It has been a long year with so much happening, and once again, I said I was not going to do it this year because we are not having guests over. But a pang of nostalgia and the fear of losing tradition was overwhelming, so I will make Gumbo again this New Year’s Day. We will also have black-eyed peas with the leftover ham bone from Thanksgiving. The bone was in the freezer. Once again, I must share how this Gumbo came to be. I thought I had a great recipe in a cookbook titled “One of a Kind: Recipes from the Junior League of Mobile.” I remember taking the cookbook to my husband’s aunt Tommie for her advice on the ingredients. A former New Orleans native and authentic Cajun (her father was from Paris and her mother, African American) known for her Gumbo recipe, guarded like a state secret. She took the book and crossed out (with great emotion) some of the listed ingredients and added no new ones.
I did not know that excellent Gumbo is simple, just Andouille sausage and lots of shrimp. The secret is the roux and the cooking time. The best okra is frozen, and do not cook it for long. Add the shrimp, and do not overcook. It only takes a few minutes if the Gumbo is hot. That gave me her special recipe, which I continue to make. I realize, though, the actual ingredient is “Love.”
This year was supposed to be one filled with accomplishment. Who would have predicted a war in Ukraine? We traveled to Indianapolis in May 2022 for the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine meeting. This was the first in-person meeting since December 2019. It was also just before the mask mandate in airports was lifted. At the meeting, I ended two years as the President of the Foundation and a member of the Board. I was emotionally overcome and could barely finish my first in-person Board meeting since March 2020. It was bittersweet to be in Indianapolis. We had planned to spend time with my Uncle Pap, but he died in Indianapolis from COVID in March 2021, just before the widespread COVID vaccine was available.
These past few years have transformed how I deal with colleagues and patients. I am not judgmental, but I am tolerant and understanding of dismissive attitudes about the disease, how it spreads so quickly, and how it has left a trail of death and lasting effects worldwide. When patients say they do not want a Flu shot or the COVID vaccine, I just say it is their choice, but they are putting others at risk. I stop there.
This year also was filled with an unexpected loss. My nephew was killed by a drunk driver, and feeling my sister’s and my brother-in-law’s pain and witnessed their pride and love for their beautiful baby, now grown into an accomplished, award-winning athlete and businessperson, taken from them but forever in their hearts. Their grace and eloquence were unmatched. I would not have been able to hold it together.
We had our own brush with COVID. Thankfully home testing and Paxlovid helped our beloved husband and Father recover. I also attribute the four COVID vaccines he had. My case was also mild. I celebrated my birthday with friends on Broadway. My first time there since March 2020. We saw “The Piano Lesson” and had dinner. We had our usual trip to Ocean City in December and celebrated Roy’s birthday. It was so great to be there. We realized that since Thanksgiving was a week early, we had fewer people there. We did see our family in Baltimore for the first time since 2020.
This was supposed to be a year to celebrate, but we do so with caution. Now realizing that we are old enough to see the people who were our young heroes now dying in their 90s. However, I had the beautiful experience of witnessing the birth of our beautiful grandson (I have known his mother since she was in college, and she adopted me as one of her mothers). He joined his beautiful sister and wonderful parents.
We are now COVID-boosted times three but are still cautious. This is an unpredictable moment in history. Massive snowstorms, extreme temperature fluctuations, drought, and severe weather events. Taking the time to make Gumbo seems appropriate for this moment in history. I need to stir up some love. 2020 ripped my heart into pieces. I am still trying to define what I lost and gained for myself. In 2021, the loss of my uncle was too much, and even now causing my mother sadness. She misses her brother. 2022 was supposed to be the year, but I still wear a mask and no party dresses. I am thankful we are here and am hopeful for 2023. I made significant accomplishments in my new position, published multiple articles, including a book chapter, and saw my mentees marry and accomplish much.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ Martin Luther King, Jr.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language, and next year’s words await another voice.” T.S. Eliot
New Year’s is a time of reflection and reconnection to oneself. I always make black-eyed peas for good luck. Once again, my New Year’s commitment is to be a loud voice and advocate. I still plan to get into some “good trouble,” and I know you will join me. We have so much work to do in 2023. I am a descendant of enslaved people who were taken from their homeland and stripped of their names, not their pride. I can trace my roots back to 1840. We must dismantle racism and rebuild trust in our government. We were asked to do that in 2022 and will be asked to do it in 2023.
The year 2022 saw us vote in record numbers, take to the streets to fight for justice, and make history in countless ways. The new year 2023 will require the same from us. Unfortunately for us in healthcare, we will have to deal with surges of COVID and other viral infections and care for all our other patients.
To 2023 and keeping hope alive!!!
“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” —Oprah Winfrey