New Years Day.
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
I found myself humming along to the familiar New Year’s tune of Auld Lang Syne. It dawned on me that I had absolutely no idea what I was singing, but I did know that when singing this tune, hope and pace warm my heart and I like it. It turns out to be an old Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788. “Auld Lang Syne” translates to something along the lines of “days gone by,” or “for auld lang syne” = “for the sake of old times.”
The song became popularized at New Years in the late 1920s and is sung in variations throughout the world for many beginning and ending occasions, such as graduations, weddings and funerals.
Burns begins by asking, is it right, is it ok, that old times be forgotten?
Quite honestly, I don’t think it’s possible to forget certain old times. I’ll never forget my first day of kindergarten (and playing with a snoopy puzzle on the rug), graduating high school (and feeling like the world was suddenly about to get a whole lot bigger); most people don’t forget their first kiss (I won’t tell you about mine). I’ll never forget jumping off a Baltimore County bridge on graduation night in my cap and gown with college friends as our bodies splashed into the cold early summer water. I’ll never forget my Dad’s loving embrace after my first car wreck, where my fear of disappointing him was washed away completely as he hugged me in close and wiped my tears. I will never forget the moments where I can’t quite capture in words, but undoubtedly know in my core that I have tasted heaven on Earth, in the form of children singing “Jesus Loves Me” in an orphanage in Africa. I won’t forget the time my grandmother turned 90 and being surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles from all over the U.S. and her contagious joy, saying, “you don’t even get credit around [our retirement community] until you turn 90.” And I’m quite sure I won’t forget New Years Day 2012, when I walked out of my front door to be greeted by a double rainbow, end to end, after an afternoon rain shower passed. A rainbow is beautiful anywhere, but it was even more beautiful to me in that moment, in the inner city, on the first day of a New Year, each section of rainbow shouting, “ROY-G-BIV.”
Sometimes, in my looking back on old memories on New Year’s day, with its perfect mix of looking back and looking ahead, I’m reminded of Ferris Beuller’s wise words, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Sounds so cliché, but when we realize life’s fragility and how years and years go by, we must treasure the memories, and then make many, many more, because life doesn’t stop when the picture goes in the frame, but rather, needs to constantly be explored, trampled upon, danced upon, cart-wheeled upon, and “whooped up!” because the story is being written and I don’t want to read dull pages, scratching my head, wondering, “gee, where was I?”
There is something persistently optimistic, daring, to me about beginning a new year. It truly feels like a gift, a gift to be alive another year, a gift to have had a whole year of life with which to learn, to grow, to stretch, to love, to be loved, to cry, to comfort another, to be comforted, to boldly and collectively face the wide spectrum of the human experience and to embrace it, rather than run from it.
So today, may you drink a cup of kindness, and pour several teacups more, until they overflow, and share them with everyone you meet. May you hold someone closely and refer to them as “my dear,” and feel the softness of skin in your embrace or breathe in the scent of their body. May you know the hand of a friend is never far away. May your toasts and cheers and clinks of glasses bind up past regret or bittersweet let goings, and tie you closer to new unforgettables: of friends, of love, of laughter, of glimpses of Heaven on Earth and the face of your Maker in the most unexpected of places.
Happy New Year.
Here’s to life.