January, for me, doesn't mark the time where I will grandly transform into everything I've been really meaning to be for the last four months. I'm not really big on the sentimentality behind the year flipping over, and changing the calendar on the wall doesn't mark a fresh beginning - every single day, every hour you have that opportunity; I don't understand why so many people wait until a calendar dictates it's time to move.
Dates seem sort of irrelevant to me. I don't like confining definitions to match a box in the calendar. I don't want to celebrate someone's life because we penciled their birthday into one of those boxes - I want to be excited they're here, every day. I don't love my husband more because that box says it's valentine's day, or our anniversary.
When I think back about my life, experiences, the kids, my family, events I remember... most memories are pictures, they're experiences, and senses. I don't often attach a date to my memories. Just the feelings.
January 1st is an exception.
In 1999, I was young, and a little crazy and dumb, and sure thought I knew a lot of things. I was overdue with my kid #1, and was OVER being pregnant. We had picked out a middle name based on her Christmas-y due date - Noelle - and I was annoyed that it would no longer make sense, because we are now so far outside that holiday window.
On January 1st, my husband and I went out for dinner. We didn't do it often, we were young and poor, but we did it that day. I'm sure I was throwing a tantrum of some type, and he put up with it and met my demands. We went to TGI Fridays by the local mall. I'd been craving buffalo chicken for the entire pregnancy, but had been avoiding it, because I was taking the spicy foods superstition to heart.
On January 1st, I ordered buffalo chicken, because - what's the worst that would happen? I have a baby?
Just like in the movies, I started having contractions, there in the restaurant. Unlike in the movies, it was non-dramatic, and I didn't even realize it until several had passed. We went home, started logging the contractions on a piece of lined notebook paper, and I spent the last hours of the first day of 1999 in the hospital, begging for an epidural, and finally getting one, but only because there were some complications. I remember thinking that none of this was going the way I anticipated, and not worried - just accepting - that there's nothing I can do about that. No amount of crazy-person pregnancy tantrums will change it.
January 1st, 2011. I worked in e-commerce and holidays are always extra busy. I always look forward to January 1st, for the day off.
Gabby had been fighting some sort of cold. She had been coughing, and couldn't kick it - the doctor wasn't too concerned the week before, even after small red dots popped up around her eyes (from small blood vessels broken during the coughs). I figured after a lazy winter break from school, she just needed to be pepped up, run around outside and get some fresh air.
I spent January 1st, 2011, dragging her to any place I could think of - a park, where I made her climb up a small hill to get to the swings (she barely made it, and sat lethargically in the seat while I pushed her, before she asked to leave), the furniture store to look at new couches (where she practically fell asleep in the little car she was "pushing"), to Costco, where we didn't really need anything (where she actually DID fall asleep in the cart).
Looking back now, I can see clearly that her lethargy had been progressively getting worse, that she was practically a shell of her normal, vibrant 4 year old self. At the time, in that day, it was an annoyance. I didn't have time for a sick kid, because we had a birthday to celebrate the next day.
Sometime in the late afternoon, after all of my attempts to perk up the kid had failed, I took her to urgent care. An hour later, the ER doctor told us she was being transported to the oncology ICU, and that it was serious.
I remember everything that happened, vividly, that night, and I remember being all at once annoyed that she was sick, dreading that it was something for real serious - maybe that's why I tried to avoid the doctor entirely? - and every time I thought back on the last few weeks with her, and had to recount her slowly progressing symptoms, ashamed that I had not stepped in faster, and concerned that someone, anyone who heard that it had been a few weeks of the cough, that she was lethargic for days, that she hadn't eaten and had no interest in food all day, that they were judging me as a terrible, neglectful parent. When I said all of those things together, out loud, it seemed ridiculous that I had just tried to heal her with a trip to look at couches.
I could recount everything that transpired - I sent my husband home from the ER after they drew her blood, because I (still) didn't think it would be too much of a crisis, and we were right down the street from home - he had just gotten off of work, so I told him to go home and eat. My second call - to my cousin, after the ER doctors looked concerned about her blood work. We spent the last hours of the first day of 2011 in the hospital, with a vague "cancery" diagnosis. It was certainly not how I anticipated the day ending, but... what can you do.
On January 2, 2011, we celebrated #1 turning 12 in the OICU, with a cake, that we shared with the residents and nurses, while Gab had her first lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy.
It's tricky to reconcile those memories.