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COLUMN: Here’s to the new year and better days to come

At the risk of dating myself (yet again) I’ve been thinking recently about an old episode of M*A*S*H* – one which featured a storyline that played out over the course of a full calendar year.

My memory of it is fuzzy, but with a bit of help from the internet, I’ve learned the episode, titled ‘A War for All Seasons,’ first aired in December 1980 and opens as the medical staff of the 4077th ring in the year 1951.

Col. Potter, dressed as Father Time, closes a toast to the new year with a wish that it be “a damn sight better” than the old one, and that by this time next year, they’ll all be home.

Twelve months come and go, the usual hijinks ensue, the Korean war rages on, and as midnight, Dec. 31, 1951 approaches, Col. Potter, dressed once again as Father Time, closes the year with the same toast.

Why this 40-year-old episode would suddenly spring to mind as we turn the calendar to 2021 is no big mystery.

In terms of putting us all through the wringer, 2020 was the year that just kept on giving, all around the globe.

It began with the devastating Australia wildfires. From there, we saw the shooting down of a Ukrainian airliner with 176 people, many of them Canadians, aboard; the massive explosion in the port of Beirut; one tragedy after another heaped upon the people of Nova Scotia and, closer to home, the discovery of a nest of Asian giant hornets – colourfully dubbed (what else?) murder hornets.

And oh, yeah, there was that other pesky thing, too.

All in all, not the year we were hoping for when we bid adieu to 2019 with champagne toasts, fireworks and novelty eye wear.

Clearly, 2020 was the absolute worst, but let’s not let its awfulness cloud our memories beyond last January.

I had a quick look back a column I wrote around this time last year and was quickly reminded that the years 2016-’19 hadn’t exactly been one long picnic either. The phrase ‘dumpster fire of a year’ wasn’t coined within the last 12 months.

We human beings have a tendency toward nostalgia for “the good old days,” whether those days were 50 years or 18 months ago. Perhaps it’s a coping method, similar to the need to believe, when things aren’t going great, that the future holds something better.

Nonetheless, 2020 is a year that I’m going to go ahead and say all of us are relieved to see in our rear-view mirrors as we imagine happier times to come.

There are plenty of good things to remember about 2020, of course, particularly the way we’ve come together in support of one another as we’ve been forced to adapt to a strange and unexpected way of life.

And we have reason to be optimistic about 2021 as, one after another, vaccines against the novel coronavirus are approved by Health Canada and shipped out across the country. We’re told that by September, life could be returning to something approaching normal.

Unlike the folks at the 4077th, being able to go home isn’t the challenge we face. But then, this war isn’t being fought by armies half a world away. It’s on everyone’s doorstep and we are all in the battle. For now, this is where we find ourselves. Twelve months from now, who knows? I, for one, choose believe that this time next year, this will all be over and we can all be somewhere besides home.

Until then, we have little choice but to keep on fighting with the weapons we have: staying home or masking-up, maintaining a two-metre distance and washing our hands as if we’re a M*A*S*H* unit scrubbing in for surgery.

Meanwhile, here’s to the new year.

May it be a damn sight better than the old one.

Brenda Anderson is editor of the Peace Arch News.

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