Mom and I talked a time or two earlier this year about the so-called approaching doomsday year. We would laugh about it, although I did sense a hint of worry on her part. After all, we had watched the silly motion picture “2012” together a year or two earlier, so she knew where I was coming from.

I had hoped at the time that she would live to see the arrival of 2012, which is being billed as a benchmark year of sorts for a number of different reasons. However, it simply wasn’t meant to be. When we talked at the end, I assured her that my sister and I would be fine as we moved into the future.

Mom began her journey on this beautiful earth in the year 1932. It is interesting to note that there were a few parallels between 1932 and 2011. At the time, the Great Depression had left 13 million Americans unemployed. I understand that more than 20 percent of the nation’s population was unemployed at the time.

In 2011, we were still reeling from the chronic effects of the Great Recession — even though we were told that the economic downturn had technically ended in 2009. Even today — there are still signs of trouble. As of this writing, a story had just moved across the Associated Press wire indicating that Sears Holdings would close between 100 to 125 Kmart and Sears stores in 2012. Let’s hope our local stores are spared.

As we approach 2012, unemployment rates are still stubbornly high, and millions are still out of work. Some have given up on finding a job altogether.

Mom didn’t give birth to me until she had reached her late 30s. A lot had changed by then, and America was entering a period of great unrest just as we are today. There wasn’t a tea party or Occupy Wall Street movement at the time, but a famous gathering called Woodstock — a couple of months before I was born — reflected the national turmoil of the time. It was the “Age of Aquarius,” if you will. I heard that song at some point as a child in the ’70s, and could never get it out of my head. It has, in fact, been forever recorded into my long-term memory for better or worse.

Today, we are once again preparing to ring out the old, and ring in the new. The future is once again knocking at our door steps. For whatever reason, the year 2012 seems a bit more significant than a normal new year. Blame it on that stupid movie I guess, and the whole Mayan calendar thing.

The hype surrounding the arrival of the year 2000, and the start of the new millennium, was certainly justified. It was, after all, the beginning of a new age, and a new era. However, the looming arrival of the calendar year 2012 does seem to have quite a bit of mystique surrounding it.

The clock is ticking. Time is quickly running out for 2011. We are only three days and 12 hours away from the big ball dropping in Times Square. The year 2011 as we know it is about to become history. As in year’s past, the waning days of a soon-to-be old year always seem a little listless. Folks are generally focused on the arrival of the new year — and many are trying to put the old year behind them. You can’t blame them. Most folks will enter the new year with a renewed sense of hope and optimism. The new year is always a chance for new beginnings.

What will 2012 really bring us? A presidential election, a gubernatorial election and another bitter fight for the control of Congress is all but guaranteed. I’m sure we can expect a few more government shutdown threats as well, as the boys and girls in Washington just can’t seem to get a long nowadays.

We all bid farewell, and usher in the new, in our own unique ways. I’m busy at the moment working on a story detailing our selection of the Top 10 local stories of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia for 2011. The story is scheduled to appear on the front-page of our New Year’s Eve edition. With hope, our readers will enjoy — and maybe even debate — our selection. These Top 10 stories are always a great way to reflect upon the year that has passed as we prepare to usher in the new. I’ve found our annual New Year’s Eve editions to be keepsakes.

When I look back at 2011, I will remember my mom of course. It was, after all, the  last year we spent together. I will remember all of the turmoil, changes and new challenges the old year brought.  So in a way I am looking forward to the new year. A chance — once again — for a new beginning.

I realize that there are some who are saying that the year 2012 will mark the end of an age, and the beginning of a new era for our planet. That’s a lot of hype for the new year to live up to. And for those folks who are building underground bunkers in dreaded anticipation of the new year, well, we will just have to wait and see. Personally, I’m just hoping 2012 will be a better year than 2011.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s city editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com.

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