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January 1, 2014

How to Rise & Greet the New Year With the Past Locked Firmly Inside Our Hearts.

I was stopped momentarily in my little Silver Jetta the other day at the corner of a quiet road and a busy one.

My daughter was in the back in her carseat. It was New Year’s Eve.

I guess I was feeling a little sorry for myself and for my little girl, since my husband had to work and, for us, it was a fairly normal day. It didn’t really feel like the dawning of another year and the closing of the one before.

More, I was thinking of my family a couple hours away—where we had recently moved from—and of my tiny house on the corner—when we, too, had called that area home; where my husband and I had brought our newborn home from the hospital, a grand total of seven minutes—not even seven miles—away from my parents.

The light was red longer than usual, allowing these thoughts and others to collect like a reservoir—too full—behind my mind and heart.

And then I heard them—the chiming of church bells.

I looked over at the church across the street from where we sat inside my silver Jetta.

My heart fell into the bottom of the well of my soul, somewhere near my stomach.

Tears built up and the dam that is my stoic nature squelched what could surely have been a torrential storm in many other hearts.

The light turned green—that strange vibrant—almost blue-green—that hangs from high-strung wires above.

I turned left off the quiet street, and my silver car went forward onto the busier one, but my mind was somewhere back in time, a few years ago.

I pictured myself in a different car—an older forrest green Honda—the one in which I learned to drive a stick-shift. My baby girl was with me, of course, and we were pulling into the loose gravel driveway of my little wooden house on the corner—the one so close to a church that the tinny, ding-dong of bells frequently filled the small space encapsulated within its wood and plaster walls.

This ethereal striking would reverberate within the walls of my heart, too, and it soothed my achingly tired spirit more nights than I care to remember.

I would sing Christmas carols along with its melodies to my tiny infant as she lay motionless from babyhood on my bed. The croon of my voice lulled her to sleep on so many still holiday nights and, trust me when I say, my daughter did not easily slumber.

I turned the steering wheel of my silver Jetta left again and wound down a curvy road that was beginning to collect snow. This road’s simple beauty was one of the first things that made this place feel like home when we moved here nearly two years ago.

The sobs that I contained in my chest—from hearing those glorious bells—never did escape my body, but they harbored there, much like a ship that rocks and rocks and rolls until the waves finally settle and calm and cease, and the carriage is once again allowed to rest.

My daughter, in the back in her carseat, looked gently at me and then out the window longingly.

I asked her if she remembered the church bells that once-upon-a-time filled our house with music.

I began explaining to her the significance of this particular day—of New Year’s Eve—and that it’s okay to forge ahead with hopes and dreams while still carrying memories from our past within our sometimes tender breasts.

I said to her that people don’t have to forget, and that letting go of some things isn’t truly possible—rather some experiences stay so deeply embedded within our tissues that the slightest ring of a bell brings them back to life—it turns out they were only sleeping, and not permanently gone.

And then I turned my silver Jetta up the next windy road—the one leading up to our home.

I took her tiny, soft palm in my larger, slightly dry, coarse one and led her inside.

The small spark of her youthful warmth tempered naturally the cold of my hands as she pulled me inside the front door, ready to make new music and new memories. Yet I couldn’t help feeling grateful for being reminded that my previous past has driven me completely to the path I currently follow—and that I wouldn’t cover my snow tracks for anything.

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo credit: Flickr: strotter13

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Kate Bartolotta Jan 2, 2014 6:07am

This is how we do it. The past doesn't go anywhere. It's part of what makes us who we are. Beautiful, Jenn.

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Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She’s also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.