Well, hello 2017!
Welcome to the world!
Tradition has you arriving as a babe dressed in a diaper, replacing an old man on crutches limping off into history.
Many years ago, on my first job in Burlington, I attended a memorable New Year’s Eve party. A couple of days later, someone circulated a photo through the newsroom picturing me wearing only a diaper fashioned from a bed sheet with a sign denoting the new year pinned to it.
Much to my distress, I couldn’t remember how I came to be wearing such a costume. Since then I’ve steered clear of bathtub gin and most New Year’s Eve parties.
Since mid-life, I’ve viewed the arrival of the new year with mixed emotion. It arrives shrouded in mystery of what the year holds for each of us. We are at the mercy of Time itself, although the new year arrives amid the ringing of bells, the crackle of fire crackers and the singing of “Auld Lang Syne.”
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
This way of saying “for old time’s sake” has its origin in Scotland. A popular folk song, it was never in print until poet Robert Burns in 1788 wrote down the words dictated to him by an old man and sent the manuscript to the Scots Musical Museum.
An informal survey of several friends revealed, to my surprise, a decline in the practice of pledging to make usually positive character changes during the year.
They’re called New Year resolutions.
One friend said, “I quit making them because I usually end up breaking them before I’m far into the new year.”
Another quipped, “When you’re as near perfect as I am, there’s no need.”
As for me, I briefly considered resolving not to criticize Donald Trump for at least the first year of his administration. But realizing how futile the effort would be, I backed off.
After all, second guessing politicians, especially U.S. Presidents, is one of our national pastimes, one guaranteed by the Constitution and exercised to the fullest. President Barack Obama will attest to that.
On the other hand, praising the president, regardless of his party affiliation, when he performs admirably and courageously is a mark of good character and is praiseworthy.
Pondering personal health resolutions, I toyed with the idea of foregoing strawberry ice cream at bedtime. Instead, I’ve resolved to give up Brussels sprouts.
According to statistics, the most popular resolutions include stopping smoking, taking better care of one’s health, drinking less alcohol, going to church more and controlling one’s temper.
As I look back at life, the one resolution I made again and again and broke again and again was to stop smoking.
I was hooked for years, even though I desperately wanted to quit the dirty habit.
I felt guilty about exposing my little family to the second-hand smoke. There was also the cost, 50 cents or more for a daily pack of Marlboros was no small matter back then. I knew I was indulging in a health hazard, even if many of the cigarettes burned away in the ash tray on my desk as I typed my news stories.
A pause for compassion
Amid this launching of the new year, my mind frequently turns to Hillary Clinton on what may be the unhappiest New Year’s Day of her life.
Although the keys to the front door of the White House were seemingly within her grasp, the Grand Prize of American politics was snatched away.
Clinton’s monumental disappointment reiterates the truth of Maud Muller’s sad realization as she raked the hay in John Greenleaf Whittier’s nostalgic lines, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’ ”
Nevertheless, Hillary Clinton may find some solace in remembering that more than 64 million Americans thought she was worthy of the job, at least two million more than Trump’s total vote.
Bonnie Kane of Rocky Mount sends along a humorous version of Elizabeth Akers Allen’s poem “Rock Me To Sleep.” Turning the lines “Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight/Make me a child again just for tonight!” into:
Backward, O backward,
turn Time in Thy flight.
I have thought of the comeback
I needed last night.