Monday, January 28, 2013

Im Westen Nichts Neues...

We closed the door on 2012 a few weeks ago, and are well into 2013. Much like Janus, we look behind and ahead at the same time. I can honestly say that I was glad to bid good-bye to the year that passed. It was ups and downs, mostly downs, too many arguments, and too much doubt. In the end I was left with the image of myself as a failed father and husband, and a middling teacher. As the summer progressed, and we moved into a new school year, I have a greater sense of competence in the classroom, and I am still holding on as a father.

"Im Westen Nichts Neues..."  is the German title which translates as "All Quiet on the Western Front", a novel by Erich Maria Remarque about the experiences of a soldier in World War I. The idea of "all quiet" in this book is a bit deceptive, because there is always the idea that there will be another assault to fight off, another push to make, more blood. In the end, the quiet promised is that of death.

As cheery as that all is, it is somewhat reflective of my outlook on this coming year. Things are quiet now, but where will the next blow-up be? Will it be oldest girl? Or any one of the other children? Middle girl is now hitting the "junior woman" stage, and baby boy is struggling between childhood and adolescence. Lots of opportunities for blow-ups here.

Looking forward, there are opportunities for a good year, a memorable one. Trips far and abroad, chances to see and do new things, times to grow in faith as a family.

This last part is the one thing that gives me hope. Even in the darkest parts of last year, when it seemed like we couldn't stand to be in the room together, we still prayed the Rosary together. Even oldest girl would sit and pray, at first sullenly, but now willingly. And the occasion has become a time for our family to share an experience and a pleasant memory.

This is the tough part, and when I feel my parents' absence most keenly, because I wasn't ready for the trench warfare that is parenting a teen. But it is quiet now. And the last scene, although it doesn't have a happy Disney ending does have something. In the face of the destruction and chaos all around, Paul Baumer sees a bird, small and precious, and he is moved to draw it. For a brief moment, there is a bit of beauty in the face of ugliness, and he delights in it.

Perhaps the small moments are all that we need.