It’s not over yet. Where I live, I understand we’re likely to get one more snowstorm before we can call it a year. Then 2008 becomes the past, the story we tell of the times we lived.
In some native American cultures, winter was storytime, when the clan gathered round the fire and retold the old and added the new. Part of the task was to name the year–the year of the horse raid or the buffalo hunt or the appearance of the comet. This was serious because how you named it was how it would be remembered.
Take the year when Norman Rockwell wanted to join the US Navy. The First World War had just started. His friends had all joined up. It was what he thought every red-blooded young man should do, but he was rejected–underweight by eight pounds. So he went home, gorged himself on bananas, donuts and liquids. Next day he got accepted, but he never saw any action. He was made a military artist instead.
So how did Rockwell mark that year? A disappointment? Or an opportunity to hone the skill that would eventually make him famous?
The elders sitting around their campfires, in the storytime of winter, often took their time and sometimes hotly debated the meaning and importance of one event over another.
For me, this will be the year of the election. None of us know how that will really turn out, in the long run, but for one night in 2008, there was dancing in the street. Not just any street, the one right in front of my house. Both my sons called–one from Baltimore, the other from Pasadena. There were celebrations in their cities, too. They wanted to know if there had been celebrations after other elections. Not in my lifetime. Protests: Viet Nam and equal rights. National mourning: Kennedy and King. Dancing is different. I want to remember so that if I’m asked again . . ..