We’ll Tak a Cup o’ Kindness Yet, For Auld Lang Syne.

I was eighteen or so the year my brother Kevin sent a can of slugs for Christmas. He was in his young twenties and living on the West Coast. My parents and I ate the more conventional components of the food basket and put the can of slugs in the pantry, where it stayed for a long, long time.

Sometimes I’d look at it and wonder just how the slugs were meant to be prepared. My dad was a culinary artist with adventurous tastes, and he’d served octopus often during my childhood, but never slugs.

A couple of years later, when my parents and I were visiting my brother Stephen, I came across an identical can of slugs in the cabinet. Stephen had received the same Christmas gift basket that year. I guess everyone has gifts like that, things you never use but don’t even consider throwing away. They sit in the back of the closet, or pantry, gathering dust.

I think my curiosity was the catalyst for what followed. The more we talked about the slugs, the more interested everyone became. Someone proposed that slugs should be cooked like escargot—sautéed in butter with some garlic, and served with lemon juice. We were all game. Stephen heated the butter in the skillet, then opened the can as the rest of us looked on.

“Look at that,” Stephen said in a tone of near-reverence. “They’ve got their own little red sauce.”

He emptied the can into the skillet—

And nothing but red sauce came out. There were no slugs, just eight ounces of tomato sauce in a can whose original label had been covered with the slug label, which on closer examination turned out to bear the words, “Distributed by Slimytime Unlimited.”

It was just the sort of thing that would appeal to Kevin. His sense of humor was quirky and dry; he wouldn’t mind waiting several years for a joke to come off, even if it meant he wouldn’t be around to see it happen.

That was more than twenty years ago, but tonight is New Year’s Eve and therefore a good night for reminiscence. Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? Of course not.

We’re all familiar with the traditional New Year’s song. Here are the lyrics, in the original Scots dialect, as penned by the Scottish poet Robert Burns.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and days of auld lang syne?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

Robert Burns penned the song in 1788. It soon became customary to sing it on Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year. The custom spread throughout the British Isles and to America, where a famous American author, coincidentally descended from Scottish nobility, heard it for the first time as a small child.

When the fiddle had stopped singing Laura called out softly, “What are the days of auld lang syne, Pa?”

 “They are the days of a long time ago, Laura,” Pa said. “Go to sleep, now.”

 But Laura lay awake a little while, listening to Pa’s fiddle softly playing and to the lonely sound of the wind in the Big Woods. She looked at Pa sitting on the bench by the hearth, the firelight gleaming on his brown hair and beard and glistening on the honey-brown fiddle. She looked at Ma, gently rocking and knitting.

She thought to herself, “This is now.”

She was glad that the cosy house, and Pa and Ma and the firelight and the music, were now. They could not be forgotten, because now is now. It can never be a long time ago.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods

This passage becomes all the more poignant when the reader reflects that the author wrote it when she was in her sixties. Pa, Ma, and Mary had been gone for years by then.

Happy New Year to you, my trusty fiere. Enjoy your pint-stowp in moderation, and let not auld acquaintance be forgot. Bring them to mind; bring them to mind.

One comment on “We’ll Tak a Cup o’ Kindness Yet, For Auld Lang Syne.

  1. Mary says:

    I love Kevin’s sense of humor and I thrilled to see you starting the New Year blogging (even if I’m slow to read them!)

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