Looking Over My Shoulder


It’s late. The moon is just past full, and stars are peeking between the branches of the leafless trees. It’s cold, but not as cold as it should be in Massachusetts on the last day of the year.

My husband has gone to bed, but I am restless. I haven’t stayed up to see the New Year in a few years. But this year is different.

Everything is different.

This year the ending of the calendar count feels momentous. It feels like rebirth, like renewal. It feels like an ending, and this time it is an ending that we all crave.

I’m wide awake.

I am not sure why I’m so alert; I’ve been in bed by 8PM for months. Snuggled under the blankets with a book or the iPad, ready to rest. Ready to let go of another day in 2020.

But not tonight. No, tonight I am awake. I have a glass of wine, a bowl of popcorn and a dog on each knee. My right foot taps, taps, counting out the seconds. The curtains are drawn, but I feel the moonlight hitting the yard. I stand up, walk to the sliding doors, peer out into the woods.

All is quiet. I hear no owls, no coyotes, no restless neighborhood dogs. Everything is holding its breath. The night is holding its breath, and so am I.

I don’t know what I think will happen at the stroke of midnight. I don’t believe that the sky will fill with bursting light, or that night birds will break into song. I do not foresee a swirl of warm wind stirring up the leaves, or the sound of distant voices singing of freedom and love.

I don’t expect that the dogs, asleep in their canine curls, will feel the change in the universe.

But I will.

I will.

At the very moment when the second hand sweeps past the 12, and the meaningless human invention of the calendar turns to a new year, I will exhale. And I will lean over my knees, with my hands over my eyes. I might shed some tears.

In my heart I’ll say what I’m thinking.

“We did it,” I’ll say. “We made it.” I’ll think of how unbelievably lucky I have been, without having lost a single friend or family member. I’ll send out thanks to the universe for protecting me and mine.

But right after that, I’ll let the rest of my thoughts emerge. I just might open that slider and step out into the night. I might just howl into the darkness, a shriek of rage and frustration. If I do, I’ll be thinking of all of the lost opportunities. All the losses of every child who hasn’t been able to play with a friend. Of every teacher who has had to teach children she’ll never see. I’ll scream for the people who lost the businesses that they built step by step out of their dreams and their courage and their endless work. I’ll cry and shake my fist for everyone I know who has not yet met a grandchild, a nephew, a cousin. For every father or mother who lost a job in spite of every best effort, when the pandemic crashed the economy. For every loving couple who postponed a wedding. For every graduate who missed that chance to “walk” and accept a diploma.

I’ll scream for every friend who has had to say goodbye to a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a child.

I’ll bark and snarl into the wild woods, letting Mother Nature know that I am not amused at her sudden attack.

I know that we are lucky. I know. I thank the goddess, the universe, the powers of heaven, every single day. Every day. I have had my beautiful grandchildren in my arms throughout this terrible year. That makes me lucky beyond anyone else I know. My sister and my mom, both of whom I love beyond words, have survived this awful virus.

And yet.

The last year, the infamous 2020, was a horrific, awful, exhausting shit-show of a year. From the political machinations, to the overt racism, to the incompetent government, it has been a year of disaster. Lost jobs, lost friends, lost classroom time, lost loved ones, lost hugs, lost dreams, lost opportunities. Twenty-twenty was full of loss.

I intend to tell it goodbye. I intend to tell it to go straight to hell, where it belongs.

Another fifty minutes, and I will stand on my deck. I will bang on a pot with a wooden spoon, ring some Tibetan bells and I will yell, most likely at the top of my aging lungs.

“Good fucking riddance, 2020!!!!”

Then I’ll probably cry myself to sleep, out of pure relief.