Written January 1, 2017
It’s a new year. So, last night we did two great deeds. I prepared a New Years morsel, a bit of a nicety not necessary. A treat, rising out from my heritage. A bit of salt, a little yeast, four eggs, less than a cup of sugar, four cups of flour. Olie bollen it is called, oily balls misshapen; but we added sliced up apples, so appel flappen, a sort of doughy delight boiled in hot oil. Dipped in icing sugar, and we have a delightful delicious dessert pre-supper. Tummy as evening grew, got crammed full.
Two grand feats, I claimed. The second, after more eats of turkey, cheese, mushroom topped with bacon, toasted up on bread in the oven, a sit down to what they say is my favourite movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The title comes from the simple mind and mouth of Clarence, the deliverer sent from heaven. Clarence is an angel. Really, even though he looks like a man come out from a different century. A cry had gone up into heaven, many cries, for one George Bailey. This man was about to throw over the railing the most precious gift: the body, packed with a cup of kindness, he’d been gifted; throw it out, into the swirling white waters below the bridge covered all in snow. It is Christmas Eve.
As with all good story telling, before we get to what led to his flight toward that railing, we first are shown snippets of George’s cup of kindness sliding through life. The scene is of some boys atop a hill, sitting down, sliding down on flat bladed shovels onto a pond it seems, or a creek with fast flowing water. One by one they line up to do it, led of course, by George. Last of all, George’s kid brother Charlie, after being teased by the older sibling for cowardousness, comes roaring down. He it is that out-slides them all, crashing through all other shovels abandoned at bottom. Watch, though, for his triumph gets dumped by also crashing through the ice. We see why it’s thin there. Water is rushing underneath.
A few weeks flow by before George can go back working for old man Gower. See, he’d saved his brother from sure drowning. George is whistling, in a light-hearted, standing straight and tall mood, moving with a surety, having been dropped at the door by his group of friends. This send off sends him into another cup of kindness. At first he doesn’t notice that a shadow had moved over his boss. He seemed a bit grouchy, gruff, words spewing out in spurts of unkind bursts. Undaunted, George serves the two girls who’d come to catch chewy morsels, come really as an excuse to be seen, and to see George. He still whistles while he works. That’s when George suddenly sees what has caved in upon old man Gower, an avalanche of crushed sorrow.
A cutting snarl busting through Gower’s teeth, who cannot abide the cheerful optimism of his employee. A piece of paper lying desolate on the cash register. A telegram telling the terrible news of Gower’s boy, taken out by influenza. A life snuffed, and a father blinded by heavy sorrow, valiantly trying still to keep busy filling orders for drugs. He sends George to deliver them, called for the cure of another child fallen ill. Immediately George sees that Gower had placed poison in the bottle, not pills that would pull the sickness out. He tries to tell it to the distraught father, is forced to do what he was told by boss — no questions allowed — and turns for help to his own distracted father.
In the end, George saves Gower from deeper tragedy still, and the mistake is uncovered. Two acts of kind caring flowing out from one body.
The guardian angel gets saved by George, saved from the foaming white waters under the bridge. Clarence claims, though, that he had succeeded in precisely saving George with a precision that was seemlessly innocent and honest and true. And so it is that Clarence grants George his wish. He gets to see and experience personally in a way that cut cunningly into the heart, what it would be like if he had not been born. The way the story unfolds busts the tears out for me, even though I’ve seen the movie year upon years.
If George had not been born, Charlie would have drowned, Gower would be an ex-con, the town would have been renamed Pottersville. Old man Potter is the villain in the story, and he really is a vile man. He would promote greed and the grime and crime that flowed fast out of it. The most defiling professions grew out of Potter’s fields, filth fed by corruption and the love of money and things. Cups of vile liquids soaking in, seeping out of shady deals doled out in broad daylight. Pottersville came to life because George was never born.
George got to see that really, he’d been given a wonderful life. His draughty old house with the pointy ornamental piece on the bannister that was always loose, was wonderful. He was the richest man in town, and not because of the money that comes piling into his living room in the end. He was rich in kindness, because he cared for others. Two songs at the close of the movie tell where the riches poured out from.
One of George’s daughters practised it on the piano all afternoon. “Hark, the herald angels, sing: ‘Glory to the new born King!'” Kindness come out of heaven, the birth of a Son sent to live out our shadows that sink us into sorrows and grief. His message was not shouted or cried out, and slowly brought light and justice and kindness into the vile defiled places of the earth. They sang that song with great comfort and joy, gushing from a swift flowing river of delight.
The second song, so it seems, was poet written in 1700 some time late, and is itself a memory of something even more ancient and of great value. Most supposedly don’t know the words, or even what they mean, but the tune they know. It’s a song sung for old time’s sake, for “old lang syne.” Apparently we must sing this as New Years open. Friendship, family, loyalty, honesty, integrity, and a cup brimming over with kindness. These are what need nurture and tending throughout the time we’re given. The translation of the first verse with chorus:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
I already admitted it. The tears tell a little of what I care about. Happy New Year, everyone. Find ways to keep your cup of kindness emptying out and filling again.
see also the article by Clarrise Loughrey, “The Lyrics of Old Lang Syne,” in the Independant.