Saturday, January 5, 2013
New Year, New Beginnings
By Margaret Maron
Except for when the date changed from 1999 to 2000, I have never paid the first of January much notice. In all our years together, my husband and I have neither held nor attended any parties on December 31. We prefer to open a bottle of champagne here at home alone. We reread the Christmas cards and look back over the year that’s passing, to the births and deaths, the weddings and funerals, the events in our private life together. We lift a glass to those who have gone, we smile to think of those new babies or new friends who have entered our lives and then, on the stroke of midnight, we go out into the frosty air to ring the old iron farm bell that has stood in the same approximate spot for over a hundred years.
Thirty minutes later, we’re in bed.
No balloons, no confetti, no shiny hats or tin horns, and certainly no New Year’s Resolutions.
And yet, there’s no denying that sense of a new beginning. A clean slate. Another chance to try to do it better.
After the excesses of Christmas, it’s a relief to sit down to the traditional Southern New Year’s fare of black-eyed peas and collards or turnip greens. Whether served plain with simple corn pone or gussied up with rice and ham into Hoppin’ John, the cook always drops a dime into the bowl before bringing the peas to the table. Whoever finds the dime on his or her plate is guaranteed good fortune in the new year, but every pea eaten promises an extra coin in one’s pocket and a healthy serving of greens is supposed to ensure plenty of folding money, too.
New Year’s day is also when I start a fresh record book. I bought my first one in 1980 to note any day-by-day expenses connected with writing. I had just sold my first novel and thought it was time to begin acting like a professional. And because there was more space for each day than was needed for mileage figures and expenditures, I got in the habit of jotting down who had come to dinner, phone conversations with other writers, accounts of talks I’d given, conferences attended, etc. etc. I stapled in concert ticket stubs, newspaper clippings when the Berlin Wall came down, election results, menus, and cartoons that joked about the writing life. Over the years, these books have become part business ledger, part scrapbook, part diary and after 30 years, they are a memory crutch as well. When I can’t recall my first Bouchercon or when it was that I signed at Kate Mattes’ store or even how I first met Kaye, the journals not only pinpoint the dates but remind me who else was there, or where we went to dinner.
The journals start out crisp and flat, the pages blank and waiting. By the end of the year, when it joins the earlier ones on my bookshelves, my 2013 journal will be bulging at the spine. Scraps of paper will slip out, as will loose photos of Edgars in the spring and Bouchercon in the fall. So wait a minute while I turn to the second Saturday in this new year: “Composed a post for Kaye’s blog this morning, then wrote another 2,000 words of the new book . . .”