“When I was 17, it was a very good year,” as the Frank Sinatra song starts off. The composer, Ervin Drake goes on to describe relationships and the seasons of his life. It was written for The Kingston Trio, but it was Sinatra who won a Grammy in 1966 for his rendition. It is both melancholic and nostalgic.
Anytime I hear this song, as a senior, I reflect on the seasons of spring, summer, winter and fall and also the decades. It is a good metaphor – spring with its newness of life and re-growth; summer with its endless days of warmth and good times; autumn, the time to feel a nip in the air and watch the coloured leaves blow in the breeze; and winter, a time to slow down the pace.
Even nature recognizes the change, with birds flying south and animals hibernating. The four seasons can also be a reference to where we are or have been – childhood, youth, adults, middle-age and old age. The seasons join with us on a journey called ‘the cycle of life.’ You can think about stopping it or reversing it, but you cannot do either.
Funny, but when we are young, we long to be older. And when we get to that place of older, we wish to be younger. As children, our parents took care of all our needs but as adults, we long for the days of no responsibilities.
I remember preparing speeches in elementary school and having to get up in front of the class and present them. How I wanted those years to be over. When I was 10 and had to try parsnips and brussel sprouts, I wanted to be much older and sitting at my own dinner table.
At age 12, I longed to be 13 – why, I don’t know as nothing changed overnight! Same at age 15, I wanted badly to be 16! From about 40-50 years, our minds reverse and 20’s sounds pretty good! It seems the 50’s is the time for some to experience a mid-life crisis, where one might be seen wearing questionable clothing and driving down Christina St. in a Corvette convertible with music blaring. Of course, seniors in the last third of their lives, think about ‘the good old days’ and want to go back to their childhoods or at least lop off a couple of decades. I don’t ever recall hearing a 60 or 70 year old say, “I wish I was 90.”
I like the ending of It Was A Very Good Year, where the writer is thinking of his life as ‘vintage wine from old kegs, from the brim to the dregs, it poured sweet and clear, it was a very good year.