Thursday, March 29, 2012

I Told You We Were Off

The weekend before last we pulled the kids out of school early and headed towards Hot Springs, Arkansas with Aunt Sissy and Uncle Jason.  After our trip last year, it has become a tradition of sorts.

The kids were so excited and had spoke of nothing else for the entire week leading up to the trip.  Most of their excitement was fueled by the memories of last year.

Isn't that how memories are? 

Sometimes even better than the moment itself.

Last year we visited an ice cream parlor, by chance, called Holy Cow Ice Cream. 

We didn't plan it, but ended up there, and the memory of the experience grew through out the past year, adding enthusiasm to the kids over flowing excitement. Most of the excitement was over our over-zealous comments about the ice cream.  Although I don't remember the ice cream being that extraordinary, I do remember Steven and Jason, followed by a chorus of L and B, saying "Holy Cow!  That was some good ice cream!" 

For over a week B could talk of nothing other than Holy Cow and their ice cream, and L couldn't help but marvel that no one in her class at school (5 hours away) had ever been there or heard of it.

This time we arrived in Hot Springs earlier in the evening than last year and just in time for supper.  Some how, some way, as our crazy family does, we created another 'tradition'.

Although I don't know why, it was jointly decided that wearing a 'bib' while eating was a must.

Even when the people around us thought we were crazy and didn't understand. 

But who are we kidding?  We don't even understand why we do most of what we do.


Despite looking ridiculous, we still had fun and we still had pizza.  And to Sarah and I, that is pretty much the secret to the good life.

However, B didn't appreciate our enjoyment of good pizza and couldn't hardly wait to get out of there and get to 'Holy Cow Ice Cream'.

Sarah and I shared our worries on his reaction if we were to get there and it was (gasp!) closed.

We knew that both kids would be greatly disappointed, but if you have read for any period of time you know that B is very ....um....(trying to think of the right word)...... emotional.

When facing disappointment it has, in the past, been devastating.  I wasn't ready for a breakdown.  And no one else wanted to be party to one either.

****************
As we drove by I noticed that the lights were off...

...and the tables were gone...

and it was out of business.

I turned to B who was clearly disappointed.  "B?  Listen.  We have two choices. We can go to the hotel, or we can go find ice cream somewhere else."

Now, the typical response from B would have been to say that he didn't want ice cream anywhere else, tell me how he had his heart set on "Holy Cow" ice cream, followed by tears and the revelation that it was the 'worst day ever'.

Yeah. 

Emotional.

Instead, he looked at me, said matter of factly, "Lets go somewhere else..." 

And so we did.

My sister looked at me and raised her eyebrows.  I shrugged and mouthed the words, "This is big."

You see, it wasn't that long ago that I had shared my fears with her regarding B.  He wasn't ill-mannered.  He didn't behave badly.  He wasn't spoiled.  But he WAS emotional.

All. The. Time.

Any disturbance in routine, any outgrown item of clothes, the removal of a dying tree from our yard, and the evidence of fleeting time, were all things B struggled with.

In fact, he once told me, "You don't know the things my mind tells me..." and it scared me.

But lately, he hasn't been quite so bothered by those daily 'disturbances'.  Lately there has been a lot of shrugging off and moving on.

And you can't even begin to imagine my relief.

So, when we pulled into 'Scoops' for some ice cream and B happily bounded inside, I noticed the cow on the wall. In that moment I stopped, took note, and I couldn't help but think that there was definitely something 'holy' about this experience.

***************

The next morning we woke excited for the day to begin.

When you are heading to the horse races it is anyones guess on how the day could turn out. 

But, of course, we all know how it had to begin....


..eating breakfast and wearing bibs. 

(The family that wears bibs together, stays together.)

(Yes, we are THAT family.  That very weird family.)

And if the bibs weren't enough to grab everyone's attention, Jason purposefully speaking loudly about how much money we had won the day before (when in fact we didn't even go to a race) and the horses that we owned (which we don't), surely did.

However, since this was all happening while eating the continental breakfast provided by our hotel, I doubt anyone was fooled.

*******************



The kids, although crazy, weren't messing with the luck of the irish and donned their green for the races which happened to be on St. Patrick's Day.

L's stategy has always been "voting" on the jockey.

(That's what the kids call "betting".  No, we didn't teach them to say that. We are up front about promoting gambling to our young children.)

(Just kidding.  We don't "promote" it, we just do it.)

B's strategy was "voting" on grey horses.

Sarah and I?  We are much more sophisticated.

We "vote" based on name. 

The first race we laid down a whopping $2 on a horse named 'Batesville' which just happened to be the name of a casket company.  Considering my employment, I felt it was a sign.


And after turning that $2 into $28.50, I was sure of it.

Unfortunately there weren't any other horses named "Criswell", "Artco" or "Aurora".

It was also unfortunate that L's jockey didn't win a single race.

Only one of B's grey horses did...turning his $2 into $10.


And although Steven doesn't bet, I took a risk and bet $2 for him on a horse named 'Cowboy Cadillac' and it paid off as well.

I told you the selection process was very scientific.

*********************
The kids enjoyed theirselves as much as we did.  L, being the horse lover, couldn't believe that she had experienced the worst luck of our entire family.


Of course, maybe that's because she was betting on the jockey, not the horse.

Or maybe because she didn't do scientific research like her Aunt Sissy and I.

However, with all our research, Sarah and I didn't take note of the horse owners.  It was only after being tipped off by someone sitting near us did I realize that we had inadvertantly bet on a horse owned by someone we "knew".


Yeah.  Toby Keith.  Or, rather, Toby Covel.

His horse, Reckless Jerry, was racing in the rebel stakes and he was there watching, very near to us.

However, if we had known that the horse we had bet on was owned by Toby Keith, we might have opted to "vote" on a grey horse.

Or a jockey.



(Apologies to all you Toby lovers.  I like his music as much as the next guy, I just think that Toby is his own biggest fan, therefore he doesn't need another one in me....or Sarah.)

(I don't think he had any green on.  Wonder if I should have tried to pinch him.....?)

**************************

We left the races and took the kids to play putt-putt golf, which has also become a tradition.



 And later went to eat supper and almost got locked in the restaurant.

We didn't, however, lock the keys in the car which is an improvement over last year.

*******************

The memories that we make as a family will last longer than Steven or I. 

That is what we intend. 

That is what we hope for.

And as this year passes by, I know that I will re-live, along side the kids, the adventures, the fun, the silliness and the chaos that we make a point to experience together, in the stories we tell and re-tell, and the laughs we laugh, almost as if it were for the very first time.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Just another 'American Saturday Night'

We had first heard that Brad Paisley was coming to town back in October.  I was surprised that he was going to be playing a venue so (relatively) close.

I thought back to the two previous summers and the concerts that we had went to.  Both years we had traveled to St. Louis to take in Brad Paisley concerts as a birthday gift to B.

You see, B is a HUGE Brad Paisley fan.

(Truthfully, I think it all began with the blue sparkly guitar!)

In fact both kids were given guitars for Christmas 2010.  Since that time, I could often find B in his room, "playing" his guitar, very intently, trying to find "just the right note" while listening to a Brad Paisley CD.  Of course, while B was concentrating and focused, L would inevitably come flying in his room, guitar in her hand, wildly strumming away and singing (off-key) at the top of her lungs.


B was never impressed.


But, Brad?  He impressed Blake.


So after calling Steven, we decided that although not close to his birthday, we would go ahead and purchase tickets and Steven even declared that he would join us.  Although not much of a concert man himself, he said he wanted to be there "for B".


After hearing the local news anchor man marvel at the processing fees that the venue was going to charge for tickets, I thought that I would look into other options.


It was then that I found the Brad Paisley fan club. 


I noticed that ticket prices were the same, and convenience fees were not assessed.  It sounded like a win-win situation to me.  The price of joining was minimal and considering the amount of money saved, it was a no brainer.  The only hesitation I had was due to a fan club policy that prohibited you from knowing where your seat was located until hours before the concert. After looking into other posts from fan club members I had enough confidence to pull the trigger and purchase our tickets.


Then all we had to do was wait......four months!


We had decided to keep it a secret from B and surprise him with the news. 


A week prior to the concert there was a commercial on the radio promoting the concert.  B perked up and said, "I want to go!".  It was at that time that I had to inform him that it was sold out.


(Which it was.)


He handled the news better than expected but told me that since we weren't able to get tickets, could we PLEASE go again this summer for his birthday.  We HAD to.


***************


The day started like any other, although a little earlier.  I told B that we were going to go somewhere that evening and that he might need his rest.


Plus, who wants to get up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday?  (Except Steven.)


Of course, he wanted to know exactly where we were going and I told him that it was a surprise.


I should have known that alone pretty much shot any and all chance that he (or I) would go back to sleep as I was peppered with questions regarding where we might be headed.


***************
When we arrived at the arena I told B what we were doing.  He was over the moon.


As I got out of the car to run up and get our tickets, B went with me, dancing all the way to the doors.


When I received them I noticed that we were on the 10th row on the floor.  I pushed away the thought in my head that worried whether or not the kids would be able to see, knowing that most people stand when on the floor.  I was determined that we would ALL have a good time, even if we had to hold the kids throughout the entire concert. 


***************


As we waited inside for the doors to open, both kids were trying hard to contain their enthusiasm. 







L was so excited that Scotty McCreery and The Band Perry were opening for Brad.  She had picked Scotty on American Idol from the very beginning and couldn't believe that she was going to get to see him in person.




When we found our seats and noticed that they were four away from the walkway/catwalk portion of the stage, the kids were elated!



You would have never known by the look on their faces, though.


I wondered who the people sitting between us and the stage would be, and how they would be.  I have been to a lot of concerts and sometimes you are stuck beside the person who screams through every song, or the drunk that can hardly stand up, or the person behind you that huffs and puffs every time you feel the need to jump to your feet.




Finally the couple sitting closest to the stage showed up and they were nice as could be.  They told the kids to make themselves at home standing by the stage and that they would even lift them up if need be.


Then the two occupants of the seats next to us showed up and they, too, were extremely gracious and kind, allowing the kids to literally walk across their seats to the time of their lives.


********************




When Scott McCreery made his entrance, L made her way to stand by the stage.  Only a few songs in, Scotty came and took L's hand (and a few other random hands as well) and sang.




She couldn't believe it. 



 
Then the Band Perry took the stage and Kimberly Perry came out and sung right in front of L.



She kept turning around to see if I noticed and when she gave her a "high five", I know L was thinking that this concert was like no other.

(Of course, none of us knew how true that actually was.)



And, of course, when the band sang "If I Die Young", L sang along with the rest of the arena.



******************
I was a little worried about B.  He had stayed on his daddy's lap for the entire concert up until this point, once even completely lying down, and I was afraid that the early morning was catching up with him.....before Brad Paisley even made it onto stage.

I asked him if he was tired and he said that he was, but that he would definitely have energy before the "Grand Finale".  I smiled and told him that I hoped so, but I felt a knot of worry bind up in my stomach. 

The worry, though, was once again unfounded.

A few minutes before showtime, B told me that he wanted to put on his Brad Paisley tee shirt and L wanted to put on her Scotty McCreery shirt.  Apparently he had gotten his second wind and had decided it was time to dress the part. 

The couple sitting behind us had borrowed ear plugs from Steven and had motioned for the kids to come over to them. 

"You see that sharpie on his mic stand?" they said, "He might sign autographs...  You should take your ticket, or something for him to sign, up to the stage with you."

Of course, she didn't have to tell them twice.  I pulled out our tickets, gave them to them, and they were ready.

When Brad came out, it didn't take long for B to move away from Steven and over by the stage.....


....ticket in hand.


L moved to the side and put her brother in front of her.  She knew that this was "his guy".




During the first song Brad came out on the catwalk and played a guitar solo in front of the kids.  As he finished up he gave them high fives and smiled.



I knew that L would stay right by B's side, giving him the courage he wouldn't have had on his own.  Her arm hugging him around his shoulder was a testament to this.

B stayed by the walkway and was transfixed by Brad.  The majority of the time you could see him staring at the stage, and Brad, in awe.




And that was the way he stayed.  And really, at times, we were all in awe.




Steven nudged me at one point and nodded towards the end of the walkway.  There, on the floor in front, was a stage hand holding a guitar.  He then set the guitar on the walkway, just inches from the kids.  I knew that this meant one thing:


Brad was going to sing right there in front of us, and inches from the kids. 

I got B's attention and told him to turn around.  Neither he or L had even noticed that the guitar was sitting there.  When B turned around and saw it, he turned back to me and gave me a thumbs up.



I was still in my seat (four seats away from stage).  I hoped to get good pics that adequately depicted how close the kids actually were.  Brad came out and spoke to the audience before slinging his other guitar around to his back and picking up the one sitting beside the kids.  He then sang, and played acoustically, "This is Country Music".


As he faded out, the crowd finished the first verse for him, "this is country music, and we do....".  The crowd went wild, and the noise level rose.


It was at this point that my recollection of the moment got somewhat hazy.


I could feel the energy in that place like I have never felt energy before.  It was almost tangible.  I began to shake for reasons I didn't even understand. (And although I like Brad Paisley, I wasn't the reason we were there.  It wasn't my excitement I was feeling.)  I tried scooting through the chairs and looked up in time to see Brad say, "What do you think?" to the crowd, although he was standing back away from the mic.


It seemed as if there was some interaction going on between him and B, although I couldn't be sure, and I tried to make my way to him.  The camera had long been forgotten and I wouldn't have been able to steady my hands to take a shot if I would have tried.  I knew that although B was a huge fan, if Brad tried to speak to him, he would, most likely, tuck his head and turn to find me.


That is how he is. 

Usually.

But this was anything but usual.


When I had almost reached him I stretched my arm out to try and touch his shoulder. The noise level was deafening and it seemed to keep rising.  I noticed the people sitting near us pointing and screaming, "Give it to him.".  Still, I was confused and didn't even know what they were talking about.  Give what? When I was almost able to make contact, B turned around with wide eyes and handed me back the neck of a guitar. 

Brad's guitar. 

Brad's signed guitar.

I took hold of it and pulled it towards me with the help of the kids.  It felt huge and I seem to recall the people standing next to the kids helping them to support its weight.

Once I had it securely in my hands I turned to hand it off to Steven, knowing that B would be close behind.  When my eyes met Steven's, I shook my head and said, "Can you even believe this?"  He smiled and I saw tears teetering on the edge of spilling over.  He relieved me of the guitar as I turned back to B who was standing behind me on the seat.  He threw his arms around me, squeezed my neck and the first words out of his mouth were whispered in my ear, "Momma?  Thanks for joining the club."

My heart melted as I hugged him to me and told him it was my pleasure.  "Can you believe this?"  I half-yelled over the noise of the crowd.  He smiled a huge smile and said, "It's like a dream."



The rest of the night was spent in an awe struck haze.  B alternated between standing by us, or probably more specifically, by the guitar, and standing by the stage.

He was as transfixed after he was given the guitar as he was before.


Steven leaned into me and said, "You got a picture, didn't you?"  It was then that I got the sinking feeling in my stomach.  The realization that I hadn't gotten a picture of Brad actually giving B the guitar. 

I was sick.

I mean, come on, I am a scrapbooker, and blogger, and photo fanatic. 

And I had NO pictures.

Soon after it had sunk in what had just happened, I started receiving texts from friends of mine that were at the concert.  Some I didn't even know were there.  They were all sharing their amazement of what had just happened in front of us.

From that point on the news spread quickly and my friends at home texted that they wanted a picture to prove it.  They couldn't believe that the story they were hearing was true.  So, I had B hold the guitar and pose as I took a picture with my phone to serve as "proof".


We left during the very last song, wanting to avoid the rush of everyone leaving.  As we passed through the crowd on the way out, everyone congratulated B.  We were truly surrounded by amazing people that night, and they were key parts of a memory that will last an entire lifetime.

******************

The next day we were visited by Aunt Sissy, Uncle Jason, Mi Mi, Pa Pa, and Deanie and Linda.  All wanted to see B's new treasure.  Deanie even tried to buy it off of B, but B merely shook his head "no".  When the negotiations continued, B played along, telling Deanie to go get all of his money and come back and they would "talk".

As B retold to them the story of what happened I learned how he had pieced together the event in his mind.

Things I didn't realize that had played into B being given the guitar were:

1.  Apparently, according to B, Brad remembered him from the "St. Louis 2010 concert" (exact words).  At this concert we were sitting by an island out in the crowd.  During the concert he walked through the crowd, to the island, and smiled and waved to B, saying "Hey, buddy!".  Brad later gave him a guitar pick. 

(And here I thought we were just another face in the crowd.)

and...

2.  Brad and B are best friends.  He has "three best friends: Troy and Trenton (who are in his class) and Brad." 

(As his mother I feel bad that I didn't know this.  If I had, we could have had Brad over for a play date.  I wonder if his wife would let him come.....)

***************

As the time went by and hours passed, I processed the magnitude of what had happened and how important that moment would always be to B, and I started to feel the loss of not getting to experience the moment with him.

I felt guilty that I was feeling anything other than elation, but I was. 

Thoughts kept creeping into my brain....

What did B's face look like?

What exactly happened?

Was B in shock, awe or a state of bliss?

Why didn't I adequately thank the people sitting beside us that made the moment possible?

(For those of you that know me, none of this surprises you.) 

I battled with this part of myself; the part of me that obsesses and worries, instead of celebrates and enjoys. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I celebrated and I enjoyed....but there was something about it all that didn't feel complete. 

I updated my facebook status and asked if anyone had pictures, or knew someone that had pictures, to let me know.

A friend of mine suggested contacting via facebook the local radio station that hosted the concert to see if they could help with locating pictures or video, to possibly even giving a "shout out" to the kind people sitting next to us.  At first I was hesitant and went to bed that night with a firm resolve to just let it be and appreciate the amazing gift and memory that B, and our family, had been given.

However, Monday morning found me deciding that a once in a lifetime memory like that deserved a little effort on my part to help preserve it.  I woke at 5:00 a.m. and posted something on the radio stations website page.  I then emailed each DJ, not knowing if any of them would actually respond or answer.

My friend, Amanda, told me that she was going to call the station and see if she could get anything done.  Although, not brave enough to do it myself, I gave her my blessing.  She called me back to tell me that they said they were "checking on it"....whatever that meant.

I also noticed that morning that Linda had sent me an email with two pics.  They were taken from a distance, but had captured a moment that I hadn't yet seen.  Or, should I say, a moment I don't remember seeing.  She wasn't even at the concert and I am not sure how she ended up with them, but knowing her connections, I wasn't surprised.


I told myself that if this was all that I was able to find, then that would have to do.  It was more than I had, and I was thankful.  I truly was.

While at work I received a message on facebook from one of my friends in which she told me that a friend of hers was sitting somewhere in front of us at the concert.  She suggested that  I contact her on facebook in hopes of finding better pictures.

So....I did.  And as you can tell by this blog post, I am a wordy person.  I contacted her and over-explained it all.....from not getting pics of B's face to not getting to say "thank you" to the kind people seated next to us that had made that night, and memory, possible.

I am sure as she was reading it, I was wearing her plum out.

But you know what?  She responded.


Did she have pics?

Nope.

But guess what?  She was sitting next to me at the concert.  She was one of the four that allowed my son to have the time of  his life.  My daughter, too. 

Within a few moments of receiving her message I received a "friend request" from her friend, Brandy, who was also sitting next to us. 

Even being as "wordy" as I am, I don't think they could/can fully comprehend how thankful I truly am.  They were amazing, kind, and incredibly tolerant of a 6 year old and 8 year old walking on the top of their seats to the stage...and back. 

And back.

And back.

You get the picture.

(Isn't amazing how even when things don't work out, they do?)

******************
Wednesday as I was heading to work I received a facebook message with a link to a video.  I couldn't tell what it was, so I knew I would have to wait until I got to work.  However, before I arrived, my friend Amanda called and I could hear the excitement in HER voice.  "I could see B! He was in the screen in the background, but I could see him!"  I was tickled and couldn't hardly wait to see it, not to mention how excited I was to show it to B as well.

When I got to work I pulled it up and sure enough, you COULD see B...primarily the back of his head.  But it was him.  Watching the video truly felt like seeing it for the first time.  I didn't realize what was happening that night before my eyes, and seeing it happen on screen was like experiencing the thrill all over again. 

In the video I noticed Brad giving him the guitar and then standing up, as if he was done, only to lean back over and make a strumming motion.

That night I showed B the video and he felt like a celebrity himself.  I asked him if Brad had said something to him and he said, nonchalantly, "yeah...'take it home'".  L immediately interjected and said, "no, he didn't. He said,'take it and......' something. I am not sure what".

Considering the noise level at that moment, I am surprised they were able to hear anything.  Based on the video and by putting the pieces together, I believe that he most likely said something along the lines of "take it home and play it", followed by the strumming motion.

Of course, we will never know. 

I couldn't help but laugh when L explained that they had merely thought that they were supposed to hold it for him.

Maybe he had felt the need to explain. 

I still couldn't help but wonder what B and L's faces looked like at the moment realization set in that he was pointing at, and talking to, B.

I asked them to recreate the moment and their faces and was met with blank stares.

I was unsure if that was the look, or their response to my request. 

******************

The more time that was placed between myself and the concert the more I knew that I would just have to accept the fact that there would be some things that I would never know.  Specifically, I would most likely never know what was exactly said, what the kids felt, what emotion B's face held and whether he experienced bliss, nervousness or disbelief at the realization that something very big was going down. 

And then....over a week after the concert, I received an email from Joy, a friend of mine.

The subject?

"Merry Christmas"

Odd subject since it was March.

And then I opened the attachments:






I couldn't believe what I was seeing.  How could she have these pics?  She wasn't even at the concert.

Apparently, again, facebook helped connect the people that had shared the moment.  Even if it was unbeknownst to them.

You see, Joy was 'friends' with a friend of hers on facebook, and that friend was "friends" with someone else.  When Joy's friend "liked" her friend's photos on facebook, Joy was able to see the pictures.

Pictures posted by someone that was a stranger to Joy.

And somehow, this big world we live in, got smaller. 

And I am so glad it did.

********************

And B's face?

Well, I don't know about you, but it looks pretty blissful to me.


Another thing:

B was already scheduled to start guitar lessons the following Thursday.

But Saturday?

Well, it was just another "American Saturday Night".