Christmas Songs that Aren’t – “Same Auld Lang Syne”

Christmas songs are here!!!! Some of the radio stations in my radio market started playing them November 1, but I promptly changed the channel. Now, I’ve finally given in, and I’ve started listening to Christmas music. Have you noticed that some Christmas songs aren’t?

One song often played during the Christmas season is “Same Auld Lang Syne”, by Dan Fogelberg. Today, I had to explain to my eleven-year old daughter what the song was about. It is a great song, poignant, about first love that might have been, but it’s not very upbeat.

Now, as a mom, married for more than 16 years, I have to ask what the architect was doing at home, on Christmas Eve, while his wife is drinking a six-pack of beer in the car with Dan Fogelberg? Like most families, Christmas Eve is hectic for us. We usually drive to see my family, we go to church, we have to get home and get everything ready for the next day. Now granted, this was back in 1975, before cell phones, but even then, you’d think the husband would be wondering where his wife is for a couple of hours when she made a quick run to the store. She’s not divorced in the song.

I went to the source, and asked wikipedia, and here’s what I learned.
Yes, the song was autobiographical. Dan Fogelberg did run into his old girlfriend in the grocery store on Christmas Eve. He never identified who she was, and he did change some details about her to protect her identity. But, according to Wikipedia, the girlfriend has since come forward.

According to Wikipedia,

As Fogelberg said on his official website, the song was autobiographical.[5] He was visiting family back home in Peoria, Illinois in the mid-1970s when he ran into an old girlfriend at a convenience store.

After Fogelberg’s death from prostate cancer in 2007, the woman about whom he wrote the song came forward with her story. Her name is Jill Greulich, and she and Fogelberg dated in high school when she was Jill Anderson. As she explained to the Peoria Journal Star in a December 22, 2007 article,[6] they were part of the Woodruff High School class of 1969, but went to different colleges. After college, Jill got married and moved to Chicago, and Dan went to Colorado to pursue music. On December 24, 1975, they were each back in Peoria with their families for Christmas when Jill went out for eggnog and Dan looked for whipping cream for Irish coffee. The only place open was a convenience store at the top of Abington Hill where they had their encounter, located at 1302 East Frye Avenue. Today, the store is still in business and named Short Stop Food Mart. They bought a six pack of beer and drank it in her car for two hours while they talked.

Five years later, Jill heard “Same Old Lang Syne” on the radio while driving to work, but she kept quiet about it, as Fogelberg also refused to disclose her identity. Her main fear was that coming forward would disrupt Fogelberg’s marriage.

Looking at the lyrics, Jill cites two inaccuracies: her eyes are green, not blue, and her husband was a physical education teacher, not an architect, and Fogelberg was unlikely to know his profession anyway. On the line, “She would have liked to say she loved the man, but she didn’t like to lie,” Jill will not talk about it, but by the time of the song’s release, she had divorced her husband.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Same_Old_Lang_Syne

So, there you have it. As Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story.

So, did that evening go something like this:

I’ll use the name Martha, since I’m not writing about the actual person in the song… and I’ll use Phillip for the husband. That’s a good name for an adult in 1975.

Martha parked her car outside the garage, not sure she could navigate the tight fit to squeeze in beside Phillip’s Buick. Between the couple of inches of snow in the driveway and the couple of beers she had had, the last thing she wanted to do was hit the side of the garage. She grabbed the container of egg nog, lukewarm by now, and started into the house.

Phillip was talking on the phone when she walked in. “Here she is. Thanks. We’ll see you in a little bit.”

He put the receiver on its base with such force it wobbled in the cradle. “Martha, where have you been? I have been worried sick. My parents have been calling, wanting to know when we’re coming over to decorate the tree. You’ve been gone two hours!”

Had it really been that long? Two beers. She guessed so. Dan had drunk four. “I had to go to a couple of stores. Everyone was out of egg nog.” The lie came easy. What else could she say? She ran into an old lover in a grocery store and talked to him in the parking lot? Sometimes the truth hurt more than a lie.

“Oh. Well, I was worried.” He glanced at her bluejean skirt and the red pullover sweater. “Are you going to change to go to my parents? You know they like to do the Christmas pictures tonight.”

“I don’t think I’m going. Tell them I have a headache.” That wasn’t far from the truth.

“Martha, you have to go! If you don’t, they will worry me to death about what you’re doing, why you’re not there.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t do it. You’ll just have to go on without me.”

And that summed it up more than he knew. She trudged up the stairs, deciding she would lay down for a while and hopefully he would get the hint and believe she had a headache.

Later, she heard him leave. Christmas wasn’t the time to break up a marriage. She would tell him after the new year. She would find an apartment, and start over. She drifted to sleep listening to the sound of the rain on the window.

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Happy Thanksgiving!