Treasuring old friendships: The Old Lange Sign

By Cindy Phillips updated Wed, Dec 28, 2011 08:50 AM

We Boomers have all heard the story of how many people thought the lyrics in the Creedence Clearwater song, Bad Moon Rising, actually talked about “the bathroom’s on the right.” Add to this list of misheard lyrics Jimmy Hendrix’s Purple Haze line of “Scuse me, while I kiss this guy” and Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water where some heard “slow motion Walter, the fire engine guy.”

On New Year’s Eve we will inevitably hear someone’s rendition of Auld Lang Syne, and to this day, I wonder if any of us know the actual lyrics to the song. And even if we know the lyrics, what in heaven’s name do they mean?

We can typically croon the first line with the best of them. “Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?” After this line, it starts to get muddled. People will mouth the words as if they know what they are singing, but let’s face it, we know half of them are faking it. They could put Milli Vanilli to shame.

The song actually began as a poem by Robert Burns and was set to the melody of an old folk song. The question posed by Burns is “should we forget the old times?” He then beckons us to remember our long-standing friendships. Now this premise, I like. Especially at our age.

When we were kids, our friendships were with the people we saw every day – school mates, cousins who lived nearby and the kids who lived on the block. If someone moved away, the friendship fizzled unless you were totally into being a pen pal. I think a stamp went for about a dime at that time, and there was a mailbox on almost every corner.

As we foraged through life, friends came and went. Grammar school, high school, college. Perhaps there were phone calls now and again, and maybe a postcard when someone traveled. But unless there was a current connection, it was easy to lose touch.

I graduated high school in 1972 and college in 1976. I forged friendships during those times that I thought would last forever. But as life took me down the road of marriage, children, building houses and embarking on careers, those friends became a memory. And then in the early 2000’s, something amazing happened. The Internet offered people searches and reunion sites. A whole new world opened up to us Boomers and suddenly we had a vehicle to connect with our past.

I had the opportunity to connect with high school friends, and even grammar school friends, via planned reunions. One of those reunions actually resulted in a life changing connection for me. But I longed for a reconnection with my friends from college. I had inklings of where some had ended up, but I had not seen many of these people since we left the hallowed halls of SUNY New Paltz. But now the search was on.

One by one, the connections were made and in 2002, two dozen of us met in New Paltz for a make shift reunion. It was amazing to see how we looked, what we had done with our lives, where we were living and how many children we had produced. The last person found was Roger, and based on his college antics we were all convinced he was probably in jail. To this day, he needles us over our lack of confidence. Roger just completed his Masters of Education degree and is a professor at Coastal Carolina. He and his wife, Julie, raised three beautiful children. Among us we also had a writer for Jay Leno, a psychologist, a financial advisor, an optometrist and a myriad of other professional careers. We made the reunion an annual event, and though we dwindled down to a faithful dozen, we look forward to it every year. Two years ago, we lost one of our core group members, our beloved Richie. It was a wakeup call about just how fragile life is and that we must treasure our friendships.

Today’s technology has made it possible to keep open communication with our old acquaintances. We can text an old friend who lives across the country because we heard a song that reminded us of them. We can keep up with old flames via their Facebook page and we can Skype with our high school girlfriends recreating the days of gossiping and laughing while sprawled across our bed. The future has put us in touch with our past and it is as if time stood still.

So this New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, sing those words to Auld Lang Syne. Remember those old acquaintances, bask in the memories and hold them close to your heart. And if you don’t know the words, fake it. Nobody else knows them either.

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