Many of their friends and acquaintances were ready. They craved large parties, big gatherings, majestic gestures of celebration following the winters of pandemic austerity. The town planned its annual midnight fireworks display. Invitations flowed, formal and informal: join us to welcome the new year.
Our Pine Street friends wished them well, but found themselves longing for smaller, quieter, more intimate time with loved ones. Their neighborhood streets were covered in snow compacted into icy pathways; the trees and shrubs glistened with hoarfrost. A blanket of fog settled over the valley and gave every indication it would remain until spring.
One by one, they turned down invitations to exciting, glamorous, and liquor-fueled celebrations. Without much planning, with just a phone call or text or two, they found themselves in Allison’s old green house.
The house that anchored their friendship in a place. How unlikely, years before, when Allison believed she would study, get her doctorate, marry her boyfriend, move on, to imagine that her old house, with its slow but steady renovations, would shelter so many gatherings.
As Marilyn’s house had done before, and someone else’s house would do later. There is always that place, the one where friends go when they need one another’s company, when they are not sure what to do next, when they want to celebrate, mourn, or rest.
This new year’s eve, the friends needed all these moments. They celebrated the new loves among them, mourned the losses the year had brought, and rested, together, in the welcoming arms of friendship.
Just before midnight, a tap on the door roused the group from a moment of quiet reflection. Before Allison could rise and make it to the entry, the door opened.
“We saw the lights, and thought we’d join you, if that’s okay?”
Leo came in, holding Franny’s hand, making the circle of friendship complete.
Dear readers: This is our last visit to Pine Street for a while. I am taking a hiatus to work on other projects; I am certain the call of our friends here – Franny and Leo, Kassandra and David and Penny, Louise and Douglas, Allison and Emil and Jeeves and Rosa, and River – will sound again sooner or later. In the meantime, I send best wishes for a peaceful, joyful turn of the calendar to 2023.