It’s a Thing

That last post picture of my son Elliot and me was taken at a wedding this past summer.  It was Elliot’s first wedding experience, so a big deal for him.  For me, it’s always a big deal when I get to spend extended time in his presence.  In fact, the highlight for me of the entire weekend was when he came to me (twice!) unbidden for a hug and even better, to invite me to dance.  But that’s not the point of this story.

Weddings these days are so different from when I got married.  It’s all about the bride and groom now, not the parents, as it should be.  I’ve watched close friends and family members shake their heads in confusion as their children plan weddings entirely without parental input.  “All I know is where and when to show up,” one friend told me.

I’m actually surprised young people choose to get married at all anymore.  If you look at the origin of wedding traditions, they don’t always seem to make sense in today’s culture.  I asked my nephew why he thought people are still getting married and he answered maybe it’s for the tax advantages.  This nephew and my son are both more financially astute than I ever was at their age, so good for them.

It’s fun to observe the kids at a big party like this wedding.  I noticed they have a certain way of dancing, that even my son, at his first wedding, knew about:  dancing with a beer in one hand, raised in the air.  Interesting, I thought.  Maybe a little dangerous, since a lot of the music seems to also require jumping straight up in the air.  I have to admit I was moved to do some jumping myself forgetting for the moment I have a bad joint on my right foot.  Music can do that to you.

When I commented on the beer in hand dancing, my husband said, yes it seems to be a thing.  This phrase “it’s a thing” is also a thing.  You can find out whether something is widely accepted or not by asking, Is it a thing?  Another thing I notice is how young people pose for pictures with attitude while the grownups basically stand smiling while trying not to blink.

family at wedding

I first learned this whole “it’s a thing” thing while working on assignment at a smaller store with a new group of people.  We had all new equipment including smartphone devices set up for inventory control.  One morning I couldn’t find any of the many chargers and asked the manager where they were.  “The kids take them,” he said.  Take them?  What do you mean, take them?  “It’s a thing,” he shrugged.  That’s stealing! I replied, make them give them back!  I don’t think we ever got them back.

Some things shouldn’t be a thing.

My Son’s Birthday

Today is my younger son’s birthday, Elliot is 25 years old today.  He lives a couple of hours away and came home last weekend to celebrate with us, because let’s face it, at 25, you really want to celebrate with your friends, not your parents.  I understand this and totally support whatever Elliot wants, because I have always wanted to be a cool parent,  one who puts my kids’ needs ahead of my own.

I was cool when I allowed Elliot to choose to go to private boarding school for high school because that’s what he wanted to do.  I understood that he had been to a small K-8 parochial school and had the same few friends all those years and needed to spread his wings.  I understood that he didn’t know anyone in our town who would be going to the perfectly fine local public high school, and there wasn’t much going on around our house.  Elliot wanted boarding school and I wanted that for him, although anyone who knew me when he left knew how painful it was to let him go.

Elliot made noise about going across country for college but chose a school a couple of hours away instead.  I breathed a sigh of relief knowing how hard it would be to let him go so far away, while knowing I definitely would support that decision.  I think we saw him more while he was at college than when he was in high school and enjoyed every minute.  He graduated and soon found a job (in his field!) a few hours away and I was thrilled for him and for us.

It is incredible to believe that this boy, whom I still remember bringing home from the hospital, is now 25 years old, a quarter of a century, as he points out.  I know this is a big deal from his perspective, since one of the young men at work who is also 25 uses that same language to describe how truly “old” he is.  Meanwhile, I remember our first Thanksgiving with Elliot, looking at him barely one month old in the bassinet, wishing he could stay that small.

Although I would never impose myself on him, I had requested this day off from work in case we were to spend his birthday with him.  I truly don’t mind that we didn’t; I am happy to hear how happy he is and how he is enjoying the plans his friends have made for him.  What he doesn’t know, and won’t until he has his own children, is that his birthday is really a special day for us, his parents.  It’s a celebration of one of the best days of my life as his mother.  He can’t know how much I wanted and longed for him, what a dream come true it was to have him.  But I’m happy to remember and celebrate that even if we are apart.

Happy Birthday Elliot!  XOXOXO

 

Missing Tom Petty

Three months before he died, I saw Tom Petty in concert for the second time. My sister-in-law had served as his back stage dresser when he played at Canandaigua, NY.   I hate you, I said, when she related just hanging around talking with him before the show. She didn’t even call me to come help her. She should have known better, I would have run out of work and driven the five hours in a minute if I had the chance to talk to Tom Petty and hear him in concert again.

I promptly got tickets for the next concert on the tour in Boston. You crazy girl, my sister-in-law said. I hadn’t seen him live since 2006, my first outdoor rock concert at the age of 51, at the Tweeter Center in Camden, NJ, with Greg Allman and his band opening. My husband generously took me there, even knowing that given the chance, I’d have run away with Tom Petty. When he walked on stage and started talking, my heart pounded. It was him, it was actually him. And Oh, the music.

I have no excuse for missing all the opportunities before and between 2006 and 2017 to see him play live. The Boston show was amazing, that night was the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. I listened to reports from the tour on Tom Petty Radio and heard from fans who’d been to 20, 30 or 40 concerts. Fifty-three stops on this tour and I only went to one? I wanted to fly out to LA for the last Hollywood Bowl show, an epic opportunity, but didn’t pull it off. I felt like going over and over somehow would tarnish how special it felt to see him when I did.

I told my husband’s Rotarian buddy I thought we should invite Tom Petty to next year’s Blues & Barbecue event. His music is perfect for the venue and maybe he’ll feel like sort of anonymously playing for a small crowd after his big tour. A worthy goal, he nodded (crazy girl, I am sure he was thinking). You know, I went on, I like to think I live my life with no regrets, but I realized after that concert I terribly regret never becoming a backup singer for The Heartbreakers. I’m not a great singer, but I have good pitch and love to harmonize.

Aside from Tom’s obvious adorable bad-boyness and musical talent, what I admired most about him was his humility. At the 2006 concert he repeatedly thanked the crowd and seemed genuinely touched by the obvious love everyone had for him and his music. He seemed so pleased that we knew all the words and wanted to sing along. He probably knew this long before 2006, which makes his humility even more special. Just a really good guy is how he came across.

People are saying Tom Petty plays the soundtrack of their lives, but I don’t feel exactly like that.  I can say I enjoy all his music, and he’s been a favorite all my life.  I played Refugee over and over again living single in NYC in the early 80s. I scrubbed the kitchen floor of my coffee bar on my hands and knees belting out Breakdown. Since the concert my new favorite is You Wreck Me, and I can’t stop watching him sing Fooled Again, on the New Year’s Eve 1978 video on YouTube. I’m in such pain knowing I will never hear him live again.  One friend says let’s watch concert footage and drink too much. I’m in for that.

I caught an interview video from the 90s where Tom is talking about how he writes songs. It’s like fishing he says. He goes into a room and just sits there hoping to catch something. Sometimes he catches a big one and sometimes nothing. I’m so grateful for this strategy to help me with my writing. I tend to do the opposite: Go into a room and push myself to write something. I’m going to try it his way. Obviously, it works like magic.