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Auld Lang Syne

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk


Dear Reader

Happy New Year!

For many of us, It’s time to reflect on the past year and resolve to make changes for the New Year. Others who have broken every New Year’s resolution skip this part of the tradition.

I don’t want to brag too much, but I managed to convince the Earth to circle the Sun one more time in such a manner as to allow for the seasons to change about every three months. I consider this to be my major accomplished for 2023.

Recently, I had to remind the Sun that it is not Spring yet and that many of us enjoy skiing and skating, which is difficult when snow and ice aren’t here yet. Some enjoy changing their wardrobe and exchanging our parkas for our bikinis and speedos. (For undisclosed reasons, I am no longer a member of this group)

Photo credit: Florida Keys History Center

The Earth tactfully mentioned that she preferred to keep her rotation around the Sun predictable and that humans could help by reducing our carbon footprint if we wanted to skate and ski, build snowmen or throw snowballs at our brides or kin. I told her I’d ask my readers to make reducing their use of fossil fuels one of their New Year’s resolutions. A resolution much easier to keep than dropping twenty pounds or quitting smoking. She said,” Good luck with that.”

There was a time when my bride and I would enjoy staying up past midnight, partying with friends and dragging ourselves into the New Year at noon with a speed that mimicked the sloths of South America. Now, we stay up until 10 pm, instead of 9.00 pm, and get up at 7 am instead of 6 am. This New Year’s will be different.

Our granddaughter’s parents plan to live it up on New Year’s Eve while we babysit two girls aged five and nine. The girls have already announced that we will play Monopoly (an interminable game reinforcing capitalism, cheating, and poverty for most) and stay up until Midnight. The girls will bring root beer, onion and sour cream chips, and cookies.

Nowadays, every kid is a winner and gets a ribbon. Is this the time they learn about ruthless banks and landlords while playing Monopoly? Or will my bride again allow the girls to “visit” the Boardwalk Hotel and forgo paying the $2000 rent? Yeah, you’re right. Oh well, the joy of playing Monopoly will be over by 9.30 pm. I’ll make enough ribbons for everyone.

I’ve already decided to move our clocks three hours ahead, corresponding to an uninhabited area of the Atlantic Ocean between Newfoundland and Iceland only visited by passing cruise ships, where the Titanic went down, in case you plan to visit. We’ll all be in bed by 9.30 pm after wrapping up the Monopoly game and finishing the root beer and snacks.

This planning brings me to the obligatory teaching of the grandchildren the words of Auld Lang Syne, the only New Year’s song. I confess that I’ve only sung the song while feeling the spirits of Scotch and haven’t got a clue about the words or their meaning. I had to ask my friend Google for the words and meanings.

“Auld lang syne” is the title and key phrase of a 1788 Scottish poem by Robert “Rabbie” Burns, typically sung worldwide on New Year’s Eve. The word “auld lang syne,” which translates to “old long since,” basically means “days gone by” in the Scots language. Or, as Merriam-Webster explains, the “auld lang syne” meaning “the good old times.” It is unclear if we celebrate the disappearance of good times and acquaintances we forget. How can we celebrate acquaintances we forgot if we forgot them? Did Bobby Burns have senior moments? We’ll sing the song anyway.

Like many of us of a certain age, I first heard the song at Midnight on New Year’s Eve, when Guy Lombardo and his band, the Royal Canadians, played it from 1929 until about 1977 at the New York New Year’s celebrations. We would always watch the countdown on TV with Guy Lombardo. Dropping a giant ball at 11.59, which took a minute to land while people voiced the countdown, was the highlight of the evening.

This year, I’ll find Guy Lombardo on YouTube at about 9.00 pm, haul in my bride and the grandchildren, join in the countdown and the hoopla, and be in bed by 9.30 pm.

Life doesn’t get any better. Be sure to learn the words to Auld lang syne. Or fumble through the words with your friends. Some things shouldn’t change.

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne

Best wishes, January 1st, 2024





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