What is Auld Lang Syne all about?

Happy New Year!

I am, not surprisingly, sentimental about the old traditional song, “Auld Lang Syne” that we bring out and dust off this time of year. For decades it was sung to bid farewell to the old year or at farewells and endings of other occasions. The chorus says “For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”

Auld lang syne translates to standard English as “old long since” but means, less literally, “old times” or “days gone by.”

Let’s plug the standard English in to see what it means. “Should old acquaintances be forgotten, for old times, let’s drink a cup.”

Translate it further, “Just in case I should forget you, let’s celebrate this moment together.”

And why?

This moment is not forever, and our relationships will likely change, so while we are here now, let us celebrate and savor the moment.

Three years ago my husband and I hosted our first “fancy night” on New Year’s Eve, inviting another cocktail-loving couple. She wore a fur stole. The men wore suits. I put on a long dress and opera-length gloves. My husband stocked the bar and offered a menu list. We attempted to sing, but there were no requirements, we were simply together.

Fancy night

That same friend and I dried oranges the following year. We crafted, we antiqued. And in the spring she was gone. Their family, as part of the Californian exodus, moved to Indiana.

There are friendships and times together we are not likely to forget, but not knowing when we will have this moment together, let us toast to it, savor it, and bring it into our hearts as a lasting memory.

Take a mental picture.

Take note of the sights, smells, sounds, and feelings.

And now another goodbye

Now I say a strange farewell to another friend, because I do not know when I shall see her again. Social media and text messaging connect us, but nothing can be the same. We are not likely to ever experience Suzy Cakes, Baker Beach, Stuff, or the pirate shop together again. The time was too short and yet I hold the memories in mind and turn them over, knowing their shape and color, so I will not forget them.

Before she leaves I want to build a little time capsule in my heart.

Flowers for my friend

Friendship comes in seasons and cycles.

I learned this when our life changed so radically. Those were the friendships of my youth and life called for something different. We grew apart, we fell apart, we simply lost touch. A new season began.

And something new is happening again. My life is one of homeschooling and newspaper work, so much less the medical world I became accustomed to. I rarely see people I know in the UCSF clinic building where once I was sure to run into people. Staff retire, nurses move on, life changes.

What are the constants?

I suppose it’s hard to say early in life. Only with time does it reveal itself. In that, we see those who have aged with wisdom understand what matters most in this life, and prioritize it.

For now, I know this:

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:8

Perhaps this was the reason that when I met painter Jonathan Troxler and later learned he painted the old church of St. Stanislaus in Modesto, where my husband met and dated all those years ago, I knew that painting was meant for our home. And as it hangs on the wall, I point here and there and tell my children the stories. It brings the memories to life. We’re in a good place now, and we were in a good place there. I want to hold both in my life – in memory and in our day-to-day.

So with that, the end of another year, I’m holding onto what is good and looking back with a better effort to remember and tell the stories to my children. It has been another year of raising children and teaching them, of writing and working in the news, of publishing books and promoting them, of trying to make the little world of our home a more beautiful place.

Whatever you think of resolutions and thoughts about all the things we probably can’t control in 2023, stop and look at 2022, gather up the mental snapshots, review them, savor them, share them and add them to the collection of good memories in your heart, auld lang syne.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.