02 January 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, dear reader! It is now 2009. Exciting, huh? There is very little that gets me so worked up as the rolling over of more or less arbitrary measurements of time. WHAT AN EARTH SHAKING DAY YESTERDAY WAS

Ha ha, just kidding; it was only another day.

Still, New Year's day is always a little bittersweet for me. It is the holiday that makes me the most conscious of all my old relationships that have been terminated (or perhaps just placed on hold) because of distance, difference, or decay. It's a funny thing how people can be enormously important to us for long periods of time, and then, for various reasons, virtually vanish from our lives. People who once were some of my closest friends are now just items on my Christmas card list, or, even worse, mere Facebook friends.

I love Robert Burns's "Auld Lang Syne" because it recognizes both the significance of past friendship and the difficulty of keeping one's friendships in good working order when life gets in the way:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days o' lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
And surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pu’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot,
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d i' the burn,
Frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
Sin auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie's a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
For auld lang syne.

I think music is fairly powerful, and the more times we hear something, the more ingrained it becomes in our consciousness. That is especially true with songs like this one, which gets a lot of air time. It's the theme song of Dick Clark's Rocking New Year's Eve, it is played at the end of no less than three Frank Capra films, and it is sung to celebrate the New Year in virtually every English-speaking country. There is even a Japanese version, which is often played at the end of the day in supermarkets to signal that they are about to close. (Yes, I do think that is comical. No, I am not surprised that it happens in Japan.)

For me -- and I suspect for you, too, dear reader -- this particular song has a great deal of power. It brings back memories of good times and good friends in whose lives I have invested a great deal of time and affection. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can even see the old friends I've left behind...

So here, in my chilly basement study in Kansas, I find myself surrounded on this second morning of the New Year by divers and sundry ghosts.

Over in the corner, blissfully playing "Zelda" on his Gameboy, is my old 4-H Cooking Class friend who taught me that video games are never out of season.

All my favorite college professors are perusing my fiction bookshelf and nodding in admiration at my choice of reading material. They are arguing about how the metaphor of the American Frontier has shaped our nation's literature and culture.

Some of my newspaper friends are designing a new layout on one corner of my desk, and my junior high students from the mission school are playing cards with my Mexican construction buddies on another corner.

A group of camp friends sits in a circle, playing the guitar, singing old favorites, and, a little disturbingly, roasting marshmallows over a fire that they have started in my wastepaper basket.

My cousins and a few of the staff from the mission are using my filing cabinet as a makeshift table to plan out a hiking tour through the Rockies, while my grad school classmates are admiring the poster of an unnecessarily ominous Jesus that hangs on my wall.

It's starting to get loud in here, so I go into the other room, where I can just sit and relax with some of the guys from my high school basketball team and the girls they used to have crushes on. It's a little awkward (as most of them are now married to other people and have small children), but anything's better than hearing a single word more from my old professors about Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis.

Whatever you're doing today, and wherever your old friends are, I hope your new year will be a joyous one. And if you ever need someone to talk to or tak a right gude-willy waught with, I'll just be right here in the basement, hanging with my ghost-homies.


AnneAunt said...

just kidding, I did enjoy this blog and your company yesterday.

luaphacim said...


I meant that yesterday was only another day... UNTIL I REALIZED IT WAS YOUR BIRTHDAY, WHOOOO!! :-)