Saturday, January 3, 2009

Irresolute new year

Well, a good thing I didn't make resolutions for last year. I did accomplish some things, and partially accomplish other things (can accomplishment be partial?) but so much of the year, looking back, is the petty quotidian accomplishment of another load of laundry, another batch of dried apples, another sinkful of dishes, another chapter revised, another blog post, another 500 words. Some of those add up to a visible / tangible thing, the wall of many bricks, but others just maintain, run to keep in place.
What would I like to do this year? Hm. Finish the painted cloth that I got half-done in August. Finish the first draft of Cost of Silver. Finish the two unfinished short stories and start kicking them out the door. Sort the books in the bedroom and get them into alphabetical order by author since they're all fiction. Clear out a corner of the attic.

The snow has gone away in our part of Victoria, except for those black-speckled icebergs in parking lots and roadsides, the Zen garden of the urban winter. When the snow fled our back yard, it revealed another bag's worth of apples on the frozen ground, a little bruised and scraped, but not frostbitten to squashiness. I made an emergency apple crumble yesterday, and will make an emergency pie tonight, before they turn to squish.

Chris, after scouting locations and opportunities over the past few months, has made his move to Vancouver, to live in a space very little larger than his room at home, but with a kitchenette, in a refitted 1920s house turned into flats. His move was made in one traverse (minivans are a fine thing) on Thursday, with Mark as driver.
So this seems like an appropriate time to post the picture I took in April in London. Below are Mark and Chris, standing in the street outside the rented flat in Barking:

My handsome guys. Chris has my hair, but I'm not sure I made any other genetic contribution besides the hosting.

I don't feel particularly empty-nestish, and have only made a few forays into his room here to sort out recyclables and dishes. My recollection is that we adjusted rather quickly to his departure in first year university to Prince George, and to his return. He's fairly unobtrusive in the house when he's home, does his own laundry and feeds himself, so I won't be heaving the great sigh of relief at having freedom, or the place to myself, or whatever. Plus, having outgrown the adolescent snarkiness (and grown into a mature snarkiness) he's good company when he emerges, so I expect to miss him more like another person than like the proof of my maternal nature.
I'm feeling rather meditative about this because of the season, and the media insistence on Being With Family Over Christmas, which at times seems somewhat hysterical. What with the Four Christmases movie, and news stories about parents with young children flying or driving cross country to visit two or more sets of parents (and being stranded by bad weather, hey, Christmas at the airport, kids! one to remember!) I've been getting that dislocated 'I am a stranger in this world' feeling.
Why would adults, who have their own homes and often their own families, go through the immense stress and hassle of travelling in a time of uncertain weather and random 'security' measures, in order to be in the same house as people they're related to but may not get along with or even like? Who is making them do this? What terrible thing will happen if they don't do it?

Part of my problem is that the same popculture that insists Christmas is About Family also insists that families hate each other. Brothers and sisters are routinely shown as squabbling and wishing their sibs would vanish, daughters and mothers are trapped in rote exchanges of exasperation, husbands and wives are bored or resentful. Because, I guess, we're all too sophisticated and realistic to believe that people could get along, or even love each other, except at Christmas, when it's enforced, which makes it believable.
I'm probably missing something important that would make this make sense.


fairyhedgehog said...

Is it because conflict is what drives stories?

Also, in real life some families do have a hard time getting along. I know my mother's family did, and I don't get on as well with my sister as my two lads do with each other.

I do know of families that are very close but I'm not sure the media would get a good story out of them.

batgirl said...

I think you've explained an important part of it. Conflict drives stories, but the assumption that all relationships are conflicted is lazy storytelling.
Which may be why I find it annoying? If no one in a relationship really loves the other person, then there's nothing at stake except oneself, and that _weakens_ the larger conflict. Like the mistake of making all the characters in a horror film so 'flawed' that the viewer ends up rooting for the monster.

Hm, it occurs to me that one relationship that _isn't_ assumed to be negative is that between mother and infant, and yet, even without postnatal depression, it can in real life be horribly muddled and tormented.
Maybe popcult can't stand to admit that, or maybe too much depends on convincing mothers that they never feel such terrible unforgiveable emotions?

I realise I'm making great sweeping oversimplifications here, and culture, even popculture, isn't monolithic. But I think the 'assumed relationship' between mother and infant is loving, where the 'assumed relationship' between sibs, and between parents and teens, say, is dislike.

My brother and I were very close as children, though we did quarrel and tease. I still remember my shock at discovering that a schoolfriend and her sibs really did dislike each other, it wasn't just surface squabbling.