The words in the song say something like “Party like it’s 1969”. I can’t remember who wrote it. There’s an old Blues tune by the same name. New Year’s Eve, 2009 I partied like it was 1939. I did. The average age of the party we enjoyed was somewhere well over 60.
Christmas celebrations define a time “when”, right? At least Christians celebrate an event which doesn’t move. It is a celebration of when birth Jesus Christ was born. The events within that story happened within that year over 2000 years ago, and yet they celebrated the “new” that was well established in the “remember when.” The birth of Christ didn’t happen one year and then again ten years later. Even if you celebrate a winter solstice, 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. Solstice 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 a new 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, and family. We don’t just get cake and a favorite meal, no- 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, 2009. But something changed. My fellow partners brought us to a celebration of a time when. I didn’t know how important the distinction was to my life and thoughts then. I do now.
We partied like it was 1939. We’d invited some of our younger friends, but none could come for one reason or another. Most chose parties where yungin’s raved about all things new. So I partied with guys named Don, Herm, Jerry, Glen and others…even their names seemed to be reminiscent of another day, somewhere way back from where we were. Most had indeed 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. The wise ol’ raconteurs. They taught me that relationships are all about a time when.
They remembered a day back here or there. Days when Newton Iowa was this way or that way, but most certainly a time when they formed by tradition and respect, while also settled into the back dust, itchin’ for a race, or eager to cap a can with their dad’s .38 quietly “borrowed” from the case. They remembered days when the simple life was more a tale about when life was hard. They remembered that simple illnesses were major events, and when the wind seemed to blow harder over their cracked cheeks. Don leaned forward and told a story about life before World War II, and I found out that people’s attitudes or ways of being weren’t much different from how I grew up. Of course they were runnin’ their dad’s double-clutch, or three on the tree somewhere well south of eighteen years old, and I couldn’t imagine life without amenities in my car, and only a single clutch. They spoke about not being able to easily adjust their right side mirror without the help of a passenger, or without getting out of the car to adjust. They love the ease of the electronic window, now…but they did what they had to do then, they said…and just a few things they didn’t. I have a few ways to be now because of days when.
So these old guys–most have passed, wind blown into eternity. Now I suppose they’ve more to say about infinity than about days when. 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, 2009. Don begins many of his sentences with “Well ya know” and Glen often starts with “Why…” and then curiously makes a statement, and not a question-“Why, back when I was 13 we worked…,” and so on. They pray in “thee’s” and “thou’s,” and a person like myself learned a little about reverence because of it…yearns for that kind of reverence even.
These weren’t blowhards, no. These guys respected the winds of time. Relationships were born from the gale that night.
I learned about days before fast food, a time when everyone had a garden that they didn’t seem to mind weeding, and loved grabbing a few strawberries right off the plant, or chomp a carrot just brushed from dirt. The stories were blissfully familiar to them. I nodded and laughed as if I understood winds and wisdom of the old guys. I told a few of my motorcycle stories and Yellowstone stories, and they nodded and laughed too; maybe I gained some street cred, like twelve year old Jesus at the Synagogue. They remembered riding their own bikes, joining a time when, to a time now. They spoke with some flare about how mechanics weren’t around every corner so they had to figure it out themselves. These days 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 tomorrow night they’ll all watch the six-o’clock news in digital high definition without wondering much about “where it all went.” A time when was ok, but today is good too.Yea, I’m thankful for winds, for parties with old and wise guys who were my old and wise friends. Relationships can be found from the gale. And I’m thankful for the day after New Year’s Eve, 2009, 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.
It was a great and unexpected night. The night some old guys taught me that every new day is held up by a back when. The clock struck twelve and us partiers stood and prayed together. Prayers for a new day has long been an integral tradition for Monique’s parents. I kissed my lovely bride, hugged others, and drank my champagne.
I laid in bed, and thought of the old guys. I would’ve enjoyed our usual friends, had they been there-“yungins”-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 retain the things I learned that New Year’s night. I hoped to party with them again because that is a great, fun, funny, knowledgeable group of guys. Alas, sadly that was not my privilege.I learned that there’s nothing more new fangled than right now. There is a lot that’s good about my peers. But they can’t give me a vision for the future. But my old guys could. Ah, yes they’re stuck in their ways I guess. But they don’t feel stuck. They warn of the dangers of all the new fangled things, in new fangled time. Sometimes the relationship is lost in new fangled time.
If I truly want to know what’s good about where I’m going, then I had best enjoy some time with the old guys. I want my friends to pour into me. I need that, just like many of you do. My friends include the old guys. One of my best friends in all the world was Herm. He’s gone now, and I hope he found a cloud close to me. He was kinda crazy, but he taught me the value of a long sip at a local coffee shop. He just showed me what might be coming down the line a few years. Wouldn’t have had that if I had decided that hangin’ with the old geezers was a waste of time, and more worthy of making fun of their driving skills. My relationships worked because I was willing to hear them so that I could understand them as best as I could…I wasn’t seeking to be their superior. I wasn’t seeking to be with them solely so they could hear me try to sound important. I hope that every time I go outside, that I remember to take account of the wind. Because relationships can be found from the gale.