I’ve always been someone who gets nostalgic at the drop of a hat ("Ah, the memories that brought back of hats I have seen drop in the past!"), so New Year’s has always been an important date to me – the time when one is officially meant to reminisce about what’s happened since last year and the ways in which things have changed, along with musing on what the upcoming year might be hoped and/or expected to bring. Oh, boy, do I do that. Normally, I wallow in a level of introspective nostalgia that almost has me disappearing up my own dropped hat.
However, this year I was pleased to realise that I seem to be getting a tad more laid back about the whole thing. Instead of obsessing about finishing all my musings in time to write a formal farewell to 2006 and get all worked up about leaving the year behind, my level of reaction was more like "Cool! Midnight! Time to watch the fireworks." In fact, the part of the whole deal that stirred me by far the most was the four-day weekend. (I don’t go into work on Tuesdays, which is highly pleasant on any week but particularly good on Bank Holiday weeks – I get the double bonus of four days off in a row and missing the worst of the post-Bank-Holiday rush back at work.) So, I got four wonderful days off work, and I got caught up on sleep, and on the Journal Backlog Pile, and on some e-mailing and blogging, and got a couple of letters written that I’d been meaning to write, and a bit of my ironing dealt with, and some general relaxation time, and, oh, yes, somewhere in the middle of all this a new year started. So, this was all pretty cool.
What was also pretty cool was that Barry’s parents came to visit for the weekend, thus meaning that we could enjoy
having someone take the baby off our hands the pleasure of their company without having to drive for hours in order to do so. We went to the park on New Year’s Eve morning, and watched Jamie running around and climbing and bouncing and jumping, and then on New Year’s Day the two of them went out for a walk in the nearby field and took Jamie with them. The first thing he did, when we let him out in the back garden, was to get his little watering can and start trying to water the plants with it, busy and satisfied and absorbed in his work the way he always is.
I watched him go as he toddled away with Nana and Granddad, in his Thomas the Tank Engine wellies he got for Christmas with the flashy lights he loves, and his khaki-green outdoor coat with that snuzzly-looking furry-edged hood. I don’t know exactly what it is about the sight of him running round in that coat that makes my heart feel so full with contentment that one drop more would make it overflow; I think it’s the way he looks so big in that little-boy way. I used to dress him up warmly because he was so little and helpless. Now I dress him up warmly so that he can go out and explore the world. It was one of those moments when of just standing there and savouring my overwhelming good luck in life. My good luck in having such a wonderful son, and my good luck in having someone to take him off my hands for half an hour so that I could get a bit of a break.
A little later, after they’d got back and after I’d changed Jamie out of a very muddy pair of trousers, my mother appeared bearing food and gifts – the latter coming under attack by Jamie even before we’d brought them all through into the living room. Jamie’s main present from my mother was an electronic piano keyboard – a present that she’d cleared with me in advance and that I’d happily agreed to, given his passionate love of anything with buttons and anything that he can make do something, such as make a noise. What neither my mother nor I had realised was that, since this keyboard wasn’t designed for toddlers but, rather, for people who actually play keyboards, the default volume was at a setting that could best be described as "Large noisy hall", and, for a household living room, it was a bit much. It could of course be turned down, but it took Jamie an astonishingly short space of time to realise that all he had to do was turn the keyboard off and then on again in order to put the volume back to the initial ultra-loud level. By the next morning, the keyboard had been stowed behind the Christmas tree, a place from which it did not find its way out for some time.
Jamie also got a set of Little Bear books, which he absolutely loves, and I got some books which I’d asked for, and we gave my mother her presents – a National Trust gardening calendar, a crocus bulb in a pot for growing, and a set of super-duper fancy cookie cutters as a present from Jamie, to include, hopefully, many happy hours of grandmother-grandson time using them. Then my mother cooked up a storm providing us all with a delicious lunch, and, after that had been eaten and Jamie settled down for his nap, she and I embarked on the next book in the Harry Potter series, which I’ve been reading her chapter by chapter for the past several years – an endeavour which has been a lot slower since Jamie has reached the actively mobile stage, since I don’t really think Harry Potter in the style of Joyce Grenfell would be the way I’d want to do things and thus we can only get the reading done in those extremely infrequent moments when not only are we visiting her or vice versa, but when Jamie’s asleep and we’re both awake. Such a moment occurred on New Year’s Day, and we made the most of our chance to read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. It was an excellent start to the New Year.
After all this, I got back to work on the Wednesday to discover that the reason we’d been so busy the previous week in the few days between Christmas and New Year wasn’t just, as I had thought, because this is always a busy time of year (the extra burden of illness due to winter, combined with the backlog from the extra days off), but because one of the doctors was off sick. Two of the receptionists were off as well, including the one who normally handles the repeat prescription system – one of the others covered for her, but, since she hasn’t had the extra training to know that, for example, when someone orders Zoton it does actually mean the Lansoprazole listed on their repeat list, this meant that a lot more of the requests had to be printed out by us instead of just signed. One more thing to add to the workload.
All of which is why this post is so late to appear – I haven’t had any time to post at work, and when I get home in the evenings I’ve just been too tired. Even though everyone has been back at work for a good couple of weeks now, and, even though the general workload has now dropped from ‘run ragged’ to ‘general winter busy-ness’, I’m still trying to catch up with the backlog that accumulated in that time.
But I did feel a lot better for having had an excellent New Year’s. And to round it off, we went to my mother’s house the following weekend for Christmas, Installment 3, so that we could meet up with my sister for further exchange of presents and good wishes. Jamie got even more books, and my sister got me a new bag that I’d needed for work, and I got her book tokens, as she’d finally given this as her heart’s desire after giving up on trying to think of anything else after I’d pestered her for a Christmas list for the half-dozenth time. I got her Amazon gift vouchers, having been assured by Barry that if you buy vouchers from Amazon they would post a proper certificate that I could give to Ruth, and only discovered after 11 p.m. on the evening before we were due to set off to Mom’s that, in fact, what they send is a gift code in a standard e-mail that’s addressed to the recipient of the voucher. This was slightly less snazzy than I’d been hoping for, so, since I wanted to give my sister something to unwrap that looked marginally more exciting than a printed-off e-mail to herself, some frantic last-minute searching of the Internet for appropriate certificate designs ensued. However, I did manage to find rather a nice one, so I put her gift code on that with a message and printed it off to bring with us for her present. And, although my mother and I didn’t manage any more Harry Potter, the cookie cutters did get a try-out (while I took full advantage of my mother entertaining Jamie in order to nap).
Looking back on 2006, my overriding impression is that it was a good year. As soon as I look in more detail, I can see that a certain amount of parental amnesia seems to have gone into that conclusion; this was the year of Jamie’s most difficult toddler period, the time when the ratio of common sense to mobility is at its lowest, and most of what I remember about the details is a sort of blur of frustration and irritation and no-Jamie-don’t-do-that. But, somehow, looking at it from this distance and taking the longer view, that’s not what I see. What I see is a year in which my wonderful, healthy son made huge strides in growing up. I’ve said it before, but somehow I can’t stop saying it again – Jamie has been turning into a proper little boy instead of a baby, the fledgling person emerging just that little bit more with every passing month until I find myself looking back and marvelling at how far we’ve come. For that, it was an amazing year.