We’ve reached the end of December and, as many are wont to do, I’m doing some reflection on the year past.
This is sort of apropos, as I’m focused on the previous three months for a quarterly work review, which requires some metrics, like the number of reports filed, to (hopefully) show an improvement over the previous quarter.
But outside the office, in real life and real time, there’s less quantifiable accounting involved in the look back. How does one measure a good time? Or sorrow?
Surely, we can tally losses. My sister remarked over Christmas dinner something I’d also noticed in the runup to the holiday: Every day for the past week or two, it seemed someone we knew had lost a loved one. It was a remarkable and depressing toll.
By the same token, we were gladdened by additions, as extended family and friends welcomed new little ones into their lives. Part of my family’s whirlwind of holiday activity included the Beckley Filipino community’s Christmas party. At this year’s occasion, we finally got to meet the babies we’d been seeing in our social media feeds: one from a couple who wed just a few years ago and another from friends who had a long wait before they became parents. Both were greeted with great joy.
The party itself sort of encapsulates the look back — and forward.
“Jay,” one of my oldest friends, served as an emcee for the event. His parents and mine were part of the group that organized this year’s gathering. They were also among the organizers of the first parties, which rotated from house to house back in the early 1970s. Over time, the bash moved from homes to community centers to supper clubs to convention centers. To ease the burden of organizing the fete, planning duties alternate among a handful of groups.
As Jay made his exit toward the end of the party, he took a moment to drink in the scene. The dance floor was rocking, tables were noisy with conversation and selfies were being taken in abundance. He was feeling wistful.
Our parents are in their 80s, as are many of the members of their planning group. As part of the evening’s entertainment, they sang a Filipino Christmas carol. I later looked at a photo of them performing. Some of the original members were missing. A few were traveling overseas. But Jay’s dad was ailing and the spouse of another had passed away a couple of years ago. My friend was trying to capture this moment and all it entailed.
As a sentimental slob, I shared his feelings. But I also sensed a changing of the guard. Just as dinner was ending, my kids participated in the evening’s program, where my son was one of the three wise men and my daughter offered a balletic gift to the newborn king.
Their older cousins performed a traditional Filipino dance, as they had been doing for the better part of the decade. As teenagers, they were beginning to age out of the “new generation” carrying on their cultural heritage. I recognized that it was time for my own babies to take up the baton (or, the bamboo, as the dance requires.)
As I walked around the convention hall, seeing little kids who had grown into young adults — and seeing myself in the high-schoolers who were too cool to be hanging out at such a corny gathering, as I once believed many years ago — I wondered what would become of this event as our parents, who shared their culture so proudly with us, would begin to fade from the picture. Would we, their children, be able to carry on?
Maybe that’s what the auld lang syne is all about. We in the present look back, taking stock of our inventory, before moving forward into the future. We carry forth what matters, life lessons and the things that keep us rooted, the things we want remembered.
These are things you won’t find in a ledger or take accounting of in a spreadsheet. These are the records we keep in the book of our lives. In the end, I suppose, we mark our progress by what we leave behind when we undergo our final review.