It seems like everywhere I turn I hear people lamenting 2016 as awful, a horrible year that we are happy to chuck to the curb. I get that. This year has been marked by evil and loss around our world, and awareness of horrors that we feel powerless to prevent. 2016 in America sowed discord and pain in a way that feels impossible to move beyond. If we were to condense the year into a soundtrack, it would be one of yelling and weeping and spiteful words and painful silences.
But that is not completely how it sounded in our lives.January 2016 sounded like silent snow falling across the city. It sounded like that gentle crushing of boots against snow, a muffled dance as we trudged to see the Capitol blanketed in white and squeezed into the only bar open in the blizzard-swept city to devour mozzarella sticks with friends. It sounded like stillness and calm, and that swish that only snow can make as it paralyzes us and gives us the gift of a pause from our busy lives.
January also sounded like the echoes in our new apartment as we worked to expand and fill the (slightly larger) space with objects and friends, and it sounded like the bittersweet emptiness as we turned the key in the place that had been home for our whole marriage.
The spring months sounded like constant names spoken aloud, testing them on our tongues and seeing if they could work for our baby boy. They sounded like late night laughter and mornings that were still quiet, and the creak of our floor as I woke up to pee 4,5,6 times a night, juxtaposed with the obnoxious words that people tell you when you are pregnant, to sleep now because when the baby comes you won’t sleep through the night, and I would wonder who these pregnant mothers are who sleep soundly in those last months. They sounded like the chirpy music at barre as I slogged through late-term workouts. They sounded like confusion and fear, as we watched primaries roll in and I did frantic math daily as the pundits sputtered and James’ job had long nights. They sounded like customer service hold music, as my version of nesting entailed mostly fighting with various customer service reps about returns and exchanges. April sounded like New York streets and celebrations and my huffing and puffing on the stairs because this baby was coming soon. It sounded like frantic fingers on the keyboard because I was trying to get as much of my dissertation typed as possible before a certain tiny boy made it more difficult.
And then May, and our country started clamoring and name-calling about unforeseen political prospects, and all of that was drowned out by a thumping heartbeat, broadcast through a hospital room, and following by the sounds of a tiny baby’s cry.
The sounds of June are the most beautiful song I have ever heard. June sounded like Henry’s still feeble cry, but they were swiftly followed by the hushing of our families as they gathered around us. It sounded like music at a wedding as we danced our tired bodies beside my brother and his new wife. June sounded like my mom reading aloud from the journal she kept when I was a baby and endless hymns over a tiny ginger head.
July and August blur together in a whir of tears and screams and finally a tiny baby giggle that is the sweetest sound of 2016- perhaps of all of time. Maybe that laughter is why I can’t fully join the masses that claim that 2016 sounded like nothing but a tale told by an idiot. Because when your days are punctuated with the giggles of an innocent soul, you think that maybe everything will be ok, is on it’s way there now.
The fall sounded like laughter, yes, but also like tears. Henry’s as he grew into vocal chords much stronger than those newborn cries, but also mine. There were hard weeks, where I didn’t sleep, lying awake and listening to every sound, listening to the words in my own head, the ones I repeated that I was not ok. I was tired, I was anxious, I was weary, and those emotions became a loudness that drowned out a lot of early October. We watched the news and debates, and our nation murmured worried thoughts, scornful words, snarky quips, and I listened to the sounds and wondered what a country we are building. November sounded like equilibrium at our house, like (finally!) a schedule that gave us quiet moments and routine expectations. It sounded like more laughter and fewer tears and nights that at last were quiet all the way through. November sounded like the crunch of sneakers on leaves as I ran another half marathon and the squeak of wheels on sidewalk as we pushed Henry all over the city to enjoy fall. November ended with the angry grating of metal on metal as our car died on the way home from Thanksgiving, and the Christmas season sounded like an incongruous blend of optimistic carols and terse conversations with claims agents. But it also sounded like Henry’s breathy gasps over Christmas lights, and repeating the old words of a baby who came to deliver ever-new mercies.
2016 sounded like The Office and Homeland and Sherlock and Westworld, as we love to get hooked on good TV together. It sounded like the angry noise of sleep training followed by the beloved and predictable daily promise of a bedtime that sounded like dinner together and jazz music. It sounded like hard conversations about what are we doing? and how are we parenting? and what does what’s happening on the news mean for our jobs? It sounded like the sing-song poetry of children’s books, and the descriptions of my dissertation chapters that I speak aloud to Henry in French as we do chores around the house. It sounded like family dinners and weekly bible studies, like late nights and early morning, like every last stanza of The Battle Hymn of the Republic because it has a hypnotic effect on Henry.
2016 sounded like new life and weary work and endless joy and pain and laughter all at once, and in spite all the hard moments- I would be lucky if 2017 sounded half as loud. PS: How 2013 tasted and 2015 looked.