Thursday, January 1, 2009
The words in the song say something like "Party like it's 1969". I can't even remember who wrote it. There's an old Blues tune by the same name. New Year's Eve I partied like it was 1939. I did. The average age of the party was somewhere well over 60.
Christmas celebrations define a time "when", right? At least Christians celebrate an event which doesn't move. It is the birth of Christ. The events within that story happened within that year. The birth of Christ didn't happen one year and then again ten years later. Even if you celebrate a winter soltice, or a fat guy in a fat suit riding in a fat sleigh with energetic reindeer, including one with a shiny nose, they all have something in common. They don't change. Soltice is, we know that. Santa never ages or grows any fatter (but who can really tell at 2 a.m. when he slides down your chimney right?). New Year's is different. In fact it's the only celebration that celebrates the passage of time, not the time "when". Even your own birthdays mark the day you were born, a day frozen in time. New Year's feels like wind. We're prompted to set resolutions, talk about the unknown, relish in all that was last year with friends, family and hoards of New Year's letters received and written. We don't just get cake and a favorite meal, we celebrate with feasts of great magnitude! There are a great many songs about the New Year and only one about my birthday.
And so it was the New Year's Eve. We partied like it was 1939. We'd invited some of our younger friends, but none could come for one reason or another. So I partied with Don, Herm, Jerry, Glen and others, most who've seen a much greater life span than I. Oh, I played games and messed with the tots that night of course. I had a busy and playful night. But I loved my time with the old guys.
They remembered a day back here or there. Days when Newton Iowa was this way or that way. They remembered days when simple illnesses were major events. I heard one story about life before World War II and I found out that people's attitudes or ways of being weren't much different than they are now. So these old guys--I suppose some of them only have a grunt of life left in their bodies. But we talked, smiled, laughed and groaned about the winds that blew on other days well beyond my memory and I'm glad for it. I studied history in school, but I experienced some of it on New Year's Eve. Don begins many of his sentences with "Well ya know" and Glen often starts with "Why..." and not in question form either..."Why, back when I was 13 we worked..." and so on. They pray in "thee's" and "thou's" and a person like myself learns a little about reverence that way...yearns for that kind of reverence even.
I learned about days before fast food, a time when everyone had a garden and no one minded weeding and everyone loved to sneak a strawberry off the plant as they worked. The stories were blissfully familiar to them. I nodded and laughed as if I understood the wisdom offered by time. I told a few of my last year's motorcycle stories and Yellowstone stories and others, and they nodded and laughed too; maybe I gained some street cred, like twelve year old Jesus at the Synagogue. But then they remembered riding their own bikes, about how mechanics weren't around every corner, about how they had to figure it out themselves. I'm thankful for mechanics...but I can see how I might benefit without them.
These guys are somewhat trapped by yesteryear and overwhelmed by today and yet tonight they'll all watch the six-o'clock news in digital high definition without wondering much about "where it all went."
But I'm thankful for winds, for parties with old and wise guys who are my old and wise friends, and I'm thankful for the day after, simply because I was with them. But I'm most thankful for the stories. Maybe one day a young lad will sit by my side listening to me regale about my own days--about the winds I remember.
So it was a great night and an unexpected night. The clock struck twelve, we prayed together, I kissed my lovely bride, and drank my champagne. Then I lay in bed and I thought of the old guys. I would've enjoyed the company our usual crowd, the "yunguns" the old timers call us. But as it was we might not have spent much time isolated into our own young circle because the golden morsels leaving the lips of the old guys would've mesmerized them too. I hope I remember the things I learned this New Year's night. I hope to party with them again because that is a great, fun, funny, knowledgeable group of guys. And I hope that every time I go outside, that I can hear the wind blow.