In With the Old

January 6, 2013 | By | Comments (1)

This year, Allison Glock resolves to reread her Harry Crews collection and stop feeling bad about her jowls.

Illustration by Brian Ajhar

Illustration by Brian Ajhar

Last year, my husband and I decided to forgo New Year’s Eve entirely. We ate a normal meal in normal clothes and went to bed at 10 p.m. Instead of a Bataan death march toward midnight, we chose to wake early and head to the Smoky Mountains for a hike in the Southern wild.

It was an appropriately dismal day. Gray, spitting freezing rain. I remember thinking if my resolution had been to start running before breakfast again, I would have already failed. We donned our slickers and packed up our car with snacks of cheese, salami, crackers, dried fruit and nuts, plus a bar of dark chocolate the size of a business envelope. We also picked up our two dearest neighborhood friends, Peggy and Scooter, partners in our experiment of the willful denial of the so-called holiday.

The drive to our hike was an hour. The roads were empty, the rest of the town presumably sleeping off the night before. The isolation emboldened us. We turned up the radio, sang along to The Louvin Brothers in loud, twangy voices. We cracked the windows, letting sleet pelt our faces, tiny nettle stings that pinked our skin. We asked each other “Would You Rather?” questions, striving to be as disgusting as possible. Soon, we were at the trailhead, the rain now dropping in sheets. We waited out the storm in the car, playing Apples to Apples and eating the chocolate “for energy.”

Eventually, we braved the icy woods. Here, too, we were alone. The slickness of the trail made for a slow, laborious trek. We were forced to creep, and thus, to notice things, like the layers of golden leaves draping over fallen logs like a taffeta ball gown, or the sway of sodden branches, hanging low enough to graze our heads and anoint us as we passed beneath.

Peg and I linked arms and talked softly about ourselves, the way you do when you feel safe. Scooter and my husband watched the rising stream and speculated about trout. Mostly, we were quiet, even when we stopped and ate on the riverbank, our bottoms frozen to the rocks like tongues on a winter flagpole. Our teeth chattered as we chewed. But none of us wanted to leave.

We knew we were where we should be. Amid ancient trees and moving water. Hip to hip with the people we love. Eating simple food that, thanks to the alchemy of the woods, tasted better than a four-star dinner. It was the opposite of a New Year. It was a reminder of the old, the always, the bolsters that build the bridge. Friends. Spouses. Roots of all sorts.

We walked the trail back even more slowly than we climbed up. The rain grew thick again, reminding us that the world was not ours to control, with resolutions or otherwise. I removed my glove to hold my husband’s hand. He did the same. There was nothing new about it.

COMMENTS

  1. Greg Hankins

    My wife and I were cleaning out a closet full of old magazines recently, and decided to take a break. I sat down with the January 2013 issue of Southern Living, and read your “In With the Old” piece. I really appreciated it, and it really stuck a cord with us.

    35 years ago, as young marrieds, we moved 6 hours away from both of our families – too far to drive more than a few times a year with 4 young children. So we established holiday traditions of our own which were centered on our new community, church, friends, neighbors, and the kids. Most of the celebrating seemed to take place at our house, instigated by us, and always enjoyed by all who participated. Pretty soon – we were “party-central” for the holidays!

    And suddenly, 2 years ago, we found ourselves empty-nesters. And our own children had moved even further away, married, and were having children.

    Instead of trying to make expensive travel plans on the holidays (which are always at risk because of our midwestern weather), we decided to stay home and enjoy the days. Soaking up the peace and quiet of what had always been hectic (and expensive) days. On Thanksgiving we go out for a full feast – and don’t have to clean up. For Christmas we sleep in and open a few well-chosen gifts later in the day. I put on a small rib roast and sides, and we eat when it’s ready. We talk to the kids and grandkids. We watch a movie or two, look at the albums full of holidays past, and maybe play a game or two.

    So many of our friends (and relatives, including the kids) think we’re crazy. We just smile, and tell them that maybe next year we’ll make the trip.

    But we know we won’t.

    July 12, 2015 at 3:23 pm

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