I'll bid farewell to 2009 with a New Year’s piece, published some years ago. It first appeared in my local paper and was then distributed by the Washington Post – Los Angeles Times syndicate through much of the USA.
A warm farewell until next year, and Happy Holidays to all.
NEW YEAR'S EVE WITH SOME NEW ACQUAINTANCES
For many years, my wife and I have saved an empty champagne bottle from each New Year’s Eve celebration.
These old Korbels and Andres and Taylors sit dust-covered in a corner of our basement. Occasionally, when I’m in the mood to reminisce, I’ll go downstairs and wipe the dust from the labels.
“Byron Drive, 1990” – the place and year are always in my handwriting. I’m the one who gets the ball rolling each year, the one who starts the empty bottle around so that everyone can sign it.
Scattered over the label are the scrawled names: “Curt…Nancy…Don…Sybil.” These are the friends and acquaintances who shared our celebration that New Year’s Eve.
The signing of champagne bottles started as a whim, but we kept it up over the years. I’m glad we did. There’s a story in these old bottles that is not told in any of our family photo albums. They capture a thread in our lives that might otherwise be lost.
The memories they hold are not, for the most part, of family or even long-time friends. Fittingly, they are memories of old acquaintances.
In most years, the labels tell us, we have spent New Year’s Eve with people we’ve known only a short while. We’ve raised a glass with new neighbors, colleagues on new jobs, members of community and social groups we’ve just joined.
Only a few of these relationships have survived the years. The names on the labels keep changing.
It’s curious how the milestones of our lives can be tracked in the changing names on these bottle labels: new jobs, new neighborhoods, new interests and commitments. They’re like the logbook of a journey. And they’re a reminder of something that lately we’ve forgotten – that there’s a valued part of our lives that has always been measured in acquaintanceship.
In recent years, there have been fewer names on the labels, and they are often the same names. We’ve taken to spending New Year’s Eve with a few close friends. We’ve settled down, become less active; we’re not into acquaintanceship these days.
If these recent labels are a logbook, it appears they are logging a journey’s end. This bothers me. When I compare these recent labels to earlier ones that are covered with so many names, I feel a sense of loss.
It saddens me to think of those old acquaintanceships that we carelessly let go. And it saddens me to realize that we have let a part of our life’s journey shrink away – the part that was charted in our new acquaintanceships.
Recently we joined a new group for the first time in years. We’re going to celebrate New Year’s Eve with acquaintances this year. We’ve invited our friends to join us. There should be room on the champagne bottle for everyone’s name – if we all write small.
~ Robert Brault