Even though you are only a fledgling of a year, a mere few hours old, we’re already quite fond of you.
Yesterday, we anticipated your arrival by walking around Greenlake with friends from here and there. The sun set yellowy against grey skies around 4:30, or just a smidge later. That’s one reason we like you — the new year means the slow subtle shadings of the return of light. Later, we ate a leisurely dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, at the totally un-hip hour of 5:30. We wanted to eat our creamy polenta with wild mushroom ragu in peace, not jostling with other folks at the bar. But still, the place was packed. People sure do gather in excited clumps and inebriated groups to celebrate your arrival.
After a quick stop at the warm-lit home of dear friends to say hello, we drove home, hours before the drunken rush. You see, we are nothing close to fashionable. This was the first year in nearly a decade that the Chef didn’t have to cook at a restaurant for New Year’s Eve. I kept asking him, “Do you want to do something spectacular?” But he just looked at me and said, “I can’t think of anything more spectacular than being snuggled up with you.”
Oh, 2008, I sure am happy we could welcome your arrival together.
But actually, I fell asleep for a couple of hours before you could come. There was a South Park marathon on. The Chef didn’t mind my slumber. He woke me up twenty minutes before you appeared. We kissed and hugged, mumbled Happy New Year in each other’s ears, and watched fireworks on television. (They didn’t work so well in Seattle. They stopped and spluttered off the side of the Space Needle. Kind of embarrassing, really. I hope you don’t take it personally.)
For decades, I ached for a way to ring in the new year in some exciting fashion. A raging dance, a party thronged with fabulous people, a handsome man to sweep me across the floor and dip me down for a dramatic kiss at midnight. That never did happen. Does it for anyone? (You must grow tired of all the expectations people have for your arrival.) I never knew that happiness at the stroke of midnight meant holding my husband, while wearing his pajamas, in our bed with the sheets that should be changed, kissing and falling asleep ten minutes later.
Oh, 2008. You are my 42nd year on this earth — I’ll be officially 42 in August – and I can’t tell you how happy I am to meet you. Every year that I have met in this life, I love even more. Each year is more forgiving, a little kinder, a lot sloppier, and far more filled with joy than the year before.
However, I have to tell you — you’re going to have to work hard to outdo 2007.
2007 was, in an imperfectly spectacular fashion, the most dramatic and fabulous year that either one of us has ever lived.
I mean, just the big events alone are enough to astound me. In 2007, we:
Sent the manuscript of my first book to the publishers
Celebrated every month’s anniversary with great food
Edited the manuscript of my first book in 14 days, cutting 7000 words in one day
Traveled down to Arizona for the Chef’s father’s 80th-birthday party
Started the first of a round of dizzying publicity with a food fight photo shoot
Tested recipes so that people across the country could enjoy the food along with us
Worked on the last edits, cuts, changes, and questions for the book and let go of it
Found our new home and moved into that beautiful space, gleefully
Changed the venue for our wedding two weeks before the date
Married each other
Lived in Italy for 11 days on our honeymoon, gladly eating and loving
Stared in amazement at a beautiful newspaper story with photographs of ourselves and recipes we created
Flew to New York for the publication of my first book
Visited Portland, Chicago, and San Francisco, in a whirling daze of events
Appeared on television and the radio and laughed through it all
Watched the Chef’s restaurant swell with grateful customers after all the publicity
Soldiered through a bad infection and exhaustion to find ourselves at the holidays, grateful and grinning.
There is no question —we have been dazzled by this year. Never, in our lives, has a year been so dramatic, so action-packed, so public and filled with love. We adored meeting each and every one of you. Your faces are emblazoned on our hearts.
But you know what, 2008? We really wouldn’t mind if you were just a bit quieter than 2007 was. Or even a great deal quieter.
Oh sure, we’re still going to be doing events for the book, traveling places to meet people and have the chance to read and cook and teach. In fact, here on this first day of you, 2008, the Chef can barely contain his excitement. Tomorrow, a mere two days into 2008, we are climbing on a plane, early in the morning, and heading to Colorado.
We will be spending days in the Chef’s hometown, visiting with his family. He’s so excited to show me the place where he grew up — ask him where he is from, and he’s likely to immediately say, “Breckenridge!” — that I don’t see how he’s going to sleep tonight. When he thinks about walking me around the town, crunching our boots in the snow, and meeting his friends on the sidewalk, he grows a little teary.
2008, you have been much anticipated.
(For those of you in Colorado who are reading, here’s where we will be.
Saturday, January 5th, 2 to 4 pm: Whole Foods in Lakewood. We’ll be teaching a cooking class together.
Whole Foods Market
444 South Wadsworth Blvd
Lakewood, CO 80226
Monday, January 7th, 7:30 pm: Tattered Cover on Colfax. I’ll be giving a reading and answering questions.
Tattered Cover on Colfax
2526 East Colfax Avenue at Elizabeth Street,
directly across the street from the East High School and the City Park Esplanade.
Please come out to see us. We’ll both be beaming.)
And we will be in Los Angeles the first weekend of February, with plenty of events I will share later.
We can forsee plenty of great stories already.
However, as grateful as we are for all these opportunities, we would both love some more ordinary days, some quiet moments by the fire, some long mornings with nothing to do.
And mostly, I would love months that are not already planned. Everything arrives as a surprise, but many of our surprises came on schedule this year.
2008, are you already bombarded with fervent, earnest promises, people vowing to change today?
I’m not going to bore you with that. We all know that locked-knees resolutions often fall by the side of the road by the end of this month.
Instead, I like the fresh start of your arrival, the chance to look at the last yea and gently nudge our minds into creating what we might like of our lives.
This year, I would like to learn how to sew. Seriously, I have no idea. I can’t even put a button on the Chef’s coat when it falls off. Home economics in the seventh grade scared me off. But more and more, I like the moments of my life where I can use my hands. I wish that Amanda lived closer —I would bring cookies and ask her to show me how to start, and she wouldn’t make fun of me. But if anyone has suggestions of books I could try? I’d like that.
With our large yard, and the richness of Seattle soil, I can’t wait to start gardening for the first time in my life. This summer, we planted our first herbs in terracotta pots, and we were hooked. (Plus, our landlord is a master gardener, and he loves to share his knowledge.) Fresh arugula, perhaps potatoes, rainbow chard, baby carrots — my mouth is watering at the idea of that fresh produce. But I also want to start gardening because I really know nothing about it.
It’s good to try something at which I am no good. Failing is good. Faltering, and not knowing, and fumbling with my fingers until it feels more natural — that keeps me alive.
That’s why, this year, I’d like to learn how to make:
A kick-ass yellow curry with chicken and potatoes
Really great gluten-free biscuits
Sea salt crackers with sorghum flour
Pim’s pad thai
Gluten-free Dutch babies
Custard, plain and simple
You know, the Chef knows how to make most of those, without even needing a recipe. But me? I want to learn them on my own. I want my hands to know how to make the foods that move me, without looking over my shoulder and saying, “Sweetie, how do you do this?”
Who knows what our lives will be like at the end of your tenure, 2008? We have no way of knowing.
Mostly, though, I want to be open to it all. I do know that I want to walk around in wonder, allowing myself to be surprised. With the Chef holding my hand — and laughing with me at the most ridiculous asides — I know that I will be fine.
I keep singing these lyrics to “Mushaboom” by Feist today:
“I’ve got a man to stick it out and make a home from a rented house. We’ll collect the moments, one by one. I guess that’s how the future’s done.”
Dear 2008, we are in your hands. Please hold us safely. We promise to appreciate you.