Top 5 Moment of 2016

The general malaise of this year has made it more difficult to put together the top 5 list I do with my friends Walter and Dan, and yet doing so seems even more important in such a time as this one. So here are my top 5 moments of 2016.

1) I’m my honorary nephew Sammy’s godmother. The christening was at the beginning of December, and it just makes my heart happy to have a permanent place in that little boy’s life.

2) I wrote two essays this year. One the women poets in Blackwood’s I’ve had kicking around forever and one on Victorian Christmas serials and Doctor Who. Oh and both are placed in an edited collection and a journal, respectively. I also indexed Bentley’s from 1837-1851, wrote two conference papers, and was co-chair of a library director search committee. I’m tired guys. It’s been a lot of work this year. 

3) Lots of travel to places with people I know: Philadelphia for a wedding and Athens for a conference, but I did a lot more eating with Walter than conferencing. 🙂 

4) The sampler of perfect oysters Jason and I had in Athens at a restaurant called Seabear (thanks Walter for reminding me!).  It had a warm, inviting ambience, and the oysters, my heavens those oysters. We could have eaten just those oysters for hours. It was a lovely moment of food experimentation and sharing with the man I love.

5) Being in the pictures of Jason’s honorary nephews, well nephews, special family moments for the year. I’m continuously amazed about how supportive Jason’s friends family is and how they’ve made me one of their family. Well maybe this one is two. In general, I’m constantly amazed by how supportive and lovely Jason is of my career, my interests, my anxieties, my cat squad, and just me in general. Becoming part of his extended family just emphasizes even more how wonderful he is. Indeed, as I sit on the couch typing this next to him, Dodger is curled up asleep between–his preferred place–and Constance is trying to get our attention in his cage. 

Commonplace: L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Christmas morning broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the plowed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. 

Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice reechoed through Green Gables. “Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem real, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green—they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why—why—Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!” 

Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air. 

Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was—a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves—they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, andabove them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon. 

“That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,” said Matthew shyly. “Why—why—Anne, don’t you like it? Well now—well now.” 

For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears. 

“Like it! Oh, Matthew!” Anne laid the dress over a chair and clasped her hands. “Matthew, it’s perfectly exquisite. Oh, I can never thank you enough. Look at those sleeves! Oh, it seems to me this must be a happy dream.”

–L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Language is Always Political

My history of the English language professor always use to say that language is a dialect with the bigger army. English is the polyglot mess it is because England kept on getting invaded. Chimamanada Ngozi Adichie writes about how we should be using language now, in this post truth moment. And yes post truth is now a legitimate word. As she says, “Now is the time to be precise about the meanings of words.” 

In memorium: Gwen Iffil

2016 has been a year where we’ve lost a lot of important voices. One of those voices was Gwen Iffil. As an NPR/PBS nerd, I knew her voice and presence from the Newshour. Her cousin Sherrilyn delivered the eulogy at her service earlier in November and had this to say about her cousin:

We will need the example of Gwen in the coming days. Think of the things she showed us: that civility is important; that facts and the truth matter; that standards elevate us; that there’s no nobility in pretending that we don’t see race, but that the chance for nobility comes in how we respond once we see it; that we are not the story­—the most important story is always about someone else—that family and friends must be treasured; that privacy is essential for dignity; that excellence is something to strive for every day, that there is no weakness in listening.

An edited version of the whole eulogy can be read here. There’s a certain power in memorial writing that tips us forward even as we honor our loved one and grieving. We trace the impact of the person and how the threads of their lives spin out into the universe , even though they are no longer here to do the spinning.