The Crowded Room
The last week of the year has always fascinated me. It’s not like the rest of the year. It’s almost like there are actually fifty-one weeks in the year, then there is the crowded room at the end, a place not unlike my grandmother’s living room was, all stuffed full of the bits and pieces and memorabilia of eighty-three years of living.
The last week of the year is a mini version of that living room, a mental version, a room that everyone has in their head. No matter how expansive the previous fifty-one weeks have been, this final week is the tiny space into which we crowd everything that has happened. Then we settle in to the one comfy chair in that room that’s not avalanching with memories and emotions and we reflect.
I used to ask my grandmother about the people in this old photo or that. I used to ask where she got this porcelain doll or that china figurine. Every item in her living room had a story. It was a gift from someone, or a souvenier from some marked event in her life, or something someone had made for her or she had made for herself. My grandmother’s living room was a storybook full of tales I only ever experienced through her eyes, stories that were lost in the mist to anyone but her and the few of her older friends who still remained, all with story book rooms of their own.
This time of year, in this last week, we all sit in our mental story book rooms and tell ourselves one last time the stories that have been our life for the past fifty-one weeks. We laugh at our joys, we mourn our losses and we nod our heads in satisfaction at our successes, promising there will be more, even bigger successes next year.
My grandmother lived to be eighty-three. There was a finality about her over-crowded living room. That last week of the year room we all occupy right now has its own finality. After midnight tonight, we can crowd no more into that room. We leave it as it is, papers strewn, boxes open, bed unmade, cup of tea half finished. Mind you, some of us spend our last hours in this room frantically trying to crowd just a little more into it. That’s me, sitting in the recliner madly tapping away at the computer trying to get another chapter written, another short story out before I have to leave this room and lock the door behind me.
It doesn’t matter if we are sitting reflecting on all that fills this room, or if we’re frantically trying to fill it fuller, at midnight tonight, we will all take a deep breath, open the door and walk out into the empty room waiting for us that is 2011. All we’ll take with us is our memories of the room we left and our hopes for how we’ll fill this bright new room that stretches promisingly before us. Some of us make New Years resolutions, some of us just plow in without a plan of action. But one thing is for certain, this time next year, if we live that long, we’ll be sitting in the crowded last-week room again reflecting on how the experiences of 2011 have shaped us, anticipating how we will take the experiences into the next empty room.
My wish for you is that your reflections in your full room be good ones, satisfying ones, ones that bring growth. And at the stroke of midnight, that you will enter that bright new empty room with hope and joy and anticipation of how wonderfully you’ll fill it up.