Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh What a Day. December 20

I'm going to write about today right now and then get caught up on the past couple of days tomorrow.  Just  in case the aliens decide to come back and get me tomorrow I want to get everything down about today for posterity.
The day started off wonderfully at the Hudson(IL) Elementary School where I presented a Christmas concert for  a gym full of K-5 kids.  They were just great!  I got lots of hugs and high-fives after the show and once again, as I do at every concert, I felt blessed to be able to look into the eyes of children and sing.  Several of the kids had been to the show at Bobby Dicken's display last night and they expressed excitement at seeing me again.  Little by little I  winning people over with my music, which was one of the tour goals and it feels good to see it happening.
After the school show I had to say goodbye to my host family, the Dickens, and it was kind of sad, as it has been saying goodbye to everyone on this tour.  I correspond with folks for months, then by the time I get to their houses it is like we are old friends, and then I'm gone.  But hopefully these will just be the beginnings of new friendships, just as many new friendships began on the first HoCS tour two years ago.
For the past couple of days, since the van broke down, I have really been feeling down about the fact that, after the last concert on Sunday, I would have to turn right back around and drive back to Omaha to get the van, and I would probably not be home for Christmas.  Plus I had managed to pick up a few gifts along the way and they are still in the van!  I've been going over a million different possibilities for getting the van back, including picking Emma up in NYC on Sunday and doing the road trip with her. She's game for it, but it would mean she also would not be home for Christmas.
I talked with Philip about it this morning, and one of our ideas was to drop the rental off in NH and then one of us would fly back to Nebraska to drive the van back. He volunteered to do or but I don't want him to. I feel like it is my disaster and I would be too worried about him doing it. We ended the conversation with him agreeing to look into flights and me agreeing to find out how much extra it would cost to return the rental in NH.
Anyhow, I had been driving through torrential rain for a couple of hours when the thought occurred to me to check the forecast for Livonia, Michigan for this evening.  It said 100 percent chance of rain.  Well, I thought, "Perhaps  we ought to cancel, and if we do then I will drive back to Omaha now and be able to get the van and I can still make it to Toronto tomorrow. The van was supposed to be ready by five today."  I decided to call the Howse family and see what they thought. The display is done by 25-year old Timothy and his parents, but I was really torn because on one hand I wanted to be able to get the van, but on the other hand I didn't want to disappoint anybody.  However, there were two good reasons to cancel:  1) I can't have my equipment out in the rain and 2) people probably wouldn't come in the rain.
I spoke at length with Mr. Howse and explained that it might be smart to cancel. I didn't want to do it, but it would not be possible for me to perform in the rain.  He said they could set me up in the garage. I said that I wondered if people would still come, and he said he thought they would. Then I explained the whole situation to him about the van and all, and I told him I did not want to disappoint anyone and if he thought people would be there then I would still come. We left it that I would continue to head their way and we would all pray about it.
A little while later he called me back and said that some of their display equipment was not working because of the rain, and maybe that was a sign from God and we should cancel.   I felt bad and relieved at the same time, cause now I could go get the van.  But I offered to come back in the summer and either do a Christmas in July show at his house or a concert at their church, and then we said "goodbye" hung up.
I pulled off at the next exit to call the garage and ask if someone could meet me there after hours so I could pick up the van...this is something  they had offered to do  for me if I got back on Christmas Eve. Well lo and behold, the guy at the garage said it turned out it would not be ready today after all, and now we were looking at closing time tomorrow!! They said it was a giant job of work to get the old transmission out because of all the corrosion, etc., and something about it needing a new axle and so it wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow.  There would be no possible way I could pick it up on Friday, so I just sighed and said, “Okay” and it’s back to plan A, driving back on Sunday after the show in Nazareth, PA, or, possibly, returning the rental in NH and flying back.  Either way I would probably not be home for Christmas.
Sitting there in a gas station parking lot in the rain, I figured why not call Timothy Howse back and see if he wanted to go ahead with the concert anyway, and I’d just sing for whomever was there?   I made the call and we decided to go forward and play it by ear.
So I’m driving along, driving along, now listening to “Needful Things,” a Stephen King book which is narrated by the author himself. I read this book many years ago when it first came out, but I figured it would be a fun listen so I loaded it onto my iPod before I left.
Rain rain rain and high winds all along the route made driving tricky.  At one point I looked at the map and realized I would be driving right past the exit for Gary, IN, the birthplace of Michael Jackson.  I thought it might be cool to check out his childhood home if it were not too far off the beaten path,  so I got the address off the internet and checked it on the Garmin and it was really about five minutes from the exit, so I decided to do it.  Within a half hour I was standing in the rain outside of 2300 Jackson Street, a tiny little house…seriously, there couldn’t have been more than four rooms in that one story box…where the Jackson brothers were harrassed and beaten by their father into making music.  I was flooded with mixed emotions. I kept thinking about that poor little boy being terrorized by his father in this tiny little house, and what an incredible talent he had, and how he came from this little house to fame beyond imagination. I wondered what his life would have been like if his father hadn’t pushed his sons into superstardom, and if it was all worth it in the end, when he was so miserable he had to abuse drugs to sleep and ended up dying too young because of it.  We, the public, got the good end of the deal because we got to enjoy that incredible talent and have it enrich our lives for so long, but what must it have been like to be him?
Now, obviously, I’m in the camp that believes he was innocent of child abuse charges.  To me, he seemed like a child trapped in a man’s body, and I doubt he was capable of physical intimacy with anyone.  I think he was an innocent in a hard world.  I don’t know for sure, of course, but none of us do, do we?  I’ve always identified with him, and I was not one who laughed when he said he liked to climb a tree at Neverland and stay there for hours, making up songs. I have done things like that myself.  And, to be honest with you, the older I get the more I feel like I don’t have a lot of people my age I can relate to, because I still think like a child as well.  One of my happiest experiences was seeing him in concert at Madison Square Garden on 9-10-2001.  Experiencing that powerful talent and energy, and how it blew away the thousands of people in that arena, was mind-blowing.

But I digress. I only spent a little while in front of the house, lost in thought, and then it was time to move on.
Some time after I left Gary I got a call from Joe at the garage in Omaha, who seems like a genuinely nice guy. He said he hated to do this, but he had more bad news.  Ohhhhhhh.  It turns out the van needs some sort of new sensor thingy which can only be gotten new from Toyota, and which would add $375 to the bill, for a grand total of around four thousand bucks, chief!!   Arrrrgggghhhhhhhh!  And not only that, but the part cannot be had until WEDNESDAY!  On one hand, that’s a good thing. That means I am going to be home for Christmas for sure, but now I can’t get the van (with the presents in it)  til the middle of the week next week, and I’ve got some important stuff coming up at home.  The Saturday after Christmas is our first Epiphany Play rehearsal at St. Matthew’s, and I am the long-time director.  I can’t miss that!  And then on New Year’s Eve I’ve got a gig with my band, The Groovy Dudes, and we need to rehearse! But, as my husband is fond of saying, “one thing at a time,” so I got on the phone with Hertz to see what the charge would be to drop the rental off in NH, and then I would work on getting a cheapo flight back to Nebraska.
I think this is when my head officially cracked open and my brains began to spill out.  It turns out that it’s no mere $100 fee to drop the rental off in a different location.  It changes the entire rental agreement, bringing up the daily rate to TWICE what I paid.  So the total would be nearly SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!  I almost drove off the road!  I’m already paying nearly $350 for the rental.  I expressed my horror to the woman on the phone and asked her if there was any way that figure could be lowered, and she said, “That’s the best I can do, Ma’am.”  I hung up.  I checked the rental agreement and saw that the rate for extra days was $35.99 a day.  I’m keeping the darned thing and driving it back to Nebraska the day after Christmas.  It will be a whirlwind trip because I have to be back for Saturday.  Philip might be able to get a couple of days off and do it with me, and that would be great! Fingers crossed for that.
Once the sun went down the traffic got even worse, and I did come upon a pile-up of about a dozen cars that had been cleared to the side of the road by the time I passed it.  I silently thanked God that I hadn’t been in it and said a quick prayer for those who were. I called the Howse’s and told them I would be a little late and they were anxiously awaiting my arrival.
I finally got there around 7:20 and Timothy and his group of helpers swiftly helped me unload and set up in the garage with the door open so that folks out in the street could hear the music. There weren’t a lot of people there…because of the rain…but it was a small, but mighty crowd.  You know, it doesn’t matter how tired I am or what kind of day it’s been…once I step in front of the audience I am where I was meant to be. That’s just how it is.  I come alive. Singing is such a joyful thing to do; I feel like I’m sharing the best part of me, and when people are smiling, singing along or moving to the music, that’s when I always thank God that I am able to do this and acknowledge that it completely comes from Him.  I know that I have no claim for the fact that I can make music; it was completely a gift, and I’m so so so so grateful that I got it, because it makes me so happy and it makes other people happy and when that’s going on I forget about dollar signs and broken vans and long driving stretches.  I’m just lost in the joy of what’s happening right then.  So let me take a minute right now to thank EVERYONE who has participated in this tour…whether you are a host, a concert attendee, or cheering me on from the sidelines…and especially my family, who has been calling and texting and lifting my spirits.  I know the meaning of “the wind beneath my wings” because of you, and I hope that in some small way what I have done has encouraged you or made you happy or made you laugh or even if it just made you laugh because you can’t believe what a crazy person I am out here doing this.
I think this particular concert was so sweet because I almost didn’t do it. But it seemed extra special to me. Almost the minute I started singing I knew why God wanted me there.   The people who were there were so enthusiastic and appreciative and when I thought that I almost missed this chance, well….I was really glad things worked out the way they did and I got to do it.
 I think it was one of the loudest “Rudolph” sing alongs of the tour. Or maybe that was just because of the four guys who were in the garage behind me, trying to stay out to the rain and singing loud!  During the instrumental break in “Santa Whatcha Got” I ran out into the driveway, grabbed Timothy by the hands and took him for a spin.  You should have seen the look on his face….pure surprise and happiness.  What a blast!  And as I was running back to the microphone I was thinking, “Thank God I had that gastric bypass surgery or I would never be able to sing after doing that”.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention the two young men who sang “Frosty.”  The first guy got up to do it, made it part of the way through and then was swiftly joined by another who came up to help him out. These were not children, but young adults, and it was wonderful and just sweet how one came to the other’s rescue so unabashedly.  They made a great singing team!
I want to note here that the Howse family is very adamant about the reason why they do a Christmas light synchronized program at their house. They are strong Christians and want to share the message of the birth of Jesus and what it meant to Humankind, and the narration between their songs and the elements are their display bear that out.  Decorators have all sorts of reasons for making major displays like this, and all of them are good reasons…bringing joy and happiness to strangers, shedding light in the darkness of the world, making memories for children, and, of course, celebrating the significance of the birth of Christ.  I know the message in their display is very important to the Howse’s, so that’s why I mention it here. I hope you get a chance to see it’s very beautifully done.
After the packing up we all went to Big Boy, a place I hadn’t been in years because there aren’t any in NH, and had a fun meal with lively conversation among the Howse parents, their four adult sons and a family friend.  It was great way to end the day, in the warm company of new friends.  God bless you, Howse family.  I hope I get to see you again some day soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment