a new year.

we pass on the highway, separate units in our similar orbits, packed lock, stock, and barrels of monkeys into the little worlds that are our vehicles. a thousand holiday travellers, all hurtling past. we are invisible to each other, each on our own personal trajectories.

voices chatter and sing, slightly off-key. the baby, still riding backwards, intones “ba ba lee lee tiki tiki daaa” to the doll she flails back and forth into the car door like a weapon. her brother leads his father and i in an indulgently pious version of Away in the Manger, our voices all cracking on the high notes, the mentions of heaven. the road hums beneath us, salt spraying.

we roll into tomorrow, into a year clean as snow.

freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose, i sing under my breath as i drift in the passenger seat, contented. my voice is well-suited to the acoustics of a Kia Rio, to an audience afflicted with the benevolent ears of family. i feel replete, pleasantly unmoored. most of what i love in the world is with me. we could go anywhere. the weight of a hundred loads of laundry slips from me.

i imagine in the new year i will live more freely. for a moment, i forget the two-hour frenzied dance of baby wrangling and organization that led to this stuffed small car.  i do not yet know that we have forgotten the bags of carefully wrapped presents for the cousins we are going to meet. i ignore the sunglasses left behind, in spite of blinding snow glare, and the fact that i did not put out the compost bin.

i imagine us a covered wagon, lurching overland in search of the mythical land of the free.

for a moment i’m all gingham and Little House on the Prairie. then i remember the Donner Party. i laugh unprettily, startling my travelling companions.

but the sense of going somewhere, anywhere, bound all together, still tempts.

we are doing it, of course. we do it everyday, waking to the lives we’ve made, in the midst of changing bums and making suppers and running to pediatric clinics. we are already there, in a life of comfort, of work and reward. the pioneers with their pestilence and their hunger and their lofty goal of eventual tar-paper roofs would’ve traded in an instant.

still, the simple act of moving tastes like possibility.

in a life with small children and duties and responsibilities and goals i haven’t gotten to yet, remaining open to possibility is the very hardest job. i chafe for time that is not already filled, demanded, eaten. i stress. i remember the taste of surprises, of days that simply evolved, conversations that meandered on into the night and lit me like the hundred cigarettes that burnt down around us.  i seldom remember how to be that person. i am wound tighter now, a Prussian officer humping along on schedule, trying to drag a checklist of completed items with me. the bohemian life looks dirtier, from here, than i could ever have imagined.

but three hours in a moving car where all i have to do is sit and dole out sippy cups and sing? glorious. packed away from it all in a tiny metal box, i coast on the fumes of gasoline and Diet Coke and imagine that ahead there are open doors and time to play, to think.

it gets me every time. it is my siren’s song, always just ahead. and damn the torpodoes, and the rocks.
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it is snowing, hard, when we return. the wipers swish ineffectively across the windshield, leaving little ice arcs in their wake. the road alternates black to white, where drift has laid three inches of slippery snow down.

we move slower now. we know about precious cargo.

we are in the hills, where the roads slalom gently back and forth and the drops from the shoulder grow steeper. a white cube van perches precariously on the side, and my eyes try to trace the track of his wheels and fail. my head cocks, and Dave answers.

he came from the other side of the road.

i see it then. we are abreast of the tilting van and his slide is evident. sharp turn just ahead. he careened through it, hit the snow, spun backwards across the lanes, was caught by sheer luck and gravity just before the tumble. phew. i am about to nod when Dave inhales.

another van hitting the same patch of snow at the same ill-advised speed just after the turn. he lurches out into our lane. we are collision-bound. i cannot tear my eyes away; my body spreads and flattens against the seat, futile protective instinct. my babies.

his wheels catch the road. he corrects. we pass.

i blink.

and suddenly, reminded of how enamored i am of the wholeness of my own skin, i get it.

we are always moving, in time, into the new and the uncharted, even when it looks like the same old pile of to-dos and busy-ness. there is always possibility and surprise ahead. surprise is not always benign.

so i will stay put and learn to carve out space and moments for ditching the Prussian Officer uniform. i will give thanks for the bounty of job and family and crap to be done, even as it bears down on me. and i will try to stop trying to do it all, for the egotistical sake of doing it all. i will keep learning to let go of what nobody needs.

i will even post my new year’s post a day late. take that, schedule.

happy 2010 to you and yours. may the surprises be mostly good. may you find strength and grace and peace where they are not. and may you all find time for possibility, whatever it means to you.

what does it mean to you? what do you hope for, from this still new-ish year?