As you mean to go on

As I was getting ready for the new year yesterday, I was writing a blog post in my head.  I started to write it down too, and then realized that I was totally on the wrong track and deleted the whole thing.  I was writing about how sad it was, caught up in the idea that this would be the first year of my life that I didn’t speak with my mother at midnight, that 2018 would be the first year that she wasn’t alive at all.  I was writing about how this year had been our “annus horribilis” – the worst year of my life,  and as I typed the words, they began to lose traction. That wasn’t all this year was. For sure, this is the first year I won’t talk to my mother – but this year will be the first of many years that I have my grandson. I went back and looked at the pictures I took this year for a little perspective.

(January)

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(February)

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(March)

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When I was growing up, my mum had tons of traditions – for everything. Things you had to do or say or wear at certain times of year, on special days. When I was younger I thought they were dumb, but when I became a mother, when I started to be responsible for creating a sense of family, a team that was going to pull together, I saw the cleverness of it. These little things, these small structures – they give a family its backbone, its character, the ways that they are special to each other, and an enduring feeling of connection. “This is the way we do it… this is who we are… ” It’s strengthening. I’ve clung to those things over the last few weeks, trusting that our traditions would help me feel less lost, and it’s mostly worked. Yesterday was no different, and neither is today.

(April)

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(May)

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(June)

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Yesterday I cleaned the house, did laundry, emptied a drawer, straightened a closet, urged us all to be in good shape as we began a new year.  “End as you mean to go on.” I could hear my mum saying it to me – reminding me that the place I was in as the New Year struck would set the tone for the year to follow.  I swept the floor, taking care to throw the contents of the dustpan out the back door – mum says that makes sure you sweep the old years troubles out the door too. We paid our bills, put coins in the backyard for the light of the old moon and the new moon to shine on so we’ll have enough money this year – mum was always very clear on that one.  I shared a beautiful dinner with people I love, and I made sure that the first person across my threshold after midnight was a dark haired man. (As usual, Joe was sent out, only to be admitted back in – though he is getting so grey haired that I wasn’t sure that it would take, so later Sam’s boyfriend Mike came in ahead of her, just to be sure. The concept of a First Footer is vague on the details, as was my mother.)

(July)

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(August)

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(September)

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(October)

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(November)

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Today I’m doing all the things my mum said were important.  I’m hosting a levee, I won’t wash anything today, to make sure no one in the family is washed away this year. I’ll do a bit of work, to make sure that my work is successful for the next year, I’ll take a moment to tell the people that I love that they’re important to me, keeping them bound to me for the next year. I’ll put the coins from the new moon in my purse, and I’ll drink a toast to the people I wish were here. My grandparents, Janine, Tupper, Mum… I’ll look back, and then I’ll look ahead.

(December)

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I’ll begin as I mean to go on.

newyearsday 2018-01-01

Happy New Year, blog.

(*PS I totally just cast on something new too.)

127 thoughts on “As you mean to go on

  1. Life: As harsh and unrelenting as it is, it is also so wonderful and enchanting. I love New Years Day because it is a reminder that everything starts anew. It’s never the same but it still is.

    • Tammy-well stated and rings true for me as I sat beside my mother’s bed New Year’s morning saying my final good byes.

  2. I struggled with Christmas following the loss of my sister early in December. I’ve spent the past month being so sad and bereft. Today I made myself look back over the past couple of years since she was diagnosed and saw all the happy times and laughter we shared. The large hole she has left in my life became just a little easier to bear.

  3. This brought tears to my eyes. You (and your Mum) are so right . . . begin the year as you mean to go on.

    Life is so full of grief, trials, and pains, it is well to focus on the love and laughter and triumph, and let the sadness catch us if and when it can. Best wishes to you and yours for this new year.

  4. Well it sounds like you definitely know how to handle everything, but I’m sending you a virtual hug just in case the going ever gets tough! You continually inspire all of us with your kindness and cleverness and we want you to feel the love!

  5. I was laying in bed this morning recovering from a Christmas/New Year’s flu and heard a piece on William Blake on the Sunday Edition with Michael Enright. I thought this might resonate with you – especially this year –

    “Man was made for joy and woe
    Then when this we rightly know
    Through the world we safely go.
    Joy and woe are woven fine
    A clothing for the soul to bind.”

    Go safely.

  6. My mother’s only New Year’s tradition was to eat black-eyed peas for luck. One year she forgot to buy them and we had to go from one supermarket to another in search of them. After the second unsuccessful attempt I suggested that they might not be absolutely essential that year, but she just looked at me and kept driving. She’s gone now and I don’t eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s day, but I remember her every year and surely that’s more important. P.s – what’s a levée?

    • Thank you for asking that! I was reading it first as levee, like what kept the river from flooding our house in New Orleans, but I knew Stephanie wasn’t building a dike! A drop-in makes much more sense. 🙂

  7. Missed your blogs, putting the world to rights, your knitting. Happy New Year, it’s going to be a good one. Xx

  8. What a lovely post to read at the beginning of a new year. I hope you have a wonderful 2018.
    You can never replace your mum but becoming a great grandma sounds like it will help a great deal.

  9. Wishing you a lovely 2018 – may it glow with the joy of old memories and new celebrations and resonate with music that feeds your soul. And may your yarn never tangle.

  10. Oh, darn – I just finished washing the dishes. I didn’t know about the danger. Too late!

    I nominate Elliott in the Ewok costume, looking so cute and getting ready to eat that leaf, for Best Picture.

  11. Thank you so very much for your beautiful words. You have a way of putting life in to perspective and have helped me through much of life with your words. Wishing you and your family all the very best in 2018.

  12. So glad you’ve framed it in this way; it will surely help you meet the challenges ahead in your new-normal, without your mom.

    • Yes! Thank you for the gift of you, Stephanie. You are a blessing in our lives, the Blog. Thank you and I’m glad you found a way to reframe it. And I’m so glad Elliot got held by his great-grandma, that’s a memory and a moment that cannot be taken away. Hugs and love to you and yours, and the Blog, and I hope everyone is treated well by 2018.

  13. Thank you, Stephanie. You help connect so many of us to what is important. Many blessings to you and your family, all of them and us, throughout this year.

  14. Happy New Year to you too. I’ve spent some time this weekend going over some of your old Christmas posts. (Hard to believe Hank is as old as he is. To me he will always be at the yarn winder). It gave me great pleasure to see that no matter how people changed through the years, the traditions remained important and sustaining. May it ever be so for you and yours.

  15. Well rats, I wish I had read your blog earlier. We have been lazing around all day, which doesn’t bode well for the next 364 days.
    Your mom would commend you for your strength and love, and you definitely continue to inspire me. I hope the new year is kinder to you and yours.

  16. Oy. I just finished wiping down my kitchen cabinets. I always think they need a good cleaning but they don’t look any different than they did before. I hope I don’t wash away any loved ones in the new year. But I had not heard that superstition before so I am just going to chose not to believe in it. What is the saying? Raise a glass to grief, for it is the cost of love. I am missing my BFF’s all the time, every day, even though is has been 17 years since I buried one and 5 since the other. I’d like to say the loss gets easier, but it is always with me. You will always have the loss of your mom with you. Just as you will always have her love and sweet memories.

  17. My 2018 bring fresh joy and happy times to you and your family. And yarny goodness too, of course. Sending caring your way, Stephanie.

  18. Thanks so much for the blog post today.
    Exactly right!

    Thanks for your hard work in 2017 and your readers look forward to your posts in 2018.

  19. Life is a cycle of birth, and death….a life well lived and loved does not end. It lives on in those who loved and remember.
    e.e. cummings
    i carry your heart with me, i carry it my heart..

  20. Our family started the New Year with a outdoor wedding (which actually took place three days before) in below freezing temperatures, lovely white blankets were provided for guests who needed some extra warmth. We are so happy to have the newcomer in our family. None of us really froze, although our toes got really cold. Immediately after the newlyweds took off for sunny Mexico!
    Never heard the tradition of casting on something new, but it’s going to happen before midnight tonight, maybe a new pair of cozy slippers.

  21. Oh lovely. I came here, hoping you’d be back today, and you are, and with such good thoughts.

    “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

  22. Dear Stephanie, Lovely recap of the old year just past. Best wishes to you and Joe and your extended family and friends for the new year. Best wishes, good health and hugs for 2018.

  23. Such a great way to put a year with ups and downs into perspective. Our family specifically clean ourselves going into the New Year, to make sure we are “cleansed” of old negativity and healthy and fresh moving forward.

  24. It hits hard when we step into the shoes our elders left empty. Thank goodness for the framework of traditions and stories that they provided so we’d know how to move ahead. We’ll never replace them, and never stop feeling their loss to some extent, but it’s all part of taking up the responsibility of keeping life going. You – we all – are learning by just doing it. Blessings upon you.

  25. Every ending leaves us with a new beginning. You are honoring this in ways I would only hope to be able to do. Thank you so much for sharing all that you have shared with us! You are my inspiration and I thank you so much.

  26. It’s the gift of truly being in the present moment, the better to truly appreciate now. For less difficult reasons than yours, I work to turn my attention to the many blessings in my life and to be a blessing to those whom I meet.

    You are a blessing to me. Thank you!
    Getting all mushy,
    margieinmaryland

  27. Such a wonderful post you’ve entered. May this new year, and all of your years, be as wonderful, loving, kind, and gentle as you are.

  28. We don’t have a lot of tradition for new years. But I’m working on a wedding shawl for my oldest niece, who is getting married in September, and am thinking of the life she and her love will have. And wishing good things for them.

  29. I heard that the First Footer tradition goes back to Scotland at the time of the Viking invasions when a man with dark hair was NOT a Viking. I guessing that meant that he was a safe person and maybe you’d keep those blonde ones from Denmark away from your door. Have no idea if there is any truth to it but it sound interesting.

  30. Starting the year as you mean to go on, we’ll said! No two life journeys are the same but we can find comfort and peace in similar things. Wishing you and your family peace, health and hope in this brand new year!

  31. Going to cast on now. Instead of traditional ham and black eyed peas, i made turkey and rice soup. Daughters were my first footers, no males. So all traditions turned on their heads. Should make the new year very interesting

  32. This brought back memories of 2010 for me. It was going to be the best year ever – two babies expected in January and March (both boys, the first of their generation that already had five girls), and my wedding in August. It was wonderful, until October, when my dad died very suddenly. (At the funeral, walking in behind the casket, I totally lost it. He’d only just walked me down the aisle of a church – it wasn’t supposed to be that way!) Starting a new year was hard, as it was the first one of my life without him.

    But that was seven years ago, and while I still miss him like crazy, it’s a dull ache instead of a sharp pain. There are five more grandchildren, including a little girl snuggling in my arms. I hope your life continues to bring many good things, and that your loss becomes easier to bear with time. Happy New Year!

  33. Happy New Year, Harlot! Sneaky of you to end this post with a cliffhanger, leaving us all to wonder what you’ve cast on…a wedding shawl? Booties? A dog sweater? Elliot’s Advent calendar? A new gansey for Joe?

  34. It’s good to be grateful for all the wonders and blessings you’ve experienced last year. I have a feeling your mum would’ve wanted you to see the bright side, and not be so crippled by grief that you would miss out on the future joys of friends and family. Because you do know, there will be many future joys!! : )

  35. Now that you’re the family matriarch, so to speak, at least for your girls and their husbands and children, I know you’ll continue to have the influence on their lives that your mum had on yours. You honor her by living your life in the path she showed you; there aren’t many things that matter more to a mother! So be grateful for the time you had physically together, but you know she’ll always be with you. And you can share what she taught you with the younger family members so that she stays alive through them. But most of all, you know your mum loved you very much; just because she’s gone doesn’t mean you don’t still feel that love every day!

  36. I don’t often cry when I read blogs, but this touched me in such a beautiful way that I did cry. Thank you for sharing so openly it is helping me deal with my private grief. Bless you and I am holding the thought of, “Begin as I mean to go on!” Your mamma would be proud.

  37. So many folk-traditions I never knew about! Thanks for sharing all of them. I feel the year will be richer with for the new knowledge.

  38. Beautiful, Steph. Made me tear up – you do that pretty often. We’re nearly a fully day ahead of you here in Melbourne, so I couldn’t put any of your ideas into practice on the 1st, but I reckon ‘begin as you mean to go on’ is a great point for contemplation and prayer this whole first week of 2018. Many blessings to you and yours…may there be much joy, laughter and love this year for all of you. Your family and close friends do all of those things so very well.

  39. I am catching up, so this is a response to this entry and the previous. It is ok to be mourning. It is a good thing to be focusing on what you have, versus what you don’t, but don’t beat yourself up for mourning. It just takes time.

    I have been thinking a lot about my family members who are gone. I am your age, but my kids are still little and didn’t have much time with my parents and they didn’t meet my sister and step-mother. I miss them, although I don’t miss the difficulties they were having at the end of their lives. Mostly, I remind myself that they loved me unconditionally and that has enabled me to be a loving mother to my children. I do wish they were here to be with my children themselves.

    Anyway, take care.

  40. There’s such a giant, gaping hole where your Mom should be; but, oh, that little boy is the most precious baby ever.

    Happy New Year to you and you family.

  41. I think the idea of ending the year how you mean to go on is perfect, and while my family has never done any of the little new year’s traditions you mention (or the hundreds of others out there), I think just the mindset of positivity is a huge step forward, and I applaud you for it. I know it’s been tough, and I’m so thankful for all that you share, and how well you can put it all into words. You’re inspiring!

  42. So happy to read this post and hear some of the ‘old’ Harlot back. All the best to you and your family, young and old, in 2018. Life is good, as my DH tells me when the going gets tough! What did you cast on? I have been looking at baby sweaters as our first grandchild is due mid-January. This is a particularly cold winter to be born in Toronto! Stay warm.

  43. I wish an emoji existed that could express all of the feelings I experienced reading through the post. Your strength in is recognizing your blessings in the face of your loss. You are an inspiration and I am honoured to follow your story

  44. I’m glad you’re moving forward. It’s important to do that to weather the storms we encounter in our lives.

    I began the year with launching my new yarn dyeing company. The previous year was spent taking the lessons Tina gave me and adding my touch to it. It’ll be a grand adventure and regardless of the outcome I’m ready for it.

  45. What a beautiful post to end 2017 and start a new year. May 2018 be filled with joy, health, love and laughter in abundance for you and those you love. It is interesting that I am to click on the foot, because your book taught me to knit socks (and is the pattern I still use), and my foot is memorialized with yours on The Blog, square feet united.

  46. Baby steps, Steph, and what a beautiful baby he is…
    Life is the cycle that keeps us moving forward, I’m proud of you! You’ve got this!

  47. Beautiful job reframing and I’m glad to see some light coming back into your world. While the Winter Solstice is my favorite night of the year, New Year’s Eve and Day are my favorite holidays. The rituals and traditions to me are full of both reflection and pure possibility. Much love and blessings to you and your loved ones and I wish you much joy in the new year. And if you can make it to Denver, I’ll meet you at the airport with oxygen. Promise.

  48. Definitely sounds like the Scottish traditions. Just wondering why you weren’t out the front door at midnight loudly banging pots. Then again, my own mother discontinued that one after the neighbours were startled. Happy New Year and may it be a gentle one.

    • Banging pots & pans! I grew up with two New Year’s traditions: cutting a pita (bread) on New Year’s Day, the feast of St Basil –it has a coin hidden in it and a slice is cut for each member of the family, and the coin is luck for the whole year. With a big family like ours, a gathering of 20-30 people, there were many loaves, many coins, much laughter, shouting and cheering! The other tradition is banging pots and pans outside at midnight, which my mother said everyone in her lower east side NYC neighborhood did, leaning out the windows at midnight to yell Happy New Year! I live in New England now and nobody does this but us — I don’t know where the tradition comes from.
      Thank you for sharing your traditions of the New Year. Enjoy them and the link they create back to your Mum and forward to your children….

  49. Thank you Stephanie for the thoughts, and energy, in this latest post and always. And thanks to others who wrote and shared traditions and support. We all need all of these people – US! – who are lucky enough to share this space. I’ve never had many traditions around New Years, except for an idea to get some cleaning done … and that went flat this year, as I was flattened by a cold for the last few days. Ah well, I’ll make a new tradition … to ease into the New Year and get done whatever I can as it comes along. Much love to all of you! Maureen

  50. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

    Also, the bit about not being sure that Joe’s hair is still sufficiently dark enough to count…that made me laugh. Thank you. And may 2018 be a wonderful year for you and yours.

  51. Sometimes you just have to write it out to let it dissipate into the wind so that now you can go write what you wanted to be able to say and be able to feel what you wanted to feel. What you went on with here is beautiful, Stephanie, just beautiful, and a blessing to us all. Thank you.

    I needed to see that light ahead. My sibs-in-law keep posting pictures of my father-in-law on FB and they’re fun, beautiful, and just utterly gutting. We’re only on our fifth day of his being gone–I have no idea how to do this.

    Your post and pictures are a comfort. Thank you.

  52. Love this post! I feel you’ve turned a corner. Our mothers, and if we’re lucky, our mothers-in-law and other strong women who have supported us through tough times in our lives, are always with us. You are fortunate in your mother, as your daughters are fortunate in theirs.

  53. Brilliant! (If I start 2018 with a head cold that my nephew gave me for Christmas, what does that mean for the year?).

  54. Wonderful post – and very comforting.

    I hear my mother’s voice when I repeat her sayings to my daughters — and she was often quoting her mother, so it’s like a verbal chain connecting at least four generations — things like ‘My mother always said, “Don’t stack plates at the table”‘, or ‘My mother always said, “Never stick your private knife in the public butter”‘ — and like her, when I say these phrases I’m often doing the forbidden thing … who knows how far these things go back? How many of my foremothers whisper along when I use the family endearment ‘ducky’?
    May your mother’s customs and wisdom keep you warm all through 2018 and beyond!

  55. Steph, I’ve been reading your blog for many years now (I think I found it in around 2006 or so, when I read all what you wrote before all in one settings…. and yes, we have better years and crappy ones…But we can always start the new one with the hope it will be a great one… Happy New Year!

  56. Thank you for putting into words what I have felt in tha past, especially the year after my Mother passed away. It’s important to remember the gifts that were left for us to use as we move forward. Wishing you a peaceful and happy New Year!

  57. Happy New Year to you, too, Steph! You’re right–life is change, and there is a rhythm to the seasons and cycles. My mother passed away just three months after our granddaughter was born and only three days before the birth of our grandson. I know you’re not the religious type, but there is a beautiful portion in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 from which Pete Segar’s song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was taken–I have always found the song very comforting and affirming. Best of everything for 2018, and see you at Madrona! Terri M.

  58. Just beautiful. Words of comfort. Your strength and wisdom are what so many need to hear. Thank you Stephanie and best wishes for a 2018 that brings only happiness.

  59. I can’t begin to tell you how much your blog means to me. I don’t often comment but I do feel the need at the beginning of 2018. I too lost my mum young (I was 26, my sister was 13) and it still hurts but now in a deeper place.

    I love your spirit with your continuation of her spirit. I did the same for my mum. Needlework, creating, music. Not losing track of my inner.

    All the best in 2018

    XO
    WWW

  60. Happy New Year, Stephanie, and to all your readers who have posted lovely comments here. Your postings about your grief are the most honest and vulnerable words I’ve ever read. Thank you so much for sharing. You are not only going through your own process of grieving, but helping so many of us put into words the feelings that we are struggling with. Here’s hoping the new year brings more joy than sadness, and more love than anything else!

  61. Beautifully said; absent any family traditions handed down, I’d started a few of my own – but perhaps doing all the laundry and cleaning house not the best of choices!

    Sending blessings for those who have gone before, and for those who will share the year(s) ahead. Namaste,
    Knitsiam (aka Bonnie)

  62. We have first foot too in Greek culture. Must be the right foot to step cross the threshold as well as smashing a pomegranate on the doorstep. The further the seeds go the further your luck.

    Happy 2018!

    • I forgot to add the Vasilopita. whoever gets the coin in the cake has fortune for that year.

      Keeping traditions going is what creates and keeps the family going.

  63. So many fine and good moments to remember – full of life and love. Tradition and rituals connect us to our people and our past and I agree that they become more important as we age! Wishing you all the best for the coming year.

  64. I don’t know if you get time to read all these comments, but I just want you to know how much my heart hurts at the loss of your mother! I check in with ‘the blog’ periodically to see how things are going with you and your people. Every time I come my heart feels both broken, and my eyes keep leaking, but I also feel so uplifted and encouraged and I smile in spite of my tears.
    I really admire how, in spite of your pain, you are focusing on what you have, on your many blessings, while still treasuring and remembering the treasure your mum was. Of course, I didn’t know her, but she sounds like the kind of person I would have wanted to know.
    You are in my thoughts often and I hope you know how very much you are loved and valued out here in the world! I had the opportunity to meet you several years ago and it was a really meaningful experience for me. All the best to you, and your family, in this new year!

  65. My father called me just moments after midnight on New Year’s every single year, long before cell phones. He passed in 1992 so there have been 26 moments of intense awareness of his absence.

  66. I lost my Mom in 2016 and this post has me in tears. These moments of being so painfully aware that she’s missing haven’t gone away, but the best I have found is to pick them up and carry them alongside all of the moments of joy and gratitude. My mother lived a life full of all of the moments- good, bad, and ugly- and my intention is to do the same, without shying away from the painful bits. Embracing all of it as a life worth living. I hope you’re able to find some peace and do the same. Wishing you a Happy New Year and a warm home full of family.

  67. At Midnight, I was wishing my youngest son a much better new year as his health has been rather poor. It has kept him from sleeping, working and just….living. I spun in the new year. Handspun yarn and looms will be what dominates my 2018. I have spun as I wish to begin.

  68. This is all very interesting! Do you mind sharing your family’s traditions in a future post? I know I would love to read them! 🙂

  69. Wow! I’ve been out of touch! You’re a Nana now! No better job in the world! I’m so grateful for the new year. The end of 2016 and start of 2017 threw me a curve ball! I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have 5 grandchildren now. I made up my mind that I would do anything I had to do in order to see all 5 grow up! Being a Nana will make you do things you never dreamed of! Congratulations ! And Happy New Year!

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