Monday, December 31, 2012

What Does the New Year Mean to You?

I wake up slowly, first realizing that I'm in my own bed.  I feel my husband's warm body next to me.  My next awakening thoughts are that my daughter and mother are safe and alive.  My brothers and sister and their children are all alive.
I recall that it's the last day of the year, and I am in a country where freedom is possible.  I'm suddenly grateful to my grandmother for getting her family out of Europe travelling on the Pennland (shown here) from Antwerp arriving in Halifax on June 13, 1926.  Fifteen years later, her family and neighbours would be herded into ghettos, trains, camps, and ovens.

It's hard to appreciate my freedom without thinking that, in whatever time is left for me, with my own small words and deeds, I have to move in the direction of peace and freedom for all.

From my winter window, I see the barren trees reaching into the grey sky -- nests in the high branches, now visible.  I wonder whether the builders of those nests will return home, to the same tree, in spring.  Like the birds, I've learned to create new homes when necessary.

January 1, New Year's Day, is my mother's birthday.  She will be 86.  January 1 is also the day my father died in 1969 at 43 of causes related to his trauma and injury in the war.  My early morning thoughts again take me back to the war, back to Europe.  The man who will become my father attempts to capture an enemy pillbox and steps on a landmine which blows off his foot.

January 1 is always a day of remembering death and celebrating birth - in my family's story and in the year itself.

I'm in Canada now, so I get out of bed and wander to the local Tim Horton's to write these thoughts.  My Tim's, at the corner of Parliament and Winchester in downtown Toronto, is always full of people and conversation, so I connect with humanity, but I am never disturbed by the conversations.  People speak in all the languages of Africa, Asia, and eastern Europe.  They inspire without distracting.  Welcome to Canada.  Welcome to the new year.

As Jack Layton said at the end of his last letter to Canada:  "Love is better than anger, hope is better than fear, optimism is better than despair.  So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic, and we'll change the world."  Starting with ourselves, of course.  Happy new year.

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