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Dear Ilyana,
 
We rang in the New Year at my house. Aunt Polina came over to have dinner with us, and we had the TV turned to the countdown as we gathered in the living room. Jeroen has been in Amsterdam with your grandparents for the holiday season this year. They’ve been fighting, I think. They haven’t invited us over very often, and Aunt Polina has been going on a lot of long walks with Mom on the weekends.  Mom says that they will work through it though; she says I shouldn’t worry about them and it’s been a tough year and no couples can seamlessly transition through grief. She gave me so many reasons without me saying anything that I started to worry, but I do think she’s right. They’ll be okay. He’s coming back tomorrow. 
 
For dinner, we had the usual: sauerkraut, salad, herring, pelmenyi. We had ham on Christmas Eve, so we had chicken and steak for New Year’s Eve. Dad was the kitchen all day, humming “Silent Night” of all things. I went to the European deli downtown with Mom to buy the herring and pickles. It made me think of Ygritte offering apple slices on Halloween (or maybe I should say Hollowy). They would both be so unlikely to show up in an American sitcom holiday episode, although I guess I could see apple slices being offered by a health nut character. It’s strange. When Mom and I went around running errands, I kept glimpsing people that you describe. I thought I caught a glimmer of Iswy, but then it turned out to be a plastic bag, stuck on some shrubbery in a parking lot median and fluttering in the breeze. I thought I saw Azra through the boarded up windows of The New Wave, but when I got closer, I saw that it was just the shadows cast by the shelves of videotapes. Guess they haven’t emptied out their stock yet. 
 
Aunt Polina brought champagne for them and Martinelli’s for me. I think of the night through a lens of bubbling gold liquid, I saw so much of it through the glasses: Mom’s face, spliced like a Cubist painting, laughing in response to a joke that Aunt Polina made; Dad’s hand smudged by a whorl of bubbles as he helped himself to more salad; Aunt Polina’s eyes, their sadness somehow unmasked by the golden hue as she raised her glass for a toast. Toast to what? To the new year, to health, to your memory, the first couple times. Then they got more creative. 
 
I might have spent more time that night peering through my glass and its contents than drinking the cider, but the adults were too far gone in their own haze to notice. It makes the moment feel more ephemeral, and this memory will fade into a golden blur over which next year’s will be laid and the year’s after that. I’ll have a stack of flimsy memories of New Year’s, and I want to tie them up with a string and mail them to you, but I don’t know how. 
 
I’m not sure, where you are, if Halloween or All Souls’ Day would be more commonly used to mark the passing of time, whatever time would mean in eternity. It’s so arbitrary, New Year’s, but I guess it is as good a day as any to take account of the past and look to the future. I want to say I will never stop writing, but I am held back (please, don’t put the letter down, please hear me out) by fear that I will. That maybe one day the letters will no longer reach you. That maybe one day I will just put it off to the next and so a day unspools into a week into a month into a year into a life. I will hate myself, I think, if that were to happen. 
 
I’m glad you were able to hear me play for you. I wrote my own arrangement of “Welcome to the Black Parade” for solo cello, and I’ve been practicing it. I don’t know if it’s any good; It’s on the simplistic side, but I didn’t want embellishments to obscure the original melody. I played it for our parents, just after the countdown, amid the sounds of our neighbors’ noisemakers and honking – did you manage to catch any of it?
 
Love,
Emma

May 2015

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