Misunderstood Lyrics

February 23, 2024 at 8:56 a.m.

...by Lois Greene Stone

“What about 'Spring Breakdown’ by Luke Bryan, 2015, Grandma,” Elaina asked. “Spring break. You know that one?”

“Spring breaks didn’t really happen until my children’s generation. Hmm."

How about Taylor Swift’s ‘Come in With the Rain’? I asked if she liked that one. “Nah. Too much philosophy. Bad times make people think about what should have been noticed. Kind of sad. Sad sort of like Auld Lang Syne,” Elaina remarked.

“Oh my gosh. Did I ever tell you about my older sister and me and that song?”

Elaina laughed. “Totally no. But your stuff when you were young is always funny or interesting, unless you’re talking about your dad dying when you were just a month into your being 20.”

I touched her hand. “Well, this is neither, so now you’ll hear something different about me. But it’s like what you and I were saying about songs! What lyrics or even music sounds evoke.”       

“Somber song!” I talked to my three-way folding mirror perched on an unpainted wooden dressing table. A white organdy skirt, my mother handmade, covered the table’s legs.

“Not even English but it’s always-always sung.” I emphasized the word ‘always.’

“What’re you complaining about now, Lois?” Carole, my older sister passed in the hallway.

“Auld Lang Syne. It’s not even in English! Why is happy new year ruined with everyone, and I really mean everyone, singing and swaying to that miserable melody!”

Carole stood in my doorway feeling her two and a half years older meant a lot. “The times gone past. It means that.”


“Well, a year is gone.”

“So?” I continued. “But a new one is starting. That’s happy. And every new year's groups of people are dancing not crying. That’s a crying song.”

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot And days of auld lang syne? I only know this first part,” Carole sang with her beautiful voice.

She’d already performed, age sixteen, for two months with professionals at the Deer Lake Theatre in the Pocono Mountains in summer-stock shows.  

“Makes no sense! It’s sad. We’re beginning a new-new number on the calendar’s year and that is happy. On the radio, that melody comes on and just drags everyone into sadness. Auld Lang Syne! If you want to say a year is gone, just say it!” 

I’d gotten up from the table and was standing right opposite Carole in the doorway. I was orating and knew it, and, somehow, felt quite adult and superior with even my body language; I was holding a hairbrush. Pretending it was a microphone, I sang the first line out loud. I could be dramatic and also had singing lessons following the piano ones.

“Maybe things were better for some people in their ‘good old days’,” Carole began.

“Yeah. Bread lines, I learned about those in school, and World War I, and the Spanish Inquisition, and Stock Market Crash.” I enjoyed reciting school subjects, pretending to be worldly, but really couldn’t relate to anything I was mentioning. “Mom lived in a tenement that had no elevator, and no apartment even had their own bathrooms! And how about the people who had to use outhouses and had to cook in big-big kettles over a fire, or ride in a wagon train.”

“Okay. Stop!” Carole insisted, knowing I would continue if she didn’t interrupt. “I don’t know why that song is popular in the whole world. But it just is. Maybe it just gets people to stop partying for a few minutes at midnight.”

“I’m never going to play it at MY parties. I’ll just turn down the radio when it comes on.” I did learn that General Grant, after the Civil War, had the band play it right after the surrender. Why? It wasn’t New Year’s. But the class bell rang and the teacher never got to that part, and next class I guess she forgot about telling anyone, and none of us cared enough to ask.

Carole turned and went towards her room. I followed. 

“If I’ve already forgotten old friends, then I can’t remember them so how can ‘brought to mind’ happen if I don’t even remember who they were?” I was so caught up in this that I just kept babbling. “Am I supposed to have forgotten them? I guess if they were so unimportant then they weren’t really friends anyway. And what if they died of Polio or something like that and I sure don’t want to remember that! See, it IS a miserable song and just nothing that ought to be part of New Year’s.” 


My husband and I spent New Year’s Eve December 2023 with our in-town family: our youngest offspring David and his wife Kathleen, Elaina, her sister Julia, her brother Kevin and his wife Rebecca. We hadn’t been able to do that for the Pandemic years. And “time” for my mate and I, is a chronological clock winding down. Auld Lang Syne was played and seemed out of context sound-wise after the band had been playing modern music.  

I like the ‘theme,’ but still find the ‘plot’ -- the specific language -- awkward and melody too sad. Maybe there are no words, and sadness is too-much a part of life. 

Elaina took my arm and helped me walk to the dance floor to sort-of sway with her. 

Now, after hearing my true story with my sister, she said, “Grandma, you still like noisemakers, silly hats with glitter, upbeat music, welcoming ‘new’ and not all the sad stuff.”  

She smiled and then put her hands high in the air and moved her body in the motion she’d done New Year’s Eve 2023.
Lois in 1954. This photo and the skirt Lois is wearing are part of a Smithsonian exhibition about teens in the 1950s. 

Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected only her photo to represent all teens from the 1950s; a large showcase in its National Museum of American History featured her photo, hand-designed clothing, and her costume sketches. ‘Girlhood’ exhibit opened 10-2020 and began touring the country in January 2023.

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