when we were young

January 2nd, 2017

When we were young and back at school after the winter break, we would write the date of the new year on the top right-hand corner of a piece of paper for the first time. Then for about six weeks after we would keep forgetting and write the old year.

When we were young we used pencils with erasers on the end so we could rub away our mistakes and start over. By the end of the day, eraser dust might still cling to our laps or sleeves, we made so much of it. A single pencil was mighty in its power to both write and right our wrongs.

Nowadays I’m not sure that anyone has occasion to write the year by hand, except I still do, and when I go pick up the dry cleaning I will get it wrong for a few more weeks or even months. Getting the year wrong might not constitute a mistake these days, since I don’t know how checks are handled by banks or whether human minds are still engaged in the process.

When we were young we didn’t use credit cards for little things like dry cleaning, lunch or stamps. (Actually, we didn’t even use dry cleaning.) Credit was used for buying cars and washing machines. For everything else we used checks or cash money for which we had to use our hands and head. That’s why we learned math: to keep track so we wouldn’t be fooled or cheated.

When we were young, my mother told us to clean the bathroom every Saturday. This was an awful chore at the time, but now I see it as a timeless profundity. We used Comet cleanser, which you can still find on the bottom shelf of the cleaning supply aisle at the supermarket, outshined by a mile of other colorful, expensive and overhyped products. The world literally turns for those few who notice, first, that the bathroom needs cleaning and, second, that farfetched promises don’t get the job done.

When I was young and in first grade, a second-grade boy stole my shoe and ran around the playground teasing me. I chased him over the grimy asphalt with a shoe on one foot and a blackened sock on the other. I fell far behind, vanquished by his ugly, embarrassing audacity. When I gave up, he pretended to pee in my shoe before he threw it back at me. The meanest kid in second grade will soon be the president of our country.

It seems like I’ve been here before: my thoughts on the new year.


  1. And we’ll stay with you, no matter how many times you return here. Thank you for your thoughts.

    Comment by Nathan Hayes — January 2, 2017 @ 10:42 am

  2. Wow. Most powerful post I have ever read by you, including one of your books. Every word resonated with me. Yea, you! This is so right on target about our lives and our future. Thank you for these lasting words.

    Comment by Ruth Andrew — January 2, 2017 @ 11:02 am

  3. Oh my goodness! Talk about surprise endings! I fear there will be many who will experience the same kind of surprise ending in the next few months. Thank you for capturing the feeling so exquisitely.

    Comment by Jo Ann Staebler — January 2, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

  4. All I can ever think to say after reading your posts is “thank you.” You always sum up a lot of the things that are on my mind, and at the same time give me so much more to think about. So thank you. <3

    Comment by Shawne — January 2, 2017 @ 5:08 pm

  5. Holy cow Maezen, this hits the nail on the head! I’ve been trying to shake off this doom and gloom since November. It’s just not happening.
    For what it’s worth, my girls each have a bathroom to clean on Saturday, and we use comet.
    Love you,

    Comment by Marcea — January 2, 2017 @ 5:24 pm

  6. You know I am still young. I have hardly been born!

    Comment by Bill — January 2, 2017 @ 6:29 pm

  7. Now he’s pissing all over our country.

    Comment by Liz — January 2, 2017 @ 7:16 pm

  8. Sometimes I don’t like this brave new world much. I always like you. Thank you.

    Comment by Gretchen Staebler — January 2, 2017 @ 7:35 pm

  9. Feels like there are not enough Saturdays… not enough Comet or bleach to clean up this mess. Thank you, Maezen.

    Comment by Jane — January 2, 2017 @ 8:01 pm

  10. You may have seen this before (attributed to Sparrow R. Jones), but if not, I think it captures well the challenge we all have with our fellow countrywomen and countrymen who elected DJT:

    “I am not mad at you that Clinton lost. I am unconcerned that we have different politics. And I don’t think less of you because you vote one way and I vote another. No… I think less of you because you watched an adult mock a disabled person in front of a crowd and still supported him. I think less of you because you saw a man spouting clear racism and backed him. I think less of you because you listened to him advocate for war crimes, and still thought he should run this country. I think less of you because you watched him equate a woman’s worth to her appearance and got on board. It isn’t your politics that I find repulsive. It is your personal willingness to support racism, sexism, and cruelty. You sided with a bully when it mattered and that is something I will never forget. So, no… you and I won’t be “coming together” to move forward or whatever. Trump disgusts me, but it is the fact that he doesn’t disgust you that will stick with me long after this election.”

    Comment by Stephen — January 3, 2017 @ 8:25 am

  11. Whoa…and Wow—we are all holding on for this wild and crazy ride we are about to be dragged on!

    Comment by Bridgette — January 3, 2017 @ 1:38 pm

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