St. Charles Herald-Guide

New Year thoughts from the bayou state

Special to the Herald-Guide - January 6, 2012

By Jim Brown, JimBrownLa.com

Did you make a New Yearís resolution yet? I always do. Hope and foreboding are at the top of my list and have been these past few years.

The New Year always brings a promise of uncertainty. More so for most of us in the coming year. I would rather be absorbed with the more mundane things in life. But that wonít happen in the busy lives that most of us lead.

One resolution I make each year is to maintain my curiosity.

It doesnít matter how limited your perspective or the scope of your surroundings, there is (or should be) something to whet your interest and strike your fancy.

I discovered early on that there are two kinds of people ó those who are curious about the world around them, and those whose shallow attentions are generally limited to those things that pertain to their own personal well-being. I just hope all those I care about fall into the former category.

And a resolution of hope.

Successful and fulfilling endeavors for my children, happiness and contentment for family and friends, the fortitude to handle both the highs and lows of daily living with dignity.

I ask my children each year to give me two gifts for Christmas. First, to make a donation to a charity that will help needy families in their community. And second, to read and re-read the unforgettable holocaust novel Night, by Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace laureate who survived the Nazi death camps.

I have a Wiesel quote framed on my office desk:

"To defeat injustice and misfortune, if only for one instant, for a single victim, is to invent a new reason to hope."

Just like many of you, our family welcomes in the New Year with "Auld Lang Syne."

Itís an old Scotch tune, with words passed down orally, and recorded by my favorite historical poet, Robert Burns, back in the 1700ís. (Iím Scottish, so thereís a bond here.)

"Auld Lang Syne," literally means "old long ago," or simply, "the good old days."

Did you know this song is sung at the stroke of midnight in almost every English-speaking country in the world to bring in the New Year?

I can look back over many years of memorable New Yearís Eve celebrations. In recent years, my wife and I have joined a gathering of family and friends in New Orleans at Antoineís Restaurant in the French Quarter.

Our private party normally clusters in the Rex Room for a complete dinner including an array of seafood appetizers (oysters, shrimp and crabmeat) and flaming Baked Alaska for dessert.

Yes, a number of champagne-filled toasts occasionally with a family member dancing on the table. Then off to join the masses for the New Yearís countdown to midnight in Jackson Square. We often finish the evening (or early morning) at Jimmy Buffetís Margaritaville on Decatur Street.

When my daughters were quite young, we spent a number of New Year holidays at a family camp on Davis Island, in the middle of the Mississippi River some 30 miles below Vicksburg. On several occasions, the only people there were my family and Bishop Charles P. Greco, who was the Catholic Bishop for central and north Louisiana.

Bishop Greco had baptized all three of my daughters, and had been a family friend for years. And he did love to deer hunt.

On many a cold and rainy morning, the handful of us at the camp would rise before dawn for the Bishop to conduct a New Yearís Mass.

After the service, most of the family went back to bed. I would crank up my old jeep, and take the Bishop out in the worst weather with hopes of putting him on a stand where a large buck would pass.

No matter what the weather, he would stay all morning with his shotgun and thermos of coffee.

He rarely got a deer, but oh how he loved to be there in the woods. Now Iím not a Catholic, but he treated me as one of his own.

One of the most fulfilling and rewarding projects I undertook in my Louisiana state senate days was to help Bishop Greco fund and build the St. Maryís Residential and Training School for retarded children in Alexandria.

He was, for me, a great mentor and friend who touched the lives of so many. He died in 1987 and I will always think of him on New Yearís Day.

New Yearís Day means lots of football, but I also put on my chefís apron.

Iím well-regarded in the kitchen around my household, if I say so myself, for cooking up black-eyed peas as well as cabbage and corn bread. And donít bet I wonít find the dime in the peas. After all, Iím going to put it there.

Happy New Year to you, your friends and all of your family.