But, in fact, on rereading I realize that Judith is looking back on that year. It’s still very much on her mind, but time has moved on. As it does. So she is back on Beaver Place for this realization, which is where the novel begins:
“Sunday night. And the thought strikes me that I ought to be happier than I am.”
Scrolling through social media in recent weeks, it’s a question I sense lingering behind so many lovely photos, the sort which appear with little commentary, perhaps a thin string of hashtags, filtered signals of something-like-contentment.
The “small ceremonies” that Judith’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Meredith, observes, are the small ceremonies that Judith creates and sustains. Sometimes unwittingly, as with suggesting on a second Sunday that they could have had garlic bread with their meal, which Meredith notes was on the menu the previous Sunday. Sometimes deliberately, as with the High Tea meal they continue to enjoy on Sunday afternoons, a ritual carried across the ocean, to Beaver Place.
“But we’ve never managed to capture that essential shut in coziness, that safe-from-the-storm solidarity. We fly off in midair. Our house, perhaps, is too open, too airy, and then again we are not the same people we were then; but still we persist.”
Even in the unfamiliar, we can create our own “small ceremonies”. And, if we are fortunate, we can enjoy that “essential shut in coziness, that safe-from-the-storm solidarity”. The Gill family is moving through the months and, in my timeline, the curve is flattening.