old home movies until after two in the morning. There was a flurry of bottle rockets and Roman candles outside at midnight and we went to the kitchen to see them light up the sky, kissing while we stood there to celebrate the turn of the calendar.
The first day of 2011 dawned gray and rainy. We took a walk in the late morning, in between the storms passing through. The day was mild; by late afternoon, there was even sunshine spilling across the yard.
2010 is behind us now. It was a year of mixed reviews. As Warren and I walked, I asked him what he hoped 2011 held for us. He thought a moment, then observed that 2010 had been pretty good, but that he hoped "some areas" would go a bit smoother this year. What areas? Well, keeping the pace more controlled this year so things weren't quite so hectic and packed all the time.
I sighed. Me too. 2010 had been brutal on our schedules and personal time.
We walked on, talking of this and that. We walked past the house he'd lived in until he was ten: a small post-war cottage that featured prominently in the oldest of the movies we'd watched the night before. While we walked, Warren commented several times on the number of houses needing painting. I noticed the number of empty houses dotting our neighborhood.
The Great Recession hangs on tight here in Ohio, as it does in so many other places. Recovery, when it comes, will be long and slow. In Ohio, we have a projected deficit of over eight billion dollars for the next two-year budget cycle. The governor-elect has yet to announce his ideas as to how to proceed, but has already made comments, as have the Republican leaders in the statehouse, indicating the neediest and least protected are likely to be offered up first in the form of cuts to school funding, Medicaid, and other social services.
If only it were that easy. The crisis is so deep that even the conservative, pro-Republican Columbus Dispatch ran an article today in which the writers noted:
Despite what you may have heard during the campaign this fall, there is no way state leaders can save billions simply by "trimming fat" or "enacting efficiencies" that won't be noticed. Experts will tell you that most of the low- and even medium-hanging fruit has already been harvested to balance the current budget, which suffered from an unprecedented drop in tax revenue.
Rather, state leaders will soon learn a political truism: Talking about cutting the budget is easier than actually cutting it. Perhaps that is why nearly every prior state budget crisis was at least partially fixed with tax increases, regardless of which party was in charge.
Last Monday we were in Detroit for part of the day. Detroit is one big empty town. It is almost a ghost town, which is sad and disturbing. There are many reasons for Detroit's plight, and I don't pretend to be able to write about them knowingly. But I also don't pretend to "not know" that when the Detroit auto industry was booming with a strong workforce paid good wages with benefits, Detroit had a large middle class of blue collar workers who were able to buy cars, buy houses, pay for their medical treatment, and send their children to college. And now Detroit is row after row, street after street of empty, boarded up, decaying houses and commercial buildings. Elizabeth, who was with us that day, was nervous in downtown Detroit and kept worrying out loud about our being "shot at or something." There was no one there to shoot at you.
Another sigh. The Great Recession will be with us for another year. At least.
And yet, on a personal level, 2010 was a year full of wonderful events: Ben and Alise's wedding, Sam starting college, triumphs by the Symphony, our travels. It was a year full of love and family and friends. It was the year of the Big Buffalo.
Wednesday night of the dying year we had our friends Linda and Mark over for supper. It was a simple meal with simple food: oven-roasted potato wedges, some ham from Christmas, a salad. Homemade applesauce. We sat around the table and told stories and basked in the warmth of good friendship and the good flavors on our plates. Even though the recession has bit hard into all of our lives, the lights and the laughter and the simple act of our gathering pushed away the darkness, even if only for one evening.
I began writing this longhand on the raggedy end of the first day of 2011. Warren was in the basement, playing scales on his xylophone. Ribs were slow baking in the oven and the rich smell of barbeque sauce carried through the house. Later that evening, Warren, Elizabeth, and I sat long at the table, talking and eating while the angel chimes spun around, delicately making its little tings. The candles were guttering low by the time we pushed back from the table. We spent the evening together watching Elizabeth's all-time favorite movie, "Pocahontas," before heading to bed.
2010 is over. 2011 is here.
This morning, the sun came in a blaze of glory.