Dec. 31, 2010
After Our Wedding
When you forgot the address of our hotel
in your suitcase,
the driver had to pull over
in front of the restaurant.
Men and women dining beneath the August sun
looked up from their salads
to clap for you,
a young, slender woman
in a wedding dress and tiara,
retrieving a slip of paper
from the trunk of a cab
in the middle of the street.
And since that day,
many of the guests at our wedding have divorced
or are gone,
and the restaurant has closed
to become a tattoo parlor.
And we have misplaced and found
many more papers,
but no one was clapping.
And the motion of the lives around us
has been like a great bus
slowly turning onto a crowded street.
And some of the passengers
have fallen asleep in their seats,
while others anxiously search
their jacket pockets
for the notes that might wed
their ordinary lives
to something lofty and astonishing.
Today is New Year’s Eve, about which English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (books by this author)wrote: "The year is going, let him go; ring out the false, ring in the true." Missouri-born writer Mark Twain, on the other hand, proclaimed that “New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.” Another Missouri-born writer, Bill Vaughn, said that “Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to.” Bill Vaughan also said, “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”
People across the world tonight will be linking arms at the stroke of midnight and singing “we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne”, from the Scottish folk song popularized by Robert Burns. In Scotland, they’ll be singing it at Hogmanay, which is what New Year’s Eve and its celebrations are called there. It’s a name derived from an Old French word for a gift given at the New Year.
There’s a tradition at Hogmanay known as “first-footing” , where right after midnight, a person from outside the house scrambles into the house of a neighbor or friend with some small gifts --- becoming the first person to bring good fortune for the new year. In this Scottish tradition, it’s important that the first-footer is a tall dark-haired male. Anything else could mean bad luck.
Customs vary by region within Scotland and include, decorated herrings, fireballs, pipe bands, fruit cakes --- and invariably, song and whiskey. Scottish-American humorist Craig Ferguson described Scotland’s Hogmanay celebrations like this: “It is a time when people who can inspire awe in the Irish for the amount of alcohol that they drink decide to ramp it up a notch."
On this day 171 years ago Sophia Peabody wrote a contemplative New Year’s Eve love letter to her fiancé, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, (books by this author) the future author of The Scarlet Letter (1850). They’d met the year before, 1838, and her first reaction was, “He is handsomer than Lord Byron!” On New Year’s Day 1839 they became secretly betrothed. She wrote this letter at the end of that same year, on New Year’s Eve 1839.
She wrote: “What a year [it] has been to us! My definition of Beauty is, that it is love, and therefore includes both truth and good. But those only who love as we do can feel the significance and force of this. . . .
“I am full of the glory of the day. God bless you this night of the old year. It has proved the year of our nativity. Ha not the old earth passed away from us?--are not all things new? Your Sophie”
They married in 1842 at a bookstore in Boston; she was 32 and he was 38. Shortly later, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote to his sister: "We are as happy as people can be, without making themselves ridiculous, and might be even happier; but, as a matter of taste, we choose to stop short at this point."
It’s the birthday of best-selling novelist and Nicholas Sparks, born in Omaha, Nebraska (1965). He was high school valedictorian and a star runner, and went off to Notre Dame on a track scholarship. But he injured himself in his first year. To pass the time he started writing novels. They didn’t get published. After college he applied to law schools. No where accepted him. So he waited tables, renovated homes, worked in real estate, and tried pharmaceutical sales.
And then one day, as he was approaching age 30, he decided that he didn’t want to see any more time go by without chasing his dreams. He resolved to give himself “three more chances at writing.”
He set about writing The Notebook (1996), a romance story set in a nursing home, which he says was inspired by seeing his wife’s ailing grandparents flirting with each other --- after 62 years of marriage. The manuscript sold for a million dollars, and the book spent more than 2 years on bestseller lists.
He’s written more than a dozen novels, including the bestsellers Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember (1999), and The Rescue (2000). His most recent novel, Safe Haven (2010), came out in September of this year.
It’s the birthday of the winner of the this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Music: composer Jennifer Higdon, born in Brooklyn (1962). She also won a Grammy this year for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. She taught herself how to play the flute at the age of 15, and she didn’t really hear a lot of classical music until she got to college at Bowling Green State University, where she played in the orchestra and majored in flute performance. These days, orchestras across the country do several hundred performances of her works each year. She lives in Philadelphia, where she teaches composition at the Curtis Institute.
From the archives:
Junot Díaz said about writers: "What we do might be done in solitude and with great desperation, but it tends to produce exactly the opposite. It tends to produce community and in many people hope and joy."
Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®