Thursday, January 1, 2009

Bringing in the new year...

by Jim Heffernan

Jan. 1, 2009

Ah yes, I remember it well – as though it were yesterday, or maybe as though it was yesterday. Come to think of it, it were yesterday. Make that it was yesterday.

We were all gathered at a New Year’s Eve gathering (you gather at a gathering, right?) in a private home, friends who have gathered in the same home for years to welcome the new year and bid farewell to the old one.

There is always more talk of the new year than the old, however, and with good reason this year, it turns out. But it’s the same every year. Whether the old year was a good one or bad, we focus on the new one with the greeting, “Happy New Year.”

How many times do all of us repeat that greeting on Dec. 31 each year, and to some extent on Jan. 1 and on into the following week until about Jan. 5 when you utter it one last time and wish you hadn’t? By then the infant new year is starting to sprout whiskers.

The greeting was still fresh last night (Dec. 31, 2008), though, as a couple of dozen of us toasted anything and everything worth toasting, sometimes quietly toasting to one’s self if there’s no one with whom to toast. I toasted up a pretty good headache by New Year’s morning, but there’s no need to go into that.

At some point on this Dec. 31 my thoughts ranged back to the same day one year ago, Dec. 31, 2007 (just think, 2007 was just a year and a day ago and now it’s 2009) when many of these same partygoers extended sincere good wishes all around for 2008, and look what happened. Well, at least Obama made it.

The Great Depression of the 1930s was fresh in the minds of my elders when I was growing up. The hard times made a big impression on that generation, to the extent that many of them were very careful with money for the rest of their lives, and they shunned luxury. Just think how you’d feel, the thinking went, if you spent hard-earned money (provided you had a job) on something luxurious one day and were unable to provide food for the table and pay the rent the next.

Can’t blame them. Some of it rubbed off onto me. To this day I am wary of luxury and feel a little guilty when I partake of it. I only buy ties on sale, for example, because I refuse to pay $40 (cheap in some places) for one. Absolutely refuse.

Somewhere in the book of my past newspaper columns published this holiday season (title: “Cooler Near the Lake"– and information about it is all over this blog) I determined in one of the columns that “I am the trouble with America today.”

Not to sound like a megalomaniac or solipsist or user of big words, but I can’t help but think if I’d just go ahead and pay the asking price for a silk tie it would help the American economy. If everybody did that, maybe men would start wearing ties to church again.

Bringing this to an abrupt close (we just passed 500 words, and I hate to go over 550, one complete newspaper column at about 14 picas), I will finally make my point: Let’s see…oh yes, it was a year ago when we wished everyone a happy 2008 it didn’t turn out so happy macrowise, although I was happy enough microwise.

We are all hoping 2009 is better. At least that’s the impression I got last night when everyone wished me a happy new year, and I wished them the same thing back. And you too (provided you read this before Jan. 5 or so).

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