Sunday, December 28, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

Robert Burns wrote a poem in 1788. It was later set to the tune of a traditional Scottish folk song. Similar text was found used as early as 1568. And we still use the same words today. Auld Lang Syne can be translated as 'old long since, days gone by and long, long ago'. A poem that pulls at the heartstrings and calls us all back to other days and those loved ones gone before. We bid farewell to a year ending and welcome a new year of memory making. My heart aches with the remembering other days and those times of saying good-bye. The missing is strongest on New Year's Eve.

My column is simple today. It is for those in my family, including Dolores Bucholtz and Janet and Don Rhoades who were my neighbors. It is for my friend Brenda Sparks and my dear 'Mom' Margaret Stager. For cousin Sue Johnson Snipes and Uncle Phil Barnhart. For my family of Painter Creek Church. For my friends from Franklin Monroe. It is for a family who lived back a lane on Neff Road. This is for you and those who have been part of your lives. For those from long, long ago.

Auld Lang Syne

Should old acquaintances be forgotten, and never brought to mind? Should old acquaintances be forgotten, and days of long ago! For times gone by, my dear, for times gone by, we will take a cup of kindness yet for times gone by.
We two have run about the hillsides and pulled the daisies fine, but we have wandered many a weary foot for times gone by. We two have paddled in the stream from noon until dinner time, but seas between us broad have roared since times gone by. And there is a hand, my trusty friend, and give us a hand of yours, and we will take a goodwill drink for times gone by!
And surely you will pay for your pint, and surely I will pay for mine! And we will take a cup of kindness yet for times gone by! For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne, we'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne. And surely you'll buy your pint cup and surely I'll buy mine! And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

So we say farewell to 2014 and welcome the new year.  Happy New Year, my friends. Happy new year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

To quote Tiny Tim

The woman asked if we had any bells. She was taking her grandchildren on The Polar Express that runs along Mt. Hood and wanted to give them each a bell. Well, Hallmark did a good thing in making a Polar Express bell. She took four. I made sure that she knew the price. It was no small gift. She touched my arm and said with tears in her eyes, "This is important. Today is the anniversary of my mother's death. I want these children to remember me and these moments. I can't give them her, but I can give them me." I gave her a hug and told her that tomorrow (December 14) was the anniversary of my mother's passing. A bond. Children of another generation realizing the importance of being grandparents. Children missing their own parents, knowing the gift we can is in the memories we make.

The man stood at the ornament wall.  Being my usual nosy self, I asked if I could help him. He was looking for an ornament for a dog. They had just lost their family pet. I asked if he was doing okay. With tears in his eyes, he said, "No. I lost my mother in October and my father in November. Now this." "Do you mind if I give you a hug?" I asked. I hugged his tall frame and his body shook with sorrow.

I wondered if perhaps there was a reason that Mom left us in December. She was the spirit of Christmas to me. She opened her arms to all with a loving embrace.  I know I sometimes resented never having Mom and Dad to myself. I was young and did not fully understand the meaning of living a life in Christ. I never knew my parents to be selfish. I never saw them turn anyone away. They always managed to feed whoever came through the door. Love was abundant in our home. My parents never complained. They led by example.

I remember standing in the large window in our house in Wisconsin. The snow fell in large, silent flakes. Already the ground was covered with many inches of snow. White. The white you dream of as a child, waiting for Santa to visit. I looked up into the winter sky and thought to myself, "I wish you were up there, Santa." I was far away from Neff Road. I missed those cold winter days before the fireplace, roasting hot dogs and visiting with old friends and neighbors. I wanted Santa to come to take us back to Christmases before.

I do not live in that house back the lane on Neff Road any more, but the lessons I learned have followed me throughout my life. We are all given opportunities to love and to be loved. We are placed in situations that call for compassion, forgiveness and selflessness. To be aware of others is to be blessed. The gift of Christmas.

We don't have much snow here in Oregon, but I know that up in that evening sky hopes of young children will fly. Parents will embrace the delight in giving. And hopefully, each person will seek peace and love for everyone they meet. To quote Tiny Tim, "God bless us every one."

Monday, December 8, 2014

My buddy Bing

Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Bob Hope. On and on the list grows of those entertainer I grew up with. Well, I did not really grow up with them, but still they resided in our house. We even had Rudy Vallee, Hoagie Carmichael and many of the old timers there as well. I saw them off and on all year long but even more so at Christmas time.

This time of the year I pull out the Christmas music. I am fortunate to have the music that was handed down from my mother's cousin as well as much of her own sheet music. Three generations of music. Some is actually stitched along the fold to hold it together. This is the music that surrounded me in my growing up years. The songs I memorized by hearing them played and sung over and over again. The songs I grew up learning one finger at a time until I had conquered the notes. Now they come out again to greet me this new holiday season.

A fellow employee came up to me, "Do you know that some of these girls do not know who Elvis Presley is!?!?!?" Oh, yes, I know. A customer once asked one of girls if we carried something with Elvis on it. She blanked. I popped in with my ancient knowledge and helped the fellow. He went on to quiz the girl about JFK, Frank Sinatra and several others, totally sending the girl into tears. It is a new day and age. The family singing around the piano is a rarity. I grew up in a family where most everyone played the piano. Songs were handed down to the smallest of the tribe. Now ipods and headsets take the place. Singular music versus group. A new day. A new way.

I think there is something missing now-a-days, as my parents would say.  No one dragged us to the piano. No, we came from all parts of the house once the first notes were played. The old and the young stood together in harmony. When I was little, I remember being held by different family members while we sang. Funny, but I do not remember ever not knowing the words to those songs we all loved. I never had to memorize carols. They were part of the dialogue of my past that was placed upon me as surely as were my blue eyes.

Today I sang Jingle Bells in the car when taking the twins to my house. In the back seat I hear Nolan singing 'bells', 'way', 'tails', 'ring', 'bright', 'night'. Learning at age 2 by what he hears. Music that I will share from when I was young. Music he that will accompany him his entire life.

The beauty of the past comes alive at Christmas. It comes in a tune. It comes in a memory. It comes with the voice of Perry Como and the jazz renditions of Aretha Franklin. The stack of Christmas music comes out of the trunk. Bing and Danny Kaye look up at me from the front of  "Count your Blessings". I smile. I cannot help it! I have not seen these boys since last year. Now we have all come home for Christmas. A season of indeed counting blessings.