yoke.  A big handy pocket for holding things.  

I lived there, right beneath that pocket, while my parents lived in a basement apartment that's no longer there.   If I ever saw that first home, it was before I remember anything.  But I've been told how the bathroom shower spouted onto my father the spaghetti my mother had just rinsed off their dishes in the kitchen sink.

The accidental contingency of everything in that long-gone year has now become inevitability.

Not a leaf fell that autumn that wasn't meant to fall.  Not a snowflake swirled up into their faces that wasn't part of the choreography. 

But it didn't seem that way to them.

Chance fell like leaves all around them. Possibility swirled.

At the center, I was sleeping, dreaming dreams I can't begin to imagine now.


John Romeo Alpha said...

I hope you don't mind, but I listened to "An American Thanksgiving, II: McKay" while reading this post, and they seemed to match up perfectly. Rapturous possibility, those leaves of chance verdant with life, rivers of delight ahead. Something in the faces in those old photos, I guess.

Emma J said...

I have been listening to that piece all month over and over -- how wonderful that some of its flavor seeped into the words!

Lisa B. said...

This is the most beautiful thing. Your mother--so beautiful. I've missed reading you.

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