A year, a life in review

December 21, 2020

   2020 may go down as a year best forgotten. On the other hand, if it’s true we do tend to learn best from our own mistakes, then this year might be the one to take full stock of, as it’s a treasure trove of fubars, bad decisions and poor choices. As in your own life, for instance.

   Like that time when you got your first bike for Christmas and were instructed not to cross a certain street with it. The very next day you did just that at the very moment your parents happened to be driving past. You were grounded for a week with nothing to do but stare at your shiny new Christmas bike parked under the carport, trying to fathom the odds of getting caught in the first place.

   The street in question was a tiny side street that you can never remember your parents ever driving down. Yet there they were, as if suddenly appearing out of some miasmic mist, your father’s face with an executioner’s sneer; your mother’s that of someone jeering from the foot of the scaffold, holding a rotting vegetable. You were the obedient son, the dutiful one, the child who obeyed every command. Now you were exposed to be the same defiant, miscreant, Bowery Boy street urchin as your middle brother. Of course, your parents would be thinking guillotine right at that moment.

   But just as the long road of perdition that was most of 2020 proves, the reward for righteousness is a dish best served as a leftover forgotten in a back corner of the refrigerator.

   Unlike that John Dillinger brother of yours who escaped major felonies in his youth, and for whom 2020 would have seemed like a respite, you’d be shadowed for the rest of life with the cold reality that you were not capable of getting away with the slightest transgression, and the stultifying and suffocating path of the straight and narrow would be your lot in life.

   But just as the long road of perdition that was most of 2020 proves, the reward for righteousness is a dish best served as a leftover forgotten in a back corner of the refrigerator. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they suddenly show a glimmer of getting better, as when that leftover proves botulism-free. Turns out the straight and narrow generally will lead to the preferred destination, as free and honest elections and my reformed and righteous brother will attest.

   Years later, you find yourself in the middle of an interview to qualify for a stipend to spend six weeks at Oxford University, and which you parley into a near three-year traipse across Europe and beyond. It whet an appetite for travel that no straight and narrow could quench, no matter how circuitous the path turned out to be.

   Still, the temptation to cross that forbidden street has the allure of the outlaw about it. A week without my new Christmas bike was enough to cure me of that allure. It took a little longer for my brother.

   I think it will take us a lot longer to find the straight and narrow leading out of 2020. It might be better to throw that leftover down the disposal and start with something fresh.

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