I’ve been writing this blog and doing the podcast that goes with it, sitting here in my big, comfortable, manly, black leather poppa chair in my living room for quite a while now. Not long enough to call it a “once upon a time time,” but it was a long time ago. You think about things like that when a New Year pops up on the calendar. “Once upon a time.” To lots of people it was a long ago “once upon a time” that the numbers on our years started with a one instead of a two. When you think “What’s today’s date?” do you sometimes still come up with a 19 something? I think most of us in the Louie Louie Generation stumble on that one once in a while. The last time it really was a 1900 something was 1999 of course, which was the year today’s high school fifteen year old kids were born. How did you get along all the way back then without your smart phone, or your car GPS, or your email, your texting, or your Netflix? Did you like your video tape recorder, and your fax machine, and how hard was it to learn to use Windows 98? One of the stories I remember best from all the way back in 1999 was how everybody was scared that our computers wouldn’t be able to handle the year 2000. Bill Clinton was impeached in 1999, and Wayne Gretzy retired…and Boris Yeltzen did too. That was the year Putin took over in Russia. And there was a nasty war going on in Kosovo. We’re pretty far along in the 2000s now… and we’re adding a new number now, a big, glistening 15. Starting a brand New Year…a brand new chapter in the story of our lives. What kind of an ending will this chapter have for you? What will happen to you? Big Louie says, “Better yet, what will you make happen?” And he also says, “You never know when something wonderful is going to happen.” He’s always saying that. If you don’t know about Big Louie yet, please look up my book Staying Happy Healthy And Hot on Amazon.com. He also says, “Some magic you have to see to believe, and some magic you have to believe first to see.” I’m going to ask you to believe in a little magic at the end of this blog. If you do, I think you’ll get a bit of a New Year’s surprise.
What will our life story look like 12 months from now? Stories always grab my attention…even when I should be very busy doing other “more important” things. Probably the same with you. “Once upon a time”…”yeah, yeah, tell me more!” People like telling stories. And certainly Louie Louie Generation lads and ladies all have a few real life stories to tell. They’re usually about the big things that happen in our lives. Like your first real kiss, for example…not some big sloppy slurp from your maiden aunt…I mean the first real smacker-oo right on the lips from somebody who turns you on. I got mine from Jeannie Campbell. She was 6, I was an older man of 7, (Thanks, Jeannie, in case you’re reading this.) Your first paycheck is always a big event. Mine was for $8. The first time you got a job…and the first time you lost one. That’s probably one of the life stories you sometimes tell. So is the story of how you got your first car and how you survived your first fist fight. Mine happened at Coney Island when I was about six years old. And I won. The word “first” comes up a lot when you tell the “Once upon a time” stories of your life.
I’ve done hundreds of blogs and podcasts now, so I don’t have many big firsts left to tell you about my life anymore. And that means I have to look around to find lots of very small firsts… which is really good. Because it makes me look more carefully at what’s going on around me. Life’s little things. We take them so much for granted that we sometimes don’t take time to enjoy them. Stuff like the first scent of fresh coffe when you open the jar…when just for an instant, the Christmas tree smells like you first remember it from when you were five, the first snowball you ever felt in your hands…and throwing it and actually hitting the kid you were aiming at, the first brightly colored Easter egg you ever saw, the first day in March when it was actually warm enough to go outside without a jacket, the first time you went for a swim in the ocean and you caught a wave and rode it all the way in to the soft warm sand…the first time you were the parent at a parent teachers meeting…the first time you saw the way your life partner looks, sleeping… in the first light of dawn. That’s beautiful.
Pretty often, as a member of the Louie Louie Generation, you have to face the first time there’s a last time in your life…like the day you suddenly know it’s really time to retire from a career you’ve loved, or when it’s time to tell an old friend that his political or religious views have become so extreme that you just can’t talk with him about that stuff anymore. I had to face an awful first time a while ago when I realized I probably won’t ever get to talk to a daughter again. And those of us who are members of the Louie-Louie Generation have all been around long enough to know what it’s like to experience the first time you know it’s the last time you’ll see your mother or father, your husband or your wife…or your best friend. Worse yet, sometimes you don’t know it. It just happens.
That’s why “Happy Holidays” just doesn’t cover the realities of Christmas and New Year’s. “Happy Holidays” is phony. It’s like “Have a nice day.” The magic in Christmas is about Santa Claus, music, presents, good food, close company, and love. Those are all honest and real. But it’s also about giving birth to a baby in a stable. A stable. As in a place full of straw that animals have soiled, reeking of very strong smells that don’t need description here. And how about her husband. Imagine how Joseph must have felt realizing that the best he could do for shelter while his wife was giving birth was a stable. And only women can understand the desperation and pain that a young woman feels giving birth to her first child…a child who has in His future nails, and thorns, and a broken heart.
“Happy Holidays” certainly doesn’t let you touch the power of the hopefl magic that we still always manage to feel for the New Year that’s about to start. That hope is genuine magic. It’s honest and real, even though there’s no logical reason for it. Especially at the end of a year in which so much excellent American blood was still turning foreign sand bright red. And way too many American men, women, and children were going homeless, cold and hungry…even Americans who proudly and honorably wore the uniform of our country in battle. And worst of all, of course, for most of us, personally… is that we’ve had to face the fact that we’ll never again hear at least one familiar voice that used to sing Auld Lang Syne with us…once upon a time. I hope you’ll believe in a little Auld Lang Syne magic with me in a minute.
The very fact that you’re reading this is amazing to me. It’s kind of a magic in itself. There’s no logic to it. Maybe you believe in magic too, and you like hanging out with somebody else who understands that magic feels so good. Some magic you have to see to believe. Some magic works the other way around…you have to believe it to see it. That’s not logical. But neither is real magic. So thank you for spending some of your precious time with me this past year. I hope you’ll drop in on this blog and the podcast again regularly through this new year. And if you enjoyed our visits, please pass along an invitation to join us to some friends…that would be a good way to grow the group. The bigger the better. Because I like the company of as many folks as possible who understand that magic hides in little beginnings, like opening a fresh jar of coffee…people who love laughs, but aren’t afraid of tears…folks who don’t mind taking a long trip that ends in sleeping on the floor because there aren’t enough couches…just because they care enough to want to share the beginning of a New Year.
Obviously, we can’t know the stories this new year will bring. But I believe that as long as we’re honest and real in telling them, we’ll keep finding the times in our lives that will make our magic strong. Singing Auld Lang Syne with a couple of good friends is a good way to start. And here’s the magic I was promising you. I’ve found that if you really believe in magic, and you listen closely enough as you’re singing Auld Lang Syne, kind of magically, you’ll actually hear the voice of someone who’s missing this year…singing along with you…one more time. Let yourself believe first, then give it a try.
Listen as you sing.
Listen closely one more time.
Happy New Year.