New Year’s Eve: Our 3rd annual burning of the Christmas tree. Flames 10, 15, 20 feet high; heat; crackling; kids and adults yelling—it lasts for roughly 2 minutes. We’ll do this until the neighbors call the cops on us.
New Year’s Day: Our 5th annual First Day Hike, this time Mt. Tom in Holyoke, MA. Not quite to the peak of Mt. Tom, but Whiting Peak, 1000 feet. My cameraphone does no justice to the depth and height of this trail.
Before the hike, I reflected a bit and wondered why this was only our 5th year doing First Day Hikes, why I hadn’t been doing something like this before. For most of my adult life, I’ve spent New Year’s Day too hungover to do much of anything. I did my first (and only) polar plunge on New Year’s Day 2016, while hungover. That same year, I moved from RI to MA, which is where I was introduced to the idea of a First Day Hike.
2017: That organized First Day Hike which introduced me to the concept—hosted by the “state park” that is the Great Falls Discovery Center, it ended up being a walk on the bike path to my neighborhood. I vowed to do something a little more novel in the future.
2018: It was so cold that the Discovery Center canceled their hike. Dez and I yelled our way up to Poet’s Seat Tower in the frigid weather, then took the rest of the day to warm up.
2019: With our new neighbors, we hiked the Greenfield Conservation Land.
2020: We met my mother at Walden Pond for their toured First Day Hike, which ended up being canceled, but we hiked it anyway. Walden Pond is my happy place.
2021: We’d planned to meet my mother at Wachusett State Park—she canceled last minute so we did Mt. Tom, which I’d been meaning to do with Dez anyway.
This has cemented itself as a ritual now, which I think I need more of in my life. I spent a lot my younger adult years disconnecting myself from what I considered to be the arbitrary, capitalist, stress-inducing rituals I grew up with, which included most holidays. But then, I didn’t have anything to take their place, so days and years just roll on by—it takes some serious effect to mark occasions, sometimes. I used to journal regularly, but I don’t anymore.
That makes me think of when I was a kid, and remembering how old I was by where we lived, or where we lived by who my mom’s boyfriend du jour was, or who my mom’s boyfriend do jour was by how old I was—and every permutation in between. I said this to my mom recently, who laughed because she remembers things in my childhood based on the same things, just adding what her job du jour was to the mix.
I’ve always moved around a lot, so things get marked by that. And now I have my own kid, so things get marked by his age, and grade, and school.
But my life—also by virtue of being a parent—just rambles on. I remember somewhere in my early- to mid-30’s—for a few years at that point, I hadn’t done much for my birthday. Another arbitrary ritual. But things were different now, and my life seemed to be passing me by. I needed to mark it. So I started doing something, anything, for my birthday. I’m going to be 40 next year—no, this year! What should I do for it?