Here & there: Singing the arrival of 2021

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FEATURE — Hello, 2021. I don’t really know you. But I’m so glad you’re here. Your arrival is as auspicious as any new year, of course. You, like the others before you, offer hope and renewal.

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However, I’d be lying if I said that is all it is. That there isn’t something more joyous, more anticipated in your arrival. 

We all know the elephant in the room: you are not 2020. 

And while I’m glad for what you are not, my joy in your arrival cannot be simply that. It cannot be the absence of something. It must be the presence – your presence – that I celebrate. I know that deep down. 

My youngest plays the piano. Often reluctantly. But he plays it and plays it well, nonetheless. 

At the start of December, when informed by his piano teacher that he needed to pick a “holiday” song for the recital, he balked. He doesn’t like “holiday” songs. Regardless of the holiday they celebrate. 

They are stupid and cringeworthy and boring. According to him. 

The teacher, ever creative, offered him Auld Lang Syne. It was none of those things. According to me. 

The sheet music she sent over had lyrics. As he played, I read over his shoulder. As I read, I realized something: I didn’t actually know many of the words. 

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I’ve always loved this song, but apparently, I’ve only ever really known – and sung – the first four lines. The others? Well, I must have hummed the rest. 

At New Year’s Eve.

During “It’s a Wonderful Life.” 

In that great New Year’s Eve scene with Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal in “When Harry Met Sally.”

Every. Single. Time. 

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot / And never brought to mind?/ Should auld acquaintance be forgot / And days of auld lang syne?”

Hum. Hum. Hum-Hum-Hum. Hum. Hum-Hum. Hu—um. Hum. Hum-hum-hum. Hum. 

The tune is wistful and hopeful all at once. And it’s so Scottish. I’d probably love it for that alone.  

But I hadn’t realized, until now, the first few lines of the poem (as it was originally penned) are just a rhetorical question. Of course, we shouldn’t forget our old acquaintance or the days gone by. 

Because we can’t. 

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The author must have already known this. Who we are in the past carries forward to who we are in the future. Or, rather, we carry ourselves forward. 

It’s like what my dear friend tells prospective buyers when they ask what our neighborhood is like. She responds to their question with a question, “well, what was your last neighborhood like?” 

 If they respond that they hated their last neighborhood – it was filled with this or that unsuitable thing – she tells them they’ll probably find the same thing here, too. And if they say they loved their last – it was filled with amazing, beautiful people and places – she tells them they’ll likely find the same thing here. 

The same is true for moving into a new year. 

So, while you may be new, dear 2021, I have to admit that I come to you carrying a past. And how I contend with that past – even a past like 2020 – will shape our future. Yours and mine. 

Perhaps we should take advice from Auld Lang Syne. “For auld lang syne, my dear / For auld lang syne / We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet / For days of auld lang syne.”

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet. For days of auld lang syne. 

Happy New Year.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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