Tag Archives: friendship

I missed my son’s playoff game to make music

Hey kiddo. I’m sorry I missed your big baseball playoff game the other day. It was your best game yet, and your huge hit helped send your team to the championship. I wasn’t there because I was at my high school — a place I hadn’t been for 30 years — singing with other former choir students in preparation for a reunion concert to honor the director who inspired and influenced countless students over her career.

During a break from our rehearsals, I checked my text messages, and Dad had been keeping me up to date on the game. I let out a “Whohoo!” and told everyone around me about your great success. We all cheered for you and your team.

Then we headed back on stage to keep singing, which was where I really needed to be that night. It was a big decision to go on this trip during this incredibly busy end-of-the-school year rush. I felt guilty about leaving Dad and you, about buying a plane ticket, asking my friends to help shuttle you to your activities (thanks to my mom tribe, who totally got why I wanted to be there).  I told you there would be a lot of games in your life, but this reunion concert was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I really wanted to be part of it.

Once I was standing on the risers under the lights, sharing harmonies with singers who I had known for decades, I knew I had made the right decision.

I haven’t gone to my class reunions because our family had other things going on. But being at this reunion was important for me, and it turned out it was even more meaningful than I expected. I stayed at Grandpa’s house with two of my best friends from high school. When we all piled into the car, parked at our high school and walked into the auditorium for rehearsal, it felt like no time had passed. We had made that same trip hundreds of times during high school.

hee haw honeys

The Hee Haw Honeys, from our yearbook. Two of these silly girls were at the reunion with me.

I spent endless hours in that auditorium over four years, rehearsing for concerts, learning songs from “The Messiah,” and practicing for musicals like “Hello Dolly” and “The Music Man.” One year, my friends and I went on stage for a special number, dressed in robes with  bandanas and curlers in our hair and sang a song called, “We’re Not Ones to Go Round Spreading Rumors” that was made famous by an old TV show you’ve never heard of. We made up our own lyrics about classmates and teachers and we brought down the house. I hadn’t thought of that for a long time.

There’s a lot of stuff about high school I’d rather forget. But being in choir was the best part. Music does bring people together, and it was magical to reconnect with classmates and others who were just as moved as I was to sing together again under the direction of a woman who was a big part of our lives at a time when we were learning who we were. This time around, people were older, some grayer or balding, some heavier, some gorgeous as ever. But the voices were the same, and I felt sheer joy sharing the stage with them all. Our conversations picked up like we had been there yesterday, like we were all still the teenagers we once were trying to get our songs pitch-perfect.

When we weren’t rehearsing or reminiscing, our conversations revolved around what had happened since then, our families, our careers, and our real lives that started after we left high school and our parents. We have all lived through a lot, survived blows more crushing than not being asked to prom, and had moments much bigger than high school graduation. No one can tell us that things that seem like the end of the world at 16 won’t matter one bit when we’re holding our grandchildren.

See, this is who I was long before your dad or sister or you came along. Just a teenage girl who loved singing, worked on the school newspaper, hand-wrote papers for class, went to parties, and worried about whether any boy would ever like me. We giggled with our friends on phones mounted on the wall and met up at McDonald’s to see what was going on that night. We laughed, we cried, we sang. So many memories flooded me as we went through seven poignant songs in that auditorium that was so strangely familiar.

My family will always be my priority. You guys are my heart, my present (my gift) and my future. But my past, experiences like those I relived last week, shaped who I am and made me the person I became that led me to you all. It’s important to maintain those relationships, to nurture the parts of me that are all mine, so I can help you become the person you want to be.

I’ll probably be humming, “How Can I Stop from Singing,” and “Thank You for the Music,” for a while, as I recall this special time with longtime friends. But I’ll be in the stands for that championship game this week, uplifted from my time away.

 

 

 

 

 

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The many loves of Valentine’s Day

You are loved2Years ago, when I was single and lonely and living miles away from any of my fellow non-attached girlfriends, I dreaded Valentine’s Day. That was when this holiday seemed to me a magical day reserved only for the coupled, who would undoubtedly spend a blissful day enraptured by each other, leaving the rest of us feeling alone and worthless.

I was surprised when a delivery man appeared in the newsroom and called my name. “These are for you,” he said, handing me a huge bouquet of balloons, the centerpiece being an enormous red heart-shaped Mylar balloon proclaiming “I love you!”

Baffled, my single heart beating, I opened the card. Everyone oohed and aahed and asked who they were from. For a split second I thought of manufacturing a secret lover, but I sheepishly replied, “They’re from my mom.”

She meant well and was so thoughtful, but it somehow magnified my lack of romantic prospects. I called her to thank her and told she’d made my day. Then I called my sister and said, “Don’t ever let her do that again.”

But of course I remember her loving gesture every Valentine’s Day with gratitude. This silly so-called holiday should be about love, after all, not romance.

Years later on Valentine’s Day, I was happily in love and preparing for a needed weekend getaway with my boyfriend, even with the loss of my mom three weeks earlier weighing heavily on my mind. A gorgeous bouquet of roses appeared on my office desk. This time the card read: “Love, Dad.”

I was so touched that he sent them, in the midst of his great grief, on his first Valentine’s Day without her. See, it’s about love.

That night, my boyfriend and I headed out of town, checked into a ritzy hotel, and went to dinner. He seemed standoffish to me as we walked the streets of this romantic city with his hand in his pocket rather than holding mine. The restaurant wasn’t very good, and he seemed inordinately disappointed about the chicken cordon bleu. We walked wordlessly back to our hotel for a nightcap and dessert.

He was so fidgety and uncomfortable, it made me nervous. Until I found out the reason for his nerves.

“So I have a question,” he said.

And he offered me my mother’s engagement ring, which she had told my sister was to go to him with her blessing. He had been carrying it in his pocket and was petrified he would lose it, so he kept his hand firmly gripped around it.

I told him about the balloons, and how she was happy that I was happy, that I had found this man to spend my life with, that she had known him, and loved him too.

A few years ago, my Valentine was a poem written by my then 6-year-old.

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
I really love you!”

Oh, the love again.

This morning, my husband let me stay in bed and surprised me with French toast. The doorbell rang a little later – an unexpected delivery of dangerously delicious chocolate-covered strawberries from my husby.

Over breakfast, we reminded our son about why February 14 is important to us, how it was the beginning of our family with him and his sister.

“Some people believe Valentine’s Day is just created by greeting card companies to get more money,” my 9-year-old said. “Is that true?”

Pretty much, I said. And it makes some people feel bad for no reason. It doesn’t matter if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s just a day for telling people we love them – even if we shouldn’t need a designated day for that.

It’s just a day, whether you have balloons and roses, or you shirk the whole V Day thing and enjoy too many shots with your friends, or spend the night home alone with a bowl of ice cream and bottle of wine, or are chasing after kids hyped up on candy while dreaming of peace and quiet rather than romance.

Whatever kind of Valentine’s Day you have, I hope you know you are loved.

 

 

I’m so sure! I have some mega memories of camp in the ’80s

Every time I go to my childhood home, I dig through another box of mementos that have been stored in the closet of my old bedroom for decades since I left for college. Last week, I found a gem: the journal signed by the friends I’d made during three weeks at music camp.

journalI have wonderful memories of the time I spent there, nestled in woods on the shores of King’s Lake. I remember walking along the trails, drum beats accompanying my strides as violins whistled through the trees, and being overcome by the magical harmonies of our madrigal choir.

I was so nervous to go the first time, thinking everyone would be cooler and prettier than me, and way better musicians. But I remember how quickly those friendships formed in our cabins, over late nights with giddy girls listening to the radio and whispering about crushes on brooding guitar players.

From what’s on the pages of that canvas-covered book I had saved since 1982, those camp kids thought I was super neat!!!

“It was super neat having you in the same cabin,” wrote one girl in her loopy handwriting. “You are a super funny, neat, and sweet person.”

“You are a super, great, funny, cute, loveable and all-around neat person,” another said.

“You are so funny and super nice! You are always so cheery and friendly.”

“Camp would have been very boring without you!!!,” my friend Christine wrote. “You brighten up our day.”

On these lined pages, before social media and cell phones, there was a distinct lack of profanity and not a hint of nastiness, like you hear so much about with teenagers today. The teen verbiage of the ‘80s shined through.

“It’s been, like, a blast at camp this year. Like, I had a lot of massively fun times. You’re an awesome gal with a mega sense of humor and a totally excellent singing voice.”

“Things have been mega quad this year,” wrote a guy named Jeff. “You may be dingy, but your heart holds much goodness, and I believe (why I don’t know) that reality will be good to you.”

He continued with the most explicit entry in the book: “Lots of luck, love, success, happiness, and great sex (not too heavy on the last one.)”

And from another boy, with whom I had shared some summertime drama.

“Thank you for being a friend. I hope that this year we better understand each other, though it was mostly my fault. F/A.”

The signoffs were equally hilarious.

Love and Preppiness, signed both Tracey and Jennifer, who must have worn polo shirts with their collars up.

Love and Vogueness, from Tammy, obviously an outdoor fashionista.

“I’ll call you after camp and we’ll do something totally radical,” a friend from my school wrote. “Remember that I wuv you to the max!”

Many of these signatures were from people who were only in my life for those few weeks in the summer, but some are from lifelong friends, like the guy who wrote this:

“I’m real glad we’re friends, and I know that we always will be!!! Thanks for being my friend. You always keep me smiling or laughing.”

Back at you, Tyler.

That was my last summer at camp, before we all got too grownup for bunk beds, early morning rehearsals, and waiting in line for showers, and we chose instead to spend our time off school working and trying to find the RADDEST party.

The summer of 1982, I was still belting out songs from the much-loved movie “Fame,” about a group of kids committed to their art, and channeling Irene Cara:

“Sometimes I wonder, where I’ve been, who I am, do I fit in?”

For at least those three weeks, I fit in.

That’s pretty neat.

Hope blooms

It’s a rainy, dreary day in Seattle, with Halloween and darker days just around the corner. I’ve heard a lot of sad news this week, and I’m preparing to help one of my best friends say goodbye to her mom, just as  she did for me.

And I found this today:

2015-10-26 15.24.42

Despite the blustery wind and pounding rain, this gorgeous flower continues to thrive.

My husband gets me fuchsias, my favorite, every year on Mother’s Day. I love the bright ribbons of color that wrap underneath the petals of another shade, and the small, ordinary-looking buds that explode into cascading hues.

They seem so delicate, but these have been hanging for more than five months, surviving summer’s extreme heat and fall’s chilly nights. Still there are buds hidden among the wet, yellowing leaves, just waiting to pop.

It made me think that we are not as fragile as we feel sometimes. We can hold on through the storms, clinging to the branches that hold us up, and find we are stronger than  we thought.

Hope blooms.