Another 365 days is drawing to a close, prompting all kinds of emotions, memories, and longings. How to sum up a year? If I were to do this reckoning by the activity that occupies the most of my time and attention, I hereby report that this year I made approximately 360 lunches and 360 dinners for the family, and somewhere in the vicinity of 3,000 snacks, by the most conservative estimate (“but mommy, I’m HUNGRY!” goes the refrain from someone every half hour). I also drank about 400 pots of coffee—an average of one a day, but some days called for a second. Much pie and cookies were consumed with and without coffee over the course of the year. We made a cross-country move over the summer, after all, and I don’t care what anyone says, but moving requires extra doses of pie and cookies—all for medicinal purposes. I don’t make the rules.
I’ve also given somewhere in the vicinity of a dozen and a half at-home haircuts to two members of the household. My foray into basic household cosmetology began during the pandemic. For a few months in Anno Domini 2020, all haircutting establishments were shut down, and then reopened with serious restrictions. Alarmed that his hair might grow longer than he deemed acceptable for even Zoom meetings, my beloved begged for help. Twenty minutes of terror and despair followed, but voilà! The first haircut by my own hands was complete. True, my customer did have one good angle—and one bad one—from that first attempt, but this held practical benefits: he knew which way to turn for Zoom meetings. A month later, he was back for round two. As has been the case with so many pandemic developments, there has been no going back since then.
The quality continues to exemplify the best of the adage “you get what you pay for.” When it comes to cutting my husband’s hair, specifically, I would describe this activity as the ultimate marital trust-fall. When you go to a professional, you can make requests, maybe even bring a picture along: here’s what I’d like to happen, how I would like my haircut to turn out. But things work a bit differently at “Mom Cuts,” as my eight-year-old has lovingly nicknamed my haircutting salon, conveniently located in our upstairs bathroom. Look, you get what you get at Mom Cuts. That’s what makes it such a one-of-a-kind, unforgettable experience that keeps bringing the regulars back time after time. And not to brag, but I’ve never yet drawn blood while cutting hair. Cutting tiny people’s nails is a different story, but we digress.
I’ve also braided an estimated three-hundred braids over the course of this year for my daughter. First, going through an Elsa stage, she asked for “the Elsa braid” whenever she woke up each morning. More recently, two braids are the norm. Thus 2024 promises to hold many more braids in store than 2023.
With an average of one load of laundry per day just to keep up, I estimate that this year involved around 365 loads as well. And since approximately one sock from someone in the household goes missing every three loads or so, this means that we’ve lost approximately 121.66 socks this year. Seems high, honestly, but you can’t argue with science.
There are other, more serious ways to measure the year, if I were to use more typical tracking mechanisms that other fellow residents of this age of post-modernity employ to keep track of such matters. I could, for instance, track my reading and writing or music listening in a more scientific way than just sheer memory. As a result, I have no idea just how many books I read this year overall. Maybe a hundred or so, if we average maybe two-ish a week? Estimates work best in round numbers, so sure, let’s go with that.
We can laugh at such attempts to sum up a year, encapsulate a time in our lives in the merest of lists, but history reminds us that doing so is a desire peculiar to our species. Humans, unlike animals, are deeply historical. We tell stories about our past, distant or recent, and we want to pass down such stories. But the nature of the stories we tell about our year has become much more deeply personal in recent past.
Just think of Greek and Roman approach of naming the year after archons or consuls—when rulers were appointed or elected for one year’s term, the year was named after them. “In the consulship of Cicero,” they might say, and all knew what the year was. In so-and-so’s governorship of Judaea, we hear, a baby was born unlike all others. We roughly know what the year range for this is—governors are less well-documented than consuls or emperors, after all, but still offer enough of a historical footprint to give us something to work with. At any point, so much of dating in ancient documents was done by the names of political rulers, great men to a man.
We still do some of this in dating events by famous events, political developments, elections of Presidents. But as the continued “reveals” of personal reads-of-the-year and Spotify list recaps over the past couple of weeks have shown, we do something else too. By creating such deeply personalized lists for measuring or summing up each waning year, we get to place our own stories—and those of our families—into history’s arc. And this, ultimately, is so beautifully reminiscent of the gospel and its reversals. The lowly matter, the haughty will be lowered, and God’s glory encompasses each story at the end.
No hair from anyone’s head ever falls to the ground without God seeing it. Even at Mom Cuts.