Come Sing a Song of Joy!

Santa gave me sniffles and coughs for Christmas (or it could have been a gift from the world’s most adorable snotty-nosed nine month old).  At any rate, my energy level is at an all time low. So I’m going to be lazy and repost a New Year’s Eve post from a few years back.

December 2014: Once you get to a certain age let’s face it. New Year’s Eve is about as exciting as taking out the trash. In fact I can’t remember the last time I actually stayed up until midnight. But there was a time when I drank champagne and toasted in the New Year in something other than sweats… really!

My most memorable New Year’s Eve was the inspiration for this scene from the now out-of-print book: The Graduation Present.  The main character, Riley O’Tannen, has to catch a New Year’s Day flight home out of Frankfurt Germany. However, she spends the night before partying and arrives at her uncle’s house with barely time to spare before they have to head for the airport. Here’s the excerpt:

I felt like telling Uncle Bob  that it was his fault for leaving me slightly tipsy at the club surrounded by young officers and their dates. His fault that light snow fell as we floated along the Rhine in a tide of other young adults, Beethoven’s “Ode of Joy” blaring from every restaurant barge, café and tavern:

Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken.

Giddily we’d made up our own lyrics:

Weiner Schnitzel,
Bitte Danke,
Guten Tagen, Wiedersehen! 
snowglobeWe were in a snow-globe world. Sam from Colorado, Elke on the prowl, warm hearted Gil and a few others whose names I never caught, tap dancing on cobblestone streets, singing silly verses and laughing till our breath froze.

We arrived at the station just as the last train to Heidelberg was pulling out. “Run!” Sam yelled as we joined a crowd of young Germans rushing the train. Once on board, the chaotic scene made it impossible for our group to stay together. Unconcerned with the others, Gil grabbed my hand and pulled me through the mob.

Two cars down we finally found a seat and snuggled together by the window as the train rambled along. For once in my life I didn’t feel the need to talk. I was content to listen to the riotous laughter and singing coming from the other cars, while Gil fiddled with my long, stringy hair “looking for split ends,” he claimed with a chuckle.

CastleHeidelberg Castle sits on a hill overlooking a generally quiet campus town. Its fortress walls, which easily span several city blocks, were lit by a barrage of pastel lights. The crowd erupted in cheers as we entered the station and leapt from the train. The idea was to get as close as possible to the castle for the best view and so the mob snaked its way up the hill, along the route buying beer in red plastic cups and kazoos that sounded like drunken mallards from gypsy street vendors.  I realized in that particular moment we were not German or French or Italian or American; those labels were meaningless as we marched uphill to storm the storybook castle singing a song whose lyrics were universal. fireworksWe’d just managed to reach the medieval center of town when the fireworks began, first as fizzles in the falling snow, and then, mini starbursts.  These were promptly followed by sonic booms echoing in the clouds high above. The show continued for thirty minutes, gaining in intensity until the sky was filled with iridescent glitter raining down upon us. The finale, a blinding explosion of silver and gold, exposed armor-clad knights and their bejeweled ladies standing on the battlements in defiance of time and death.


Happy New Year’s everyone!

9 thoughts on “Come Sing a Song of Joy!

  1. Thanks for this, Jan! I loved this scene from The Graduation Present–loved the whole book! The illustration at the top is great too. Reminds me of some people (ahem) in my house.

    1. May next year be filled with joy and love for you and your family! Thank you for your friendship and support in 2014! You’ve been one of the stars of my year!

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