As I face a year’s end, I find I get a bit sentimental. In fairness, that’s not too surprising since, as previously mentioned, I have a tendency to get sentimental most of the time these days. Back when I first noticed this phenomenon I wrote about the novelty of being reduced to tears by so many things in the months after my son’s birth: insurance ads, film trailers, incredibly basic gestures of kindness from people on the bus. But I thought there would be a gradual re-hardening of my spirit, a layering-up of the callouses I once knew, calcifying me back to something like I was before.
This has not yet come to pass, so I find myself still in that heightened sense of emotional acuity. I was never particularly stoical in the first place. Compared to granite-souled Irishmen of older generations, men who could bury six friends in a week without losing track of the football scores, it seems I was already a fairly wet character.
So, looking back on 2019, I find I’m more emotional than ever. It was, in many ways, a particularly horrible year, beset with near-endless political sturm und drang, and a growing sense that greater catastrophes lie round the corner. There were daily reasons to despair, or fire up YouTube and watch some palate-cleansing footage of cats being scared of cucumbers (look it up, trust me).
As a parent, such horrors take on sharper form since, in the grander sense, it’s hard not to feel uneasy about what exactly it is we’re leaving to our boy. Like a Deliveroo driver still chewing as he hands over your food, there’s a sense we’re not giving our children that which we ourselves were given to pass on. Rather than a few samosas and some onion dip, we’ve robbed their futures of polar bears and the concept of functioning social democracy.
And then I realise that with my greater sensitivity to the evils of the world comes a greater appreciation of its joys, too. Our son is happy and healthy, as are our family and friends. Professionally I’ve had the chance to do work that was incredibly rewarding – in between watching YouTube videos – and my day-to-day life has become stuffed with wonder.
The wonder, namely, of watching a hundred tiny little milestones lay themselves down, one by one, as my son’s life takes shape before me. Babbled speech and rudimentary kisses. Tentative steps and mistimed claps. Giggled singing and the studied, hesitant miming of the actions induced by his favourite books. All these things are likely to be remembered when I consider 2019 from the rear-view of some unknown future. Perhaps 10 years from now, striding across a desert wasteland, rummaging through the corpses of fellow mutants, I’ll look back on 2019 as the best of times. And if that’s not enough to make you cry, what is?
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