Happy New Year/An Ode to Rosie

Usually, I’m really excited about the holidays. I love the meals that come with Thanksgiving and Christmas, the days off from school, and the movie scenes with families around the table.

Yet for some reason, New Year’s Eve doesn’t do it for me. Hence, the late post.

I don’t really set resolutions anymore. I view my July birthday as a re-start button if I’ve gone astray from the year’s goals. That is, if I can still remember them.

The firecrackers that used to decorate the night sky of my childhood  are no longer as all the neighborhood children grew up and moved away. There are grandchildren now who may come out and set the firecrackers, but it’s not the same. As a child I rarely participated in fireworks displays because my father thought they were too dangerous. Instead, I often looked out from a window and watched the scene unfold as the clock counted down. Sometimes, I went out during the last hour or so of the old year to help ring in the new.

This time around, I knew the New Year meant a return to Venezuela. I really can’t complain. I had five weeks off. But I missed my country with a deepness that not even I expected.

I teared up in the airport when heading to my gate because I knew I was happier than I’ve been in years in Venezuela. But somehow I was sitting at my gate wishing I could find the professional happiness I’m living here in Venezuela (and the work-life balance too) while residing in the US; wishing I could fast forward through all the moves and changes and just be fluent in Spanish already, settled in my career already, done living that wonderful “young” experience and now just talking about it.

But I’m not there yet. And it’s bittersweet.

With change comes sacrifice. There’s no way around it. I’ve missed family milestones while away at college, in NYC, and here in Venezuela. But I’ve also grown tremendously as an individual with one less “what-if” on my list if I didn’t travel, didn’t leave.

If I didn’t leave home I would still be looking out a window on New Year’s Eve–feeling some kind of way–but with no fond memories of North Carolina, Australia, New Zealand, New York City, Ireland, Belgium, Puerto Rico, San Francisco, other places I’ve visited, and now Venezuela.

With no memories to get me excited for a new year of growth and change.

Now when driving through Caracas to Valencia, I smiled a little when I saw the lush greenery, the houses built right in the mountainsides, and the now familiar political graffiti because this country has been a balm to a soul that I didn’t even know was wounded.

I love the people, and I love the beauty.

I guess my New Year’s Resolution is this: to not be afraid of the blessings that have been bestowed upon me. To not wait for the other shoe to drop. I found a bookmark I gave my mom that reads as follows:

“When God wants to give, the hands become too small to hold the gift.”–Congolese proverb

That’s my mantra for the New Year while the theme song is Rosie as recorded at Parchman Farm.

Parchman Farm was a notorious prison in Mississippi that came to epitomize racial injustice. Basically an intense labor camp where African-American men were sent for petty and major crimes alike (with the book always being thrown at them), it was known for brutally beating prisoners and working them, literally, like slaves.

Parchman Farm is alluded to in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Piano Lesson (the great scholar Marvin McAllister really explained the play to me during the NEH seminar I often discuss).

Alan Lomax, an archivist of folklore music, recorded prison work songs at Parchman Farm. This particular one, Rosie, always stuck out to me. What I thought for years were people clapping out the beat is actually the sound of the men chopping felled trees as they worked.

The song is talking about looking out at life from a window.

It’s talking about the anxiety of missed opportunities.

It’s essentially imploring a woman to not get married to anyone else until the prisoner gets released.

It’s about life moving on without you.

As much as I’m living my life, that’s my biggest fear. That I’m missing something–the small moments of home–every time I choose to be away.

Of course, mine is not because of systemic racism and subjugation.

It’s by choice.

And because of this ability to choose, freedom to choose, I listen to Rosie whenever I doubt myself. Too many people from my community were denied such opportunities, so I have to live them.

I have to.

And that’ll be my resolution.

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2 thoughts on “Happy New Year/An Ode to Rosie

  1. Yes! You have to. We all have to. Love it! Great food for thought. Onward and in the moment K. Soon you’ll be able to add fond memories of Brazil to that list as well. The time to sit back, is not yet upon you and that’s okay 🙂

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