The holiday that I want to talk about this month is obvious: New Year’s Eve. It is not the usual New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, work out more, lose weight, stop procrastinating, enjoy the little things, keep a positive attitude, volunteer at a needy charitable organization, start a blog or, at least, contribute to a blog. Well, one out of eight isn’t bad.
In all seriousness, what I want to talk about is the classic New Year’s artifact, “Auld Lang Syne,” the meaning of the song and how it impacted my New Year’s Eve. The title may not ring a bell, but the lyrics will: “Should old acquaintance be forgot….” It is an 18th century Scottish ballad that is a rhetorical question as to whether old friends should be forgotten or not. The answer is no. That principle was brought to the forefront of my relationships this New Year’s Eve when I had various friends spanning my entire lifetime at my house. What was amazing is that none of them had met each other but we all got along as through we all had been lifelong friends. As I reviewed each of the friends, I realized they are quite diverse, yet they were all very good friends of mine and had been for some 30 years. That in itself made me feel old and nostalgic as we went into New Year’s Eve.
I had long ago made plans with a couple of friends, who I met when I graduated from law school and moved to Lebanon, PA. Rick and “Chatty” Smith became instant friends of mine after we met. Rick was, and still is, an avid Boston Celtics fan. We met when I was asked to play on a men’s league basketball team soon after I moved to Lebanon. I had met a guy named Eric at the local YMCA while playing some pick-up ball. He asked me to join a team with him and some of his friends. On the night of our first game, I rode with Eric to the Smiths’ home. Little did I know as we drove there, I was about to meet a couple that would become life time friends. As we drove over, Eric explained that Rick and I would hit it off, since I was from Boston and Rick was a lifelong fan of the Celtics. The whole team met at Smith’s and we divided into a number of cars when we left for the game. I ended up riding with Rick. We immediately began sharing our childhood memories of various Celtics highlights. These include the vivid memories of the infamous Boston Celtics radio announcer Johnny Most. For those of you that might not be familiar with him, he was the biggest homer announcer I have ever had the pleasure of listening to in my life. To give you an idea of what a homer he was, think Myron Cope times 10. We both laughed at how we didn’t realize his bias toward the Celtics until we had each begun watching the Celtics game on TV but still listening to Johnny on the radio, as most Celtic fans did in Johnny’s heyday. Most’s version of the Celtics games was blatantly one-sided and exaggerated in the favor of the Celtics, but this only became apparent when you compared what was actually happening in the game on TV to what he was saying over the radio. Over the years we have shared many the pros and cons of life, too many to list them all. However, one comes to mind most prominently.
I met both of the Smiths’ kids, Allison and Greg, that first night I was at the Smiths. After that first night it became a tradition that I would come to their home for dinner on game days, as I was a bachelor whose cooking skills at that time consisted of making tuna fish, mac and cheese, and corn. Part of the tradition was that each time I would come over I would put Allison and Greg in my gym bag and twirl them around. They were approximately two and four years old. They would fit snuggly in my gym bag and would squeal with laughter each time I twirled them around. Allison was married this summer to a very nice young man. I have been to many weddings over the years, weddings of acquaintances who were good friends or family members of girlfriends; weddings of good friends, family members and my own. However, I never shed a tear until Allison’s wedding. It was so surreal. I tried to figure out what the difference was. I had been to the weddings of many loved ones before, but this was the first time I was choked up by the ceremony. After giving it much thought, I realized that it was because her wedding was the closest I had ever came to having a daughter. I have known Allison her entire life, except those first two years, and I have been involved in her accomplishments and her unhappy times. I have seen her grow into a beautiful, intelligent, accomplished young woman who has chased and is achieving her dreams. At her wedding I flashed back over each of the years and events all the way back to that cute little two-year-old who, along with her brother, fit snuggly into my gym bag. It all hit me like a ton of bricks, and the tears began to flow.
I could tell similar stories about the other friends, the Reyes-Guerras. They also came to share New Years with me and my family. I am the godfather to one of their daughters. We have vacationed together. We laugh about how I almost dated Lynne before she met her husband, John, but we were dating other people and that by the time the other relations ended we were such good friends and our relation had formed as such that it would have been too weird to ever date.
That whole weekend I looked at each of the friends and our relationships and tried to determine what was the common trait of my friends that made us such good friends. I kept looking at their educational, social, and economic backgrounds and found no common denominator. I looked at preferences and hobbies, and again saw no constant factor. Like I reflected on Allison’s wedding, I reflected on our friendships. I was curious as to why I was such good friends with various people with different backgrounds. As the clock was nearing midnight on New Year’s Eve, it dawned on me - each of the couples were people I know I could ask them to do anything and they would be there in a second to help me in any way they could. I also realized the answer to the rhetorical question “Should old acquaintance be forgot….” is an astounding “NO WAY.”
Happy New Year. A toast to old friends who shall not be forgot.
Image courtesy of Unsplash.