Auld Lang Syne

Well I got me a fine wife, I got me old fiddle
When the sun's comin' up I got cakes on the griddle
And life ain't nothin' but a funny funny riddle...
Thank God I'm a country boy!

In search of Andy Williams I found John Denver. A typical scenario in my household because attempts to entice dwellers, ranging in age from 7 to 46, to put CDs back in their case of origin have proven futile.

On this particular December night with a glass of fruity relaxation in hand, a fire roaring nearby and my littlest man setting up a board game, it seemed only fitting to listen to an old timer wax sentimental. But the Andy Williams case led me to Mary Black who led me to Sara McLaughlin who led me...nowhere. I was about ready to give up or call a family meeting about the absurdity of our inability to return CDs to their rightful cases, when I spotted it. Out of the corner of my eye.

A strange orange case with handwriting I didn’t recognize but a playlist that was all too familiar. John Denver was the soundtrack of my young life. I named my first cat Sunshine because of the song Sunshine on my Shoulders. I’d sung Take Me Home, Country Road at the local Fiddler’s Festival. While a great friend, Brad Lovenguth, sang Grandma’s Feather Bed.

I immediately put my accidental find in the player and cranked the volume. Will, fixated on our game, hardly noticed as I sang my way through each tune, sweet and twangy. 
Until Thank God I’m a Country Boy came on. It’s impossible to sit while that song plays (I dare you to try it). As I attempted to recount the square dancing moves of my Upstate NY youth, with my seven year old partner, John and Rob walked in. “Oh boy,” was all Rob could say.  

I’d quickly run out of steps. “Do you remember any square dance moves?” I asked, motioning his way. 

“Bostonians don’t square dance,” he said. Lucky for him the song was almost over. 

Still we, the country girl and the city boy, danced (or something like it) for as long as it lasted. 

Andy Williams was missing, but it hardly mattered. I’d found Auld Lang Syne, courtesy of John Denver. 


I found this piece recently, tucked away in a notebook from my “early Mom days.” When I wrote it many years ago, our days were filled with board books, endless feedings and tummy time. Life is very different now. My little ones aren’t so little, their arms and hearts are bigger. My desire to hang on is too. 
Watching last Friday’s horror unfold was mind paralyzing, a stirring of our deepest darkest fears. It was also a reminder. To hold those dearest even closer.

We owe it to the parents and children whose lives and dreams were cut short, to hug, more.

I hope hugs are a little like advanced degrees and golden high school memories. Larger in the mind than in the moment. Plucked out like little diamonds of self-confidence when the world starts to chip away.

When it comes to parenting, the list of things I don’t know is endless. But I do know about hugs. Hugs are crucial. I never let go first. I’ll ask for one, but never require it. My favorite hugs are the ones that seemingly go on forever, although in truth probably last just a couple of minutes.  

My eleven month old is a ferocious hugger. The other day as I unbuckled him from his car seat, he threw himself around my neck and dove to nibble on my shoulder. Through the reflection in the car window I could see his eyes were closed. There he clung, momentarily soothed, soaking up my love.

It was an after nap hug that let me know I was on the right track after my oldest was born. Haggard and a little blue, as I scooped my son out of his crib he looked right through me with his chubby cheeked smile. Hanging on for dear life I couldn’t help but marvel, that it was me, a vision in postpartum sweat pants, that he so lovingly craved. With the same passion of someone dangling off a hundred story building in the climax scene of the latest thriller, I was the right-on-time heroine saving his day.  

I have a feeling these moments are fleeting. Stages move quickly and so will the hugs. And so, I am counting on these hugs to store easily, for them and me. Safe and intact in a little down deep soul bank. Fertilizer for the dreams growing inside. 


Practice may make perfect BUT the process is anything but. 

My youngest has been taking piano lessons for six months. He took right to it. Mostly he loves mastering things...anything. Give him a challenge and he’s ready. He also comes from a long line of musicians. Scores of ancestors run through his veins. It’s eery and fun.

I never have to remind him to practice, because he “practices” all the time. Piano is his space filler. Like after he’s been told he can’t play anymore video games and dinner is still ten minutes away. Or, when the whole house is running around in the morning filling backpacks and lunch pails, he sneaks off to play the piano. It’s hard to yell at a kid who’s playing the piano. Even if his bed’s not made. 

But make no mistake, listening to him practice is a perfectionist’s hell. He runs through the songs at warp speed. Testing himself to see how fast he can play something. Or, he plays songs that he learned months ago instead of the ones on this week’s “to-do” list. I am quite sure if there is a book about how to help your kids practice (and let’s face it there must be!) he/we are breaking every rule. When it comes to practice my little guy does exactly what he wants to do.

A few weeks ago I sheepishly asked his piano teacher for tips. I put it all on the line, my parental laziness that is, and admitted, “I don’t really keep track of what he is practicing. But he plays a lot.” To my amazement (and relief) her response was simple: “Don’t change anything. Whatever he’s doing is working.”

Take that Tiger Mom. 

My oldest is a different story. He is, to put it plainly, a lot like me.  Creativity soars through him in waves, all day, every day, exhausting everyone in his presence. He is “working” on a new idea at any given moment, on any given day. Sitting still, doing nothing, is not in his DNA. Every moment has a purpose. But practice is painful. Too linear. Too stifling. Where is this going? What is this for?

In an attempt to help him learn about the power of practice (and make the hefty monthly rental fee worth it) I’ve instituted a “you must practice your baritone for fifteen minutes a day” rule. He reels, he objects, he erects an almost daily soap box about how unfair I am, how I have no idea, and on and on and on...

Until he finally, practices. The first round he plays in regimented tone. A sort of “take this” to any nearby listeners. Then about five minutes in, he’s making up his own song. Off happily in his own private ba ba ba bum land, creating music or something like it. Twenty minutes later he usually announces that he’s going to do a little extra practice time, to impress his band teacher. The push, the pull, the torment is over. Until tomorrow.

And then it’s my turn. To sit at my computer. At the coffee shop I call home. Willing myself to tap tap tap at warp speed, to keep the thoughts moving, to get it down. To trust that twenty minutes here, thirty minutes there will get me where I want to go. But where am I going? What is this all for? 
Mahatma Gandhi said, “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.”

And so I practice what I preach. Willing my own butt in the chair day after day. Finding the courage to spend time on what matters, to me, in the hope of reaching something close to perfection, or more importantly, happiness.