I just came from the first of two IEP meetings scheduled for this week. I don’t really have anything to say about it right now.
But I do spy a little boy trying to make his way in this world…
Is anyone else – besides my youngest sister and her kids following the sudden death of my brother-in-law 2 weeks ago – feeling fucked up over the fragility of life?
I cannot begin to imagine what they’re going through. I’m no stranger to death, dying, or even the fight for life, but the sudden, unexplained death of an earlyish-middle-aged, fit and healthy father of two young kids? No earthly idea what to do with that. Asking my sister how she’s doing feels futile, bordering on offensive, because it’s an unanswerable question. There are no words. The funeral is over, I’m far away, and I can’t just show up a few times a day to help with the kids or bring her some food or clean her bathroom or give her a hug or a drink or drop some F bombs on her behalf or try to be there in the exact moment it all overcomes her and she loses it, which is NOT her style AT ALL, but it’s bound to happen. So I keep asking, as futile as it might be, because I care. In the meantime, I’m thankful she has a village of loving friends who, in many ways, because they’ve shared her – and BIL’s – day to day life for years, are closer to her. Maybe I should stop asking the question and send her heart emojis or the occasional really sick meme until I get back down there in 2 weeks. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Do you want to know just how much I don’t know? I took death prizes down there to give out to my sister and a few of their close friends. “Hey, I’m so very sorry for your incomprehensible loss, here’s a hug and some socks that say if you can read this, bring me a glass of wine on the heels.” One of the those friends wore the socks to the funeral, with shoes on, hiding the message, but still, it made me laugh. Pretty sure BIL thought it was funny too.
Anyway, ever since he died, I often find myself plowing through my daily routine as if nothing has changed because even though it’s completely fucked up and some things will never be the same again for those kids, yes, LIFE GOES ON, which is a completely fucked up thing to say to someone, BTW, but it’s not as bad as IT WAS ALL PART OF GOD’S PLAN…and then, in the middle of getting Boy his breakfast or folding laundry or checking my work email I’ll have a flood of intrusive thoughts like, “BIL is dead. He died. He walked through his front door and dropped dead. On a Friday afternoon after lunch. One minute he was returning home with a friend, the next he was dead. Plans for Friday night, the next day, this summer, the rest of his life, cancelled. He was a father. His kids are fatherless. They didn’t get to say goodbye. He was a husband for a very long time, he was a co-parent, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a neighbor, a dog’s person, a college professor, a colleague, a musician. He had unfinished business. And now? Dead. Game over. Gone. Ashes. What’s happening wherever he is now? And where the fuck is he? And why did he have to drop dead right now? Does he know how hard this is going to be for his kids, and how much therapy they’re going to need?! Does he know how hard this is going to be for my sister? Not cool.”
With Husband, while standing in the kitchen, I randomly say it out loud, “BIL is dead”. We look at each other, he gets tearful and I shake my head in disbelief.
I was in the shower the other day, getting ready to go to a meeting, and I knocked the shower squeegee thing off the glass wall. I started to cry, invaded by memories of my BIL’s fixation on bathroom and kitchen cleanliness. I admit I teased him over the years about the vinegar in a spray bottle he kept at the ready, and I felt a little guilty. Nevertheless, through my tears in the shower, I laughed about it again too. He was a puzzle, just like the rest of us.
I suddenly see Boy clutching his cousin’s hand as they walked into the church for the funeral, down the aisle, into the front pew. I might never see anything as painfully beautiful as that again. I don’t want to. Or I think about the priest’s tears, watching them as they fell, one by one, mixed with words spoken to comfort all who gathered to remember my BIL. Or my niece and nephew over that long funeral weekend and their attempts at normalcy – or its pretense. Or my sister, still parenting, somehow juggling that with processing this new reality in the context of her own long relationship with him, doing her best to do the long list of things she has to do now, things no one prepared her for, like sitting at Social Security for 3 hours to apply for death benefits. I think of her trying to comfort her little boy who misses his Dad, and who is wearing an ace bandage around his wrist as an expression of his pain. I think of my niece who so protectively guards her feelings and who thankfully has just the mother she needs in this multidimensional shitpile of a total fucking mess. You never know how strong you are until you need to be strong, I do know that.
Anyway, several times a day now, that’s the kind of thing that happens. Along with the awareness of just how fragile life is. It’s bad enough this happened to my sister and her family. And if it could happen to them, it could happen to me, and to you. At any moment, because there are no guarantees.
I don’t know what any of this means, but I guess it’s a good thing I recently started therapy again. Doesn’t matter why, I’m just thinking it’s a good thing.
I have absolutely no idea what the point of this post is either, but if – like me – you’re feeling the weight of the fragility of life, if you’re feeling shocked and awed, and if it’s possible, you’re feeling even MORE hyper vigilant than usual, let me give you some friendly advice…when you’re finally in the middle of a stone cold sleep at 3am and your husband’s snoring is so stunningly abrupt and LOUD, you’re sure someone kicked in your front door or set off a bomb on your front steps, and you’re violently awakened in what can only be described as a moment of pure panic, DO NOT under any circumstances – after making sure your husband is still breathing and running down the hall to check on your son – grab your phone and open the Find Friends app to check on your daughter because do you know what will happen???
Instead of finding your daughter safe and sound at her apartment on her college campus – WHERE SHE SHOULD BE – you’ll find her in the middle of a pond in the next town over.
I am not shitting you.
I texted her, and of course she didn’t respond because she was either in the middle of a pond or sleeping somewhere SHE HADN’T TOLD ME ABOUT. So, I did what any other marginally sane woman in my situation would have done. I briefly contemplated holding a pillow over Husband’s face, decided that was notagoodideaimmatureblahblahblah, so then I instinctively grabbed the prayer rope I’d recently found hidden in my bedside table, got up, went into Girl’s room, climbed into her bed with her beloved stuffed lamb and blankie from her babyhood, and remembered the nasal breathing article Susan Cain had shared on FB a couple of days earlier. And I breathed. Nasally. I wouldn’t say I prayed, not in words anyway, but I did wrap that prayer rope around my wrist and tightly hold the cross on the end of it in the palm of my hand.
I can’t tell you what was going through my head at that point, but the miracle was I completely released the fear that something bad had happened to my daughter. And because I then more fully understood Husband’s snoring had triggered my panic reaction – not a home invasion or WW3 – I still kind of wanted to strangle him, but I got over it and eventually went back to sleep.
The next morning I woke up feeling surprisingly not bad, not even pissed at Girl for God knows what she was doing, with whom, or where, WITHOUT TELLING ME.
I forgot about my 3am text to her until I received a response from her a few hours later. You’ll be relieved to know she wasn’t in the middle of a pond. She stayed over at a friend’s off-campus apartment, one town over, near – but not IN – a pond. WITHOUT TELLING ME. As it should be, even now. Because life goes on. She also kindly reminded me that if she’d been in a pond, her phone wouldn’t have worked any longer. So helpful. And fuck the Find Friends app too.
It’s spring break in these parts and Boy had a play date scheduled at a buddy’s house that same day, so I dropped him off and instead of going straight home to tackle a long list of things to do, as I’d planned, I stopped to check out a beautiful trail surrounding a reservoir near our home. We’ve been in our house nearly 7 years and I had never stopped there before. I’d always meant to. In fact, I frequently drive over the reservoir’s bridge, sometimes mindlessly, coming and going, here, there, everywhere, nowhere, sometimes noting my intention to stop to walk that trail tucked in between the trees, to sit by the water. And as we coast by, my son in the backseat, I sometimes interrupt whatever we’re talking about to point out the magnificence of that stretch of sky, especially at sunset. Its something he’s commented on more than once – his observation of my day to day nature (up in my head, intense) and despite it, my unpredictable tendency to suddenly stop and smell the roses so to speak, and to make sure he does the same. The thing is I don’t usually stop. Not really, not anymore. I might roll through a stop, catch a quick whiff, a hurried look, soon to be forgotten in a swirl of “more important” things to do.
Today I stopped. I stopped even though I was busy, I stopped even though I don’t usually stop all alone at places like that because…well, I’m easily scared, I’m always assessing risk, I’ve played it safe for as long as I can remember. That might sound silly to you, but it’s an ongoing, heavy theme for me. Today was different. Today wouldn’t wait. Time is limited, and for a moment, the fears or worries – among other things – that typically keep me from BEING STILL, from LIVING in the present, fell away because I denied their place in my life.
Holy Week is about dying.
The Resurrection is about life.
I’ve been reminded – again – that I can’t have life without dying to some of my default ways of navigating this world. Sunday comes, but not before Friday and not before the messiness, the hopelessness, the work to do in between.
I want to live.
Boy’s spring birthday party circuit continues this afternoon with a stop at a trampoline jumping joint. It’s a pretty cool place. Loud, slightly stinky, but cool. Boy loves it. My only complaint is the row of comfy massage chairs that are rigged with alarms if you sit in them without paying for the massage function. I’m sorry, but that is fucked up.
Husband and Girl continue to make their way home from the North Shore of Boston following the completion of Girl’s sophomore year of college. They’ve had a couple of fun days on Cape Cod and today they stop in New York City to see The Lion King. I’m really glad they’ve had this special time together – they both needed it – AND Boy and I are ready for them to be home tomorrow.
I’m on DAY 5 of the mother-of-all-barometric-pressure-peri-menopausal-house-falling-down-migraine-headaches-with-a-side-dish-of-nausea. It’s a stubborn son-of-a-bitch, just when I think it might be retreating, it comes back full force. I think it turned a badass corner the day I signed the contract and paid the deposit in preparation for the structural repairs to our home, commencing in a week or so. Let this serve as your official heads up, neighbors! Anyway, it’s the worst migraine I’ve had in years, and it could be categorized as borderline debilitating the last day or two, except that I have a 10 year old boy to care for. I even called out of work late in the week, but don’t worry, I still managed to get tickets yesterday morning for Springsteen’s DC and Virginia Beach shows, scheduled for late summer.
Just thought you should know.
I don’t know, but I feel like I am, even though I seem to be trapped these days in an endless game of Whack-A-Mole around here.
This isn’t a post about our ongoing kitchen-basement-structural damage nightmare, even though we’ve been without a kitchen since January 31, with no end in sight. Even though I promised a juicy tale entitled The Real Housewives Of Brookeville Take On Pulte Homes. Oh yes we might, but I can’t stomach writing about it.
No, it’s not about crawling into bed with Boy at 3am, a few hours before his annual IEP meeting, soaking up his energy, his heart, reflecting on his progress, his strengths, his challenges, so I might be the advocate he needs and deserves.
Nope, it’s not about my job – I like it – or how much I miss my alone time during the school day – I SO do – or the best teacher appreciation gift ever, a comic created by Boy:
It’s not the postscript to my Cheese In A Can blog post, the one Boy’s comic reminded of, the one – among many – I can’t seem to finish, because I can’t seem to find the time or the focus or the energy. Just in case I never finish it, I will tell you Boy’s teacher let him line up his classmates to spray shots of Cheez Whiz directly into their mouths. Oh yes she did, because she’s awesome.
No, this isn’t a post about the nutcase shooter on the loose near Boy’s school this past Friday, or about all of the county schools locking down because of it. It’s not about the horrific memories of 9/11, the DC sniper, or Sandy Hook it evoked. It isn’t about trying to stay present at work while that was happening – I didn’t, I completely checked out. It isn’t even about counting down the minutes until I could leave work, waiting for Boy on the front steps, sitting with him on the couch, helping him swing his legs around onto my lap, peeling off his sweaty socks, rubbing his feet, listening to him tell me he knew there was a shooting, even though his teacher wouldn’t tell him what was happening, hearing him say he was afraid, asking me if anyone died.
It isn’t about how incredibly proud I am of Girl for standing up against dishonesty and injustice at her college this week.
I don’t know what it’s about.
Maybe it’s about the long list of crap I have to do before tomorrow, grocery shopping, laundry, prepping the van for Husband’s trip up to Boston to collect Girl from school. You’d never know I have such a list, though, because I’m just sitting here in my little library, writing this on my iPhone – AS IF I’ll actually finish a blog post and publish it – and hoping that long list of crap will magically get done somehow. All I want to do today is watch the Fixer Upper marathon on HGTV.
Maybe it’s about how glad I am the sun is finally shining or that we just got home from a enjoying a yummy Mother’s Day lunch at a local farm to table place or that Boy is running with his buddies in the neighborhood, not a care in the world.
Maybe it’s about the rumored second US leg of Springsteen’s tour. All signs point to late summer, early fall. Ha. Don’t have a cow, Husband. Or Boss Lady.
Maybe it’s about remembering my grandmother, my mother, becoming a mother myself. Maybe it’s about my very first blog post, the one inspired by the Mother’s Day gift given to me by Girl two years ago, the one that inspired me to finally start this blog in the first place.
Maybe it’s about time. There’s a time for everything. AND time is limited. Maybe it’s about making time for some things and saying no to others. Figuring out when to forge ahead, when to wait. Knowing when to hold on, when to let go.
Maybe it’s ok that this is what I often receive from Girl these days. I’m not entirely sure if it’s ok that this is what I give back, but it makes me laugh my ass off. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right:
Maybe it’s ok that I don’t have time to write as much as I did last year. Am I still a blogger if I don’t blog right now? Yes, I’m pretty sure I am, even if most of it happens in my head.
I’m re-entering my real life after the show in St Paul on Tuesday night – happily reunited with my family, catching up at work, trying to hire a damn contractor to put my kitchen back together – and I finally had a minute to look through the photos and videos I captured that evening. I didn’t get much because I’ve been trying to be fully present with the band, the fans, and simply soak it all in. Time is limited, The River album preaches that fact. Even so, I admit I often fall into the OMG-Bruce-and-the-band-are-so-freaking-close trap. Really, how many photos and videos do I need? A lot, apparently.
Anyway, it makes me really happy to see younger people getting into Bruce’s music AND at the same time, I guess somewhere inside my own head I must still think I’m one of them because I’ve had this weird experience lately when I’m in the pit. I find myself thinking, “Wow, it’s so cool to see all of these old farts rocking out to Bruce”. And then I come to the shocking realization that I’m one of them. I’m not one of the younger people. I’m one of the old farts. Or as the guy who filmed my dance with Bruce in DC so sweetly referred to me, a member of the mature demographic. When the hell did that happen?! I have no idea. But I’m not quitting until Bruce does. I know THAT.
Before I got my son squared away for bed tonight, I showed him one of my St Paul videos and he goes, “yeah Mom, he’s really awesome but there sure are a lot of bald heads in the way!” LOL.
I’ve repeatedly asked myself over the past few weeks, “How in the world did THAT happen!?” Maybe it was meant to be, an aligning of the stars. Or maybe it was divine intervention, as my husband believes. I don’t know. Personally, I tend to think that chasing that “runaway American dream” – a renewed theme in my life – paid off, because the next thing I knew – against all odds – I was on stage at Washington, DC’s Verizon Center, dancing in the arms of Bruce Springsteen. A longtime dream come true for a lifelong fan like me.
Why do I say against all odds? Well, first of all, we didn’t have tickets for the concert. For the first time in all my years of going to Springsteen shows, we’d been shut out from our hometown show on ticket sale day.
That shocking blow was only slightly cushioned by the good fortune we had in obtaining tickets for other shows. Of course I was grateful for those tickets, but still, there was no way Bruce was going to perform in DC without me there. NO WAY.
Sorry, but I’m going to have to bore you with the excruciating details of our DC ticket-seeking quest – even if it makes you think I’m crazy and even though it’s going to give me flashbacks – because it’s an important part of the story.
But first, let me back up to further expose the full force of my Springsteen passion, just in case you’re unfamiliar. Ha. Passion, devotion, fandom (is that a word?) or whatever you want to call it is all relative. Compared to some folks, my level of fandom might be viewed as full blown nutcase. Compared to others, however, it might be viewed as purely amateur. Trust me on this. Some of you might choke when I tell you I’ve seen Springsteen in concert 56 times as of February 4 in Boston, soon to be 57 in Cleveland, 58 in St Paul, 59 in New York City, and 60 in Baltimore, and yes I keep a list. And my ticket stubs. Yet, I know fans my age who have seen him in concert 250 times. Fans who joke about letting their spouses raise their kids while they’re in the pit. I have a family friend in New Jersey with whom I was texting the other night, while we watched a livestream of the show in Philly from our respective couches because neither of us had tickets. We heard there was a last minute ticket drop, and he was so bummed about not being there live and in person for what was quickly becoming an epic show, he left his house a half hour into the concert, drove the hour plus to Philly, scored a great single at the box office, and walked into the show 2 hours late. It’s a 3 and a half hour show, remember, so there was plenty of good stuff still to come. I bow down to his fandom, truly. Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to see Bruce in London, and yet, I know fans who have traveled the globe multiple times over the years to see him in places like Johannesburg, Brisbane, Milan, Gothenburg.
I’d last seen Bruce and the band in the spring of 2014 as the High Hopes tour was wrapping up, in Columbus and then Pittsburgh. As 2015 was coming to a close, I knew it was time for them to hit the road again because I was getting itchy. I found myself earnestly hoping and praying. Rumors had been swirling for awhile about one thing or another, a box set, a new album, maybe even a tour. Anticipation was high, and then finally, it happened. Springsteen announced his new tour in early December. Just when I needed him, just like always. It would be a short tour, only 24 shows (now expanded to include more US dates and Europe), to promote The River box set, released on December 4. He announced they’d be performing the entire River album at each show, from front to back, plus outtakes that didn’t make it onto the original double album, as well as fan favorites. Not what anyone expected. The River came out in October 1980, during my senior year of high school. That’s 35 years ago, folks. That album became part of the soundtrack to my life that year, and it’s held up in all the years since because it’s a record about growing up. I was lucky enough to be at Madison Square Garden in November 2009 when the band played The River album in full, and it was a joyfully thrilling experience. I was thrown back in time while simultaneously assimilating each song and its meaning into my present life. It was a little head trippy because it felt like I was being reunited with a childhood friend, and picking up where we left off as middle-aged adults. I never thought I’d hear it that way again because Bruce said he’d never do it again. And now here we are.
Ok, so back to the DC show ticket search. For nearly 6 weeks, I spent a little bit of time each day scrolling through the fan forums, hoping to find a pair of tickets for DC. I posted several ISO requests of my own. I reached out directly to fellow fan friends. I was feeling desperate enough to check out a few of the ticket broker sites, but was quickly disgusted, so I carried on my search for face value tickets in the confines of true fandom. I signed up for a Ticket Drop service I’d heard about during previous tours, but had never used myself. It cost me $11.50. Its pure genius, worth every penny. This guy who advertises his services on Backstreets – inarguably the biggest Springsteen fan site around – charges the fee to monitor ticket drops for sold out shows and to notify fans when the drops happen. When he’s made aware that tickets are being released for a particular show, he sends out automated messages instructing fans to go get them. RIGHT NOW. In mid-January, I was at work one afternoon when I received the TICKET DROP call. I jumped up from my chair, dropped the project I was working on, and I ran like hell out of the office, out the front door, down 3 steps, and over to my house about 25 yards away (yeah, I know, the commute is a bitch) to find my purse as I frantically dialed Ticketmaster. I’ll stop for a second and let you visualize that.
Ok to go on now? Good.
I switched over to speakerphone, got Ticketmaster up in my browser on my laptop so I could try for tickets both ways while I grabbed my wallet. I was sweating bullets as I searched for a pair of tickets, but had no luck in my first couple of attempts. I went back into system to try for a single and I immediately got one! A great one, a side stage lower. Phew. A few seconds later, I got another one over the phone, nearly as good as the first. Husband and I would be in the house on January 29 in DC, not together, but we would both be there, in great seats. We’d have a nice dinner together, say “so long” for the show and then meet back up after. It was all good. I got myself together and went back to work. No one said a word, it was as if they didn’t know I’d been gone. As if I’d blinked my eyes like a genie, did my thing, and then blinked again. Poof. Like it never happened.
About 2 days before the DC show, I got a text from a fellow fan, a woman I’d met at the #InYourLivingRoom show Jake Clemons performed at our house last May (unfortunately, I never finished my blog post about that night, but I hope I get back to it at some point because it was a beautifully unforgettable experience for all involved). She had a friend who wouldn’t be able to make the DC show and had 2 GA’s to sell at face value. YES. I wanted them. SOLD. I said YES.
There was a minor complication in that the DC/Baltimore area had been hit hard by a blizzard the weekend before and while the kids were still out of school, we didn’t know the school’s status yet for Friday, the day of the show. We have a 10 year old – our youngest, aka THE MOTHER OF ALL MIDLIFE SURPRISES – and in order to use the GA tickets for a chance at the pit lottery, we needed to have him squared away at my folks’ house – about 30 minutes north of us, or about an hour+ north of where we needed to end up – in time to get to the Verizon Center for wristband distribution. And we both had to work until noon on show day too. So, we held the singles and the GA’s until the night before the show, trying to decide what to do. I know, all of those snow days must have gone to my head or something because I have GA’s! I know my kid has been out sick a lot, but he’s gonna be absent again tomorrow. Let’s just call it a mental health day, ok? I’m just a prisoner of Rock and Roll! Yo! Anyway, when we got word Thursday night that school was indeed snowed out again the next day, I sold one of the singles on Backstreets to a huge fan who’d also been shut out on ticket sale day. Poor guy, I not only required his name and his contact information, I actually put him through an interview and made him prove he was a legit fan because I wanted to make sure I hadn’t sold my ticket to a scalper. We swapped stories and another Bruce fan friendship was born. Turns out he’s a music writer and plays in a local band. Anyway, Husband and I decided to hold onto the other single in case we missed the lottery – so one of us could be in a seat closer to stage if we ended up way far back on the general admission floor – or in case one of our backs started to hurt. Ha.
Later that night, I started tossing around ideas in my head for a sign, just in case we landed in the pit. Miracles do happen, you know. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned – slowly – it’s that you have to reach for what you want, you have to try. Even if it seems unlikely or impossible. Shortly before I fell asleep, I came up with a good idea – a perfect fit for The River show – and I scribbled it on a small piece of paper and stuck it in my purse. Dance W/Me Bruce Because I’m Not Getting Any Younger! The River album is about growing up, about realizing time is limited. I knew the message wouldn’t be lost on him in the context of this performance if I could get close enough for him to see it.
For a variety of reasons, we got out of the house much later than I wanted to on show day and I was a little bitchy about it. And THEN I realized I’d forgotten to make my sign too. A little bitchy turned into A LOT. At least I remembered to wear my new SPRING-NUTS shirt, maybe it would be my lucky charm. We deposited our son at my folk’s house for the night and made our way downtown to DC. We hit some traffic, but snagged a great parking spot after Husband impersonated a VIP in the Verizon garage, and we arrived at the wristband distribution area at around 3:45 pm. Afterwards, we ran across the street to Rosa Mexicano for a pre-show drink and snack since we didn’t need to be back for the actual lottery until 5pm. There were lots of fans there, and we grabbed a small table in the bar next to a couple who had flown up for the show from Florida. We had some fun Bruce-related conversation, but my thoughts kept drifting to the sign I’d forgotten to make. What if we made it into the pit and I didn’t have my sign? And I’d come up with such a good idea too, but with no paper or marker readily available, I didn’t know how to remedy that in the 15 minutes we had before we needed to be back for the lottery. I wandered over to the manager to ask if I could have a copy of one of the dinner menus tucked away behind the desk; it was small, but I’d noticed it was printed on heavy card stock and it was blank on one side. He asked what I needed it for and I told him. He paused for a second and said, “Sure, go ahead, free advertising, right?” I asked around for a pen, but what I really needed was a marker. I searched my purse one last time and in a stroke of good luck, I found a purple sharpie hiding in a dusty, crumb-filled crevice. Booyah! At first I thought it had probably been in there since the last tour. LOL. But then I remembered my Dad had handed it to me as we raced out of the house. Damn menopause brain, nearly forgot. But anyway, Dad! High five! The Floridians and a couple of guys at the bar watched as I quickly printed my sign and they wished me good luck, as Springsteen fans always do. We crossed back over to the other side of the street and I met up with my ticket buyer, the guy to whom I’d sold the single, on the corner of 6th and F. We made the exchange, chatted briefly, we wished each other a great show, and he promised to watch for us in the pit.
Truthfully, the lottery process that night quickly became a blur because it was not routine. Springsteen’s master of the lottery wasn’t there and so the venue’s security took over. What initially appeared to be a fair process turned into a total mess, ending with us just missing the pit. We were, however, first in line for the back of general admission floor, at the rail that divides the pit from everyone else. Not a bad spot to be at all, we were together and really thankful to be relatively close to stage because we knew we were in for a great night. Bruce wasn’t going to see my sign from there, that was for sure, but there would be other shows. I contemplated passing off my sign to another middle-aged lady with a closer spot in the pit, but Husband wouldn’t let me. Just then, our GA ticket fairy/friend walked by after a beer run and invited me forward, much closer to stage. She’d been given one too many Friends and Family pit wristbands and offered the extra one to me. I hesitated because I didn’t want to disrupt the integrity of the Springsteen pit. I protested further – really, I did – because part of the reason we’d taken the GA’s was so Husband and I could be together for the show. Again, maybe all of those snow days went to my head, but Husband would have none of my crazy talk. I was going up closer to the front thanks to a whole lot of help from my friend – with my little Mexican restaurant menu sign in hand – and he’d stay behind, or better yet, he decided to take the single we’d set aside, right next to stage. I felt uncomfortable trying to join my friend’s group at center stage – I hadn’t earned the spot, you know? And I didn’t want to upset anyone who had – so I wandered far right, in front of Patti, where I ended up on my own, in a little pocket of space 2 or 3 heads back from stage. Great proximity to Husband’s side stage seat too.
We had a little bit of a wait before show time, and at one point Husband ran down to the pit to grab my coat so it wouldn’t get the ‘Vous treatment (go Terps). And then the lights finally went down. There’s nothing like the moment when Bruce and the band take the stage. Nothing. I feel especially fortunate to be around for this remarkable tour – it’s a dream come true – and I swear I would go every single night if I could. I wouldn’t get bored either. I’d go broke and I’d be crippled and I’d miss my family, but I wouldn’t be bored. One of the most prolific songwriters in music history is performing a formative work from start to finish. The River was recorded when artists like Springsteen immersed themselves in storytelling, when song placement on an album mattered. It blows me away to think about how important this entire album still is, 35 years later. And Bruce and the band killed it. They live up to their promise to give it all they’ve got every single night, just as they always have. I’m not going to review the entire show here, but I will say they executed the performance of the album and the bonus songs with an energy and passion that is truly unbelievable, especially given that everyone in the band – except Jake – is in their 60’s. As I experienced in 2009 at MSG, we all went down to that River again, and together we were cleansing our souls, navigating the highs and lows, and the mysteries of life. Its an album full of so much emotion, about transitioning into the adult world and all of the consequences inherent in that process. The show was both a polaroid and a livestream, an artifact and still powerfully relevant. I saw my first Springsteen show during the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour, in 1978. Born To Run, released 3 years earlier and the greatest rock and roll album of all time, is the album that made me love him. But if I had to be stranded on a deserted island with only one album, it would be The River.
I was so happy during the opening lines of The Ties That Bind, I thought my heart would explode all over the arena. The reverence of Independence Day. The simple joy of Out in the Street. The hopelessness of The River. The haunting tone of Point Blank. The kick ass, blistering, fun of Ramrod. The raw, desperate love of Drive All Night. The reflection on mortality of Wreck on the Highway. The respect with which they treated these songs felt almost sacred. I can’t wait to hear it all again. The memories these songs evoke, their current meaning in my life, Bruce holding us in the palm of his hands all night as we sing like we’ve never sung before is life-giving. His music and these shows never, ever fail to lift me up. That matters to me more than ever in a world “so foul and confused”. Being at a Springsteen show is one of my happiest places on earth because his music is good for my soul. As so many fans say, it’s kind of like being in church, without the hypocrisy. Not because we deify Springsteen, but because these live shows – experienced in community – are spiritually nourishing. That’s why I do it, that’s why I go to as many shows as I can. I heeded the advice of my best Bruce bud in life and crime, and I kept my phone in my purse for most of the show so I could be present with the performance of this album. In fact, I was so present I almost forgot about my sign, but thankfully, Husband was sitting in the section right next to stage and we could see each other. We had a lot of fun singing to each other throughout the night – along with the couple of college boys he ended up hanging out with – and then he texted me as The River set was ending and said, “Don’t forget to hold up your sign!”
I know, he’s the best. After all these years (and yes, it did take a little while) he seems to understand what the whole thing means to me. He knows it isn’t a crush or whatever dopey thing people still say to me sometimes. He knows the deep love I feel for Bruce and the band. He gets it so thorouhly he wrote this in response to a couple of silly comments made recently:
“Here’s the thing, Kristi and I have an agreement, she is allowed to kiss Bruce and I am allowed to kiss, well, nobody, but that’s really besides the point. How do I use words to describe the indescribable as it pertains to what Springsteen and his music mean to Kristi? I might say clumsily that Springsteen and his music provided Kristi with light and hope when it was not so readily forthcoming. The song Drift Away (which Springsteen has covered, btw) may sum it up best. There’s a part that goes “…And when I am feeling blue, the guittars come through to soothe me, thanks for the joy you’ve given me, I want you to know I believe in your song, rhythm, and rhyme and harmony, you helped me along, you’re making me strong….””
Anyway, during The Promised Land, Bruce came to our side of the stage for a good long time and I took the opportunity to hold up my sign.
There’s no doubt he read it, because then he looked down at my face and made eye contact with me. In that moment, I swear I watched him process the deeper meaning of my sign, he didn’t just read the words. It was the message woven throughout The River. Our time is limited. My time is limited and I asked for what I wanted. The connection with his audience, the relationship…THAT is what is at the heart of these shows. We were knee-deep in that River, together. I’d put my dream out there, and whatever happened now, well, it was all good. I put the sign away, and continued to sing my heart out with everyone else. Then, a few songs later, Dancing in the Dark started. I looked up at Husband and he was again encouraging me to pull out my sign. I asked a couple of women in front of me if they’d mind if I leaned in a little to hold up my sign more prominently for a moment or two, and they were very cool about it. Turns out, though, I didn’t need to do that at all because just as I held it up, Bruce came looking for me, you guys. He remembered my sign and he came back for me, that’s what it felt like anyway. He reached down and took the sign from me.
I turned to look up at Husband and later he told me he was screaming, “What are you doing?! Turn around! You’re going up!” Oh. Right. I’m going up. I’m going up?! OMG. Bruce was standing over me, extending his hand down to me while some dude in the pit gave me a leg up. He said, “Let’s go” and then I danced in his arms. I danced in Bruce Springsteen’s arms. I danced in Bruce Springsteen’s arms. Did I already say that? Yeah? Ok, good.
At the risk of embarrassing myself, I’ll share what happened during the sixty seconds – which sort of felt like forever, in a glorious way – I was up there with him. I was stone cold stunned, you guys. I just didn’t know what to do at first. I kept looking at his face, into his eyes. And I’m not a big eye contact person either. I think I thanked him. Then he said something like, “You’re shaking” and I thought….um, well…to be honest, I have no idea what in the hell I thought. LOL. Anyway, you’ll be glad to know I did finally manage to say something of substance. Are you ready for this profundity? I told him he’s part of me, and that I’ve been going to his shows for 38 years. And then he said, “Oh, that’s so nice”, and he kissed me on the cheek. Well, actually, it was more like my ear, but still. And then I kissed him back and I hugged him really, really tight. I needed him to KNOW, since I couldn’t find the words in that moment to thank him for being one of the biggest sources of inspiration, fun, comfort, strength, and JOY in my life for all these years. This music, this journey, and our conversation mean the world to me, to so many of us. So I just willed him to KNOW it with that hug and I silently promised to keep trying to do something good. I let go, I touched his chest, his heart, I thanked him again and he said, “Thanks, sweetheart” and that was it. Wait, what the hell am I saying? That wasn’t “it”, that was EVERYTHING.
I love the death grip I have on his vest in this one.
This one is my favorite.
Somehow I got back down into the pit and I have no idea what happened after that. I was done. I needed to go lay down somewhere, seriously. I had to work really hard to get back into my body and try to be present for the last couple of songs. Somehow Husband and I found each other when it was all over and I know he was speaking to me but I can’t tell you what in the world he said. I felt how happy he was for me, though, and I was so grateful he was there with me for my once in a lifetime moment. So grateful. It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been there, I know that. At some point on the way to our car, my ticket buyer and new Bruce friend texted me to ask, “OMG, WAS THAT YOU!?”, to which I responded, “OMG YES, yes it was!”, followed by a long string of increasingly incoherent ALL CAPS! Once Husband and I got home, I couldn’t sleep. I kept him awake for as long as I could, and then I was on my own until 3:30 or 4am when I finally passed out. I was up in my own head, reeling from what had happened and sifting through 38 years of memories of life on The River, of life with all its twists and turns.
When I woke up the next morning, Husband informed me the internet had exploded. This part of the story – in the context of my aversion to the spotlight, my introversion, and my whole not-great-with-living-things thing – is what makes what happened that night even more special for me. Many, many fellow Bruce fans – some I’ve met, many I haven’t – in addition to my family and friends – flooded my phone and the internet with notes telling me how thrilled they were for me, and in the process, so many Bruce stories were shared. In a very real way, we’ve grown up together and shared the struggles and joys of life through the music. It was so freaking awesome – the joy, especially – and it continues to keep that night alive for me. Fans I didn’t know were sending me photos of my dance with Bruce, people were sharing about it on their own Facebook pages, still others were reaching out to me telling me they’d seen me making the sign at Rosa Mexicano – one of them a close friend of my ticket buyer/music writer new Bruce friend who wrote an awesome review after the show and a bunch of happy, cool stuff on FB about magic and our worlds colliding that night, and then there was the video – a great one – posted by another new Bruce friend, the one I referenced above who has seen Bruce 250 times. And then all hell broke loose in my little corner of the world because that video was viewed over 30k times on Facebook in a few days, before it was ever posted to YouTube. Crazy. I’m so incredibly appreciative of all of this and I’m grateful for these connections, these treasures, every single one. It helped me remember – much like my LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER experience – that the interconnectedness of life is what makes it so beautiful.
See? I told you. He came looking for me.
I had to temporarily get a grip the next day because we were hosting my son’s 10th birthday party. True to form, it was my boy who made me plant my feet back on the ground by saying, “Mom, I’m so happy you got to dance with Bruce last night, but do you think you could transition for awhile, at least until my party is over?” The kid kills me. Yes, reach for your dreams AND stay present to LIVE your life.
Anyway, I’ve read about that night a million times, piecing together all the little notes I received and pouring over the show reviews, I’ve watched the video of our dance a million times more, I’ve let it soak in and still, I ask myself if it really happened. Of course I know it did because beyond the visible proof, I can FEEL it. I guess I’m still trying to process a couple of the miracles that lined up for me that night, and what it means to me. The best I’ve been able to come up with so far is that it felt like going home. It really did. That might sound crazy to you, but I don’t care because it’s true. It finally feels like Bruce KNOWS what the music he’s given me over the last 38 years means to ME, Kristi. It’s such a relief.
Still, I admit to having a few moments after the show when I second guessed what happened with Bruce up on that stage. I briefly wished I’d been able to be more fun or breezy or entertaining, and to bullshit with him and the crowd like most of his other dancers have been able to do, much like I was able to do back in 2009 when my Blood Brother(sister) and I danced with Clarence in Baltimore. What a party that was. While I might have been slightly unglued in DC when I found myself – literally – face to face with Bruce, it wasn’t because I was starstruck. I know he’s human. I’m quite certain he’s an asshole sometimes, just like all of the other men on the planet. I don’t have to deal with that because I only know what he allows us to see, plus I have my own husband. Ha. But after I saw the video, I realized it went down just as it should have, EXACTLY in the way I needed. I KNOW Bruce knows the role his music plays in my life, and in the lives of all his longtime fans. I know he knows because, as another fellow fan recently said, he’s Bruce AND he’s us. That simple truth is what drives this community and the ongoing conversation between Springsteen and his fans. After watching the video, I trust he knows I was simply overcome with the emotion of what this journey has meant to me, and still means to me. So yeah, I’ll bullshit with him next time. LOL.
And that, my friends, is how – against all odds – I was lucky enough to be at the DC show, with GA’s, with my little Mexican restaurant menu sign, in the pit, close to the stage, taking a chance to try to make my dream real. It paid off and thanks to Bruce’s generous heart, I ended up dancing in his arms that night, FINALLY able to thank him – in the best way I could – for all these years of SO MUCH. I’ll never forget it.
We’re two weeks into our home water disaster – with God knows how many more to go – and my coping skills are starting to blink out.
First of all, I swear I’m going to strangle the dehumidifier still roaring in our kitchen, and if the mitigation guys show up here tomorrow and tell me the subfloor still isn’t dry and they try to cut it out like they suggested they might have to do yesterday, and if the mysterious, post-disaster electrical problems don’t get sorted out quickly, well, you simply do not want to know. Trust me.
In the meantime, my sweet husband brought me a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day, and I hope I expressed some level of appreciation before I said, “Why in the hell did you bring me these flowers? How am I supposed to fill the vase? Upstairs in the bathtub? Where are my vases, anyway? And where am I supposed to put the vase full of flowers because where in the hell are my kitchen counters? What about my kitchen table? And btw, there’s an artist whose work really resonates with me and I think you might enjoy her work, as well. I believe in her. In fact, I’ve had my eye on several of her original paintings, but the one with which I recently fell head over heels in love costs $850. Obviously, that’s not in our budget right now since this home restoration thing is going to be a big financial drain we didn’t plan. Plus, yes, I know, the Springsteen clause. So anyway, I went ahead and purchased the much less expensive fine art reproduction. It makes me very happy and it totally cancels out you giving me the finger just now when I was pushing the envelope with my bitchiness. Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.”
A little while later, my parents came over to bring us lunch and my Dad asked if we have any balsamic vinaigrette for his salad, just in case he doesn’t like the carry out kind. Husband’s face contorted, his eyes widened, his expression spoke volumes, “Oh dear God, NO! Run for your lives!” He knows me so well, doesn’t he? It’s so beautiful. I turned to my Dad and said, “We are not entertaining today. You know that, right?” My Mom turned to my Dad and said, “See, I told you her fuse was going to be short, we better just keep our mouths shut”, AND THEN, without missing a beat, she launched into way too many detailed questions – as only a mother can – about our search for a contractor to put our house back together. To which I responded – inside the privacy of my own mind – I think – “Actually, Mom, you don’t need to shut your mouths all the way, you just need to shut them a little”.
Husband bit his lip, hung his head, and shook it solemnly – the big, fat, Greek gesture of shame, basically – at which time I realized I may have said that mess out loud. So I asked, “Did I just say that out loud?!”
All three of them affirmatively nodded their heads and said some variation of “Yes, yes you did. You said it. You said it out loud.” The four of us nervously looked at one another and I begged my Mom not to take any of my bullshit into her heart, and to try to have a little bit of a thicker skin around me right now. Then we all laughed.
So. The weasel apology postcards. They’re a good move, right?
What day is it? I have no idea. I’ve been snowed in with my youngest kid and pretty much our entire neighborhood of kids since, um, I don’t know. It’s been a long time. Many days. Blizzard Jonas dumped a gigantic 30 inches of snow on our town late last week and it shut down the entire area for days. Thankfully, we didn’t lose power, probably because we bought so many freaking lantern batteries.
We dug ourselves out over the course of 2 days and not too long after, our street was “plowed”. The kids are still out of school because things continue to be a mess around here, a slowly improving mess, but a mess just the same. We just received word that school’s out again tomorrow, so we’re looking at another few days of this, including the weekend. Who knows what condition we’ll be in by then.
Oh, wait, Husband and I have Springsteen tickets for tomorrow night in DC. I’m good.
Speaking of Springsteen, I was introduced to Periscope last night by an old friend. Do you know what that is? I had NO IDEA. But when I found out, I downloaded the app and proceeded to watch the bulk of the Madison Square Garden show via live stream – even though it was my intention to go to bed early because there was a sleepover here the night before last and I’m tired. Anyway, I stayed up way too late again and it was great, the next best thing to being there. I absolutely must go to bed early tonight, though, because we have GAs for the show tomorrow and I’m 100% sure we’re going to make it into the pit. Good thing there’s no show tonight. And no sleepover. And good thing I received my random midnight text from Girl last night. I always respond – even from a deep sleep – because I always fear THE WORST when I get calls/texts that late. Once I know she’s ok, I always engage in whatever it is she wants to share with me – at least for a little while – because otherwise, I’d never talk to her.
The combination of Springsteen pre-game excitement – the idea for my sign is good, right? Fits in perfectly with the theme of The River album – and snow days and fatigue and Girl’s comfort zone-busting activities obviously disoriented me. Ha. I’m thinking maybe I should text her now to tell her NOT to text me tonight – unless there’s an emergency – so I can get some rest. BECAUSE WE’RE GONNA BE IN THE PIT FOR SPRINGSTEEN TOMORROW NIGHT. I’m feeling it.
Anyway, you should see the inside of our house. The coats, gloves, hats, boots. The towels. The laundry. The dishes. The toys. The papers and pens. The books. The electronics. The inventions. The pillows, sofa cushions, and blankets. Who’s gonna plow THAT?
And what about ALL THE PEOPLE? When are these people gonna get back to their regularly scheduled routines so I can get back to mine? Bazillions of people. Mostly boy people, talkingtalkingTALKINGlaughingyellingplayingrunningfartingburpingeatingeatingEATING. And lots of textingtextingtexting Moms. Like I said, I’m increasingly feeling a little muddled – or something – by the ongoing interruption of our “normal”.
Nevertheless, it’s also been really good in the most important ways because the storm coincided with Boy’s 10th birthday and the kid has been partying with a capital P.
He’s been belly laughing, you guys. BELLY LAUGHING. I’ve missed that sound.
Since late last week, his days and nights have run together in a nonstop swirl of neighborhood playdates, sleepovers, sledding. Something about this storm triggered memories of connections lost, and somehow they were found again. Maybe only for this week, maybe not. I don’t know. I never do. I simultaneously love and hate the way he makes himself so vulnerable with people. He’s brave. We’re rolling with it, following his lead, taking advantage of the teachable moments over here. It’s all we can do, in addition to keeping his circle wider than before, which is why we’re making sure his through-thick-and-thin buddies are around too. He’s in a great, breezy place right now so I’m glad for him.
So there you have it.
Finally, let me wrap this mess up by saying – in the spirit of transparency – that working from home while kids are off from school for many, MANY days talkingtalkingTALKINGlaughingyellingplayingrunningfartingburpingeatingeatingEATING in the aftermath of SNOWZILLA 2016 = NOPE, not much, but this is my second blog post this month so I’m WINNING!