It seems fitting that my year of prolific traveling ended with an itinerant holiday. We left two days before Christmas to fly back to Chicago to spend the holiday with Mr. Spy’s family. Unfortunately, a few days before, I had come home sick from work. I was not only coughing a lot, but I had severe laryngitis. This made for some complicated family gatherings. The day after Christmas, we flew to New Mexico to visit my mom and dad. I was sad to miss out on an opportunity to hike in the mountains, but it was a peaceful place to recuperate. I still don’t have my voice back, but I seem to be on the mend.
We returned on Sunday evening and all slept in, aided by the time change. And it’s nice to be home. It’s an important thing in a new house to go away for a while and come back. That’s really how you know where you live. Yesterday morning, AJ and I made the rounds of the neighborhood for New Year’s preparations. Our first stop was the wine shop, where someone helped me find a delicious bottle of sparkling Loire Valley wine to go with the last bottle of Lambrusco I could find on the shelf.
Next stop was Union Market, one of many gourmet grocers in the area, and the one with the best meat counter. I’d tried to order a ham — a New Year’s Day tradition — but had somehow screwed something up. I stood in the long line at the counter without much hope, but after wrapping up my New Year’s Eve salmon in brown paper, the grocer found the very last ham for me. “It’s your lucky day, darlin'” he said in his Irish lilt as he wrapped it up and knocked $3/lb. off the price because it was bigger than I wanted. “Happy New Year!”
The last stop was our regular grocer, the one that we refer to as “Food Panther.” We rounded up the rest of our groceries, chatted with the woman behind us in line at the check out who’d been in front of us in line at Union Market, and said Happy New Year to our cashier. We walked up the hill hope with our purchases feeling like a holiday.
In the afternoon, AJ finished the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy and was desperate to resolve the cliffhanger with book three, so we set out again. Our first stop was the small bookshop that recently opened up around corner from us, but they were out. We headed a few blocks down the road and one block down the hill to the big chain bookstore outpost, but they were out too. we kept walking another few blocks to my very favorite neighborhood bookstore. They had what we were looking for and also a cat for us to pet. And it turned out I’ve bought so many books there in the last four months, that I had a $10 coupon waiting for me. “Happy New Year to you!” said the girl who rang us up. And, in response to my rasping voice, “I hope you’re feeling better soon. Have a cup of tea!”
AJ and I walked home discussing our good fortune in being able to walk to three different bookstores from home. This is an excellent quality in a neighborhood. We also discussed the irony of how moving to an enormous metropolis gives us shopping on a more human scale, where we talk to the people we do business with and can walk where we need to go. Halfway home, AJ said, “Can we turn left here? I like walking by the park.” I agreed and we headed two blocks uphill to the park, just as the sun was starting to set. Many runners and dog walkers were out. Park workers were setting up lights for the 5K set for just before midnight. It was peaceful. “I like our neighborhood,” said AJ. “Are you glad to be back in Brooklyn?” “Yes. I missed it.” “Me too.”
In the evening, I made a big pot of spaghetti, which AJ ate with butter and we ate tossed with caviar and topped with salmon poached in white wine with shallots and carmelized lemon. We watched a Marx Brothers movie together — a New Year’s Eve tradition — and tried to stay awake. AJ conked out at 20 to midnight. I tucked him in while Mr. Spy poured us champagne. We bundled up and went up to the roof. Across the neighborhood, in the dark, we could see shadows of others on their roofs. It was a crisp, cold night and the lights of Manhattan twinkled. Just before midnight, we could hear the whole neighborhood counting down. Mr. Spy said, “Happy New Year!” and kissed me at the exact moment this happened:
The close-in fireworks were set off over the adjacent park and were near enough that we could smell the gunpowder. The farther away ones were right over the Statue of Liberty’s head. We could also see displays off of lower Manhattan and near the Brooklyn Bridge. It was spectacular. The Statue of Liberty display ended last. The lights stopped long before the sounds, which took a while to roll toward us. When it stopped, there was an eerier sound that grew and grew — all the ships in the river were blowing their horns, a magnificent noise and surely an omen for a magnificent year.