The words of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns, are sung by many on New Year's Eve: We'll drink a cup o' kindness, yet, for days of Auld Lang Syne. Auld Lang Syne means times long past. It is a song of reminiscence; a perfect sentiment to end the year. We give our regards to the past, and welcome the new, which isn't always easy.
In Port Washington, where I live, we said goodbye to a very dear part of our community this past year: Harry's Restaurant.
When my husband and I moved from Cedarburg to Port Washington in the Spring of 1999, one of the first places we came to know and love was Harry's. The owners, Bertie and Dale, recognized my husband from when he went to daycare with their children, but I suspect we would have been warmly welcomed, even if we had been complete strangers.
Harry's quickly became our weekend Cheers - the place where everybody knew our names. We nicknamed Joe, the cook, Satan, because of his pointy goatee. My husband would nudge me as we waited in line for our table: "Satan's in the kitchen - that means our breakfast will be good." Indeed, it was.
Wendy, our favorite waitress, always made time to chat with us. In fact, when I was in the hospital the day after our first child was born in 2002, my husband stopped into Harry's for breakfast. Wendy sent him to the hospital with a slice of Harry's famous Jewish Coffee Cake, and congrats from the staff. She did it again when my husband and my daughter went in for breakfast one June morning in 2005, when my son was born.
My children grew up at Harry's, with Bertie, Dale and Wendy remarking on how much they'd grown with every visit. First, they sat at the high chair. Then, there were the mouse-ear pancake years. Before we knew it, we were splitting the coffee cake over cups of tea and coffee, and they were ordering off of the grown-up menu. My son would pay at the register, then take a spin on the stools at the counter before we would head out the door. Harry's was an era for my family; as it was, I imagine, for many others.
We weren't in town for the party the community had for Harry's, but I stopped in on their last day - the place was bursting at the seams - to give Dale and Bertie a card, and one for Wendy, too. A card to say thanks. A card to say good-bye.
Some people think that Harry's had to close to make room for the new Port Harbour Lights development that is going up as I type this, but that's not true. Bertie and Dale were ready for a well-deserved rest. Some people hope that someone will bring Harry's back when the new space is built; some people don't want that at all, because it wouldn't be the same - and it won't. Dale, Bertie, Wendy, Joe, and the rest of the staff are what made Harry's what it was.
Good byes are hard. We have our memories, though, and we reminisce. We give our regards to the past; then, we take each other's hands and we look to the future. That is what the new year is for.