I peeled the label off my plastic box of lead sheets that read “Band”. Seven months and no word from our leader. Time to admit it: I wasn’t in a band anymore. After four years of almost weekly practices and rehearsals, and five gigs, my neighborhood band had dispersed. Our neighborhood social committee decided that although they enjoyed the band, the music was distracting from — to put it bluntly — the gossiping. Four of the guys returned to their continuing education rock group, of which I was not a member. Sigh. It was good while it lasted.
Off came the label from the box that read “Jam”. After six years and sixty meetings with my local acoustic jam, I decided, it too had run its course. The group leader had been exhibiting some troubling signs the past couple of years. Lately he could not, or would not, play in time. He just wasn’t fully present.
He complained about a person who never brought music to share, and instead played to show off — no one could play along. But when this guy showed up, the leader said nothing. A few weeks ago I sat silently twirling my pick between my fingers as this diva performed his Elvis set for me and a first timer yet again, and I heard myself thinking, “That’s enough.”
One box remained, labeled “Lessons”. That would stay. I twisted up the other labels and tossed them in the trash. I expected a wave of letdown. And I felt something, all right — but it was energy — a fresh resolve. I felt good. I surveyed my practice room: the guitars, the books, the music, the framed photos. So familiar, so friendly, and still so right. Now what?
“Good for you, kid,” they answered. “You’ve learned how to let go. Now you’re the captain of your own ship. So go back to work, and keep your eyes and ears open. The universe isn’t finished with you yet.”
The first sign appeared at the bowling alley. As always, I started the night at the grill for my iced tea and cookies. I handed the cashier my money. This time she gave me a conspiratorial smile and shook her head. “Keep it,” she said, “you’re good.” Really? I asked. She waved me off.
The next signal arrived in the mailbox. The National Archives had located my late father’s record of service in the Civilian Conservation Corps. It identified his camp, a detail no one in the family could recall. From that, I discovered that a book had been written about his camp. I ordered a copy. In the center spread was a group photo of his company, May, 1934, just before his discharge. My finger ran across the faces. And there, a month shy of his 21st birthday, in a surplus army uniform shirt and tie — is it? It must be. I sprang to the living room for the picture of him and mom in 1938, just after they were married, to compare. Yes, that’s my dad. No one in the family knew this picture existed.
Soon after that, an e-mail from Neil: Would I consider serving as a moderator for the discussion board?
Days later, I attended a concert by fingerstyle virtuoso Shaun Hopper. The usher led me to a center seat in the second row. I introduced myself to the couple next to me. Shaun and his sax player Chris took off. It was bliss. A few times I led the small, reticent audience into applause for a solo, or to coax them into clapping along to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. They’re knocking themselves out up there for you, girl, I thought. Let them know you’re pulling for them.
As intermission ended, the husband sitting next to me returned from the lobby and handed me a copy of Shaun’s CD. “Would you like this? For a donation, they gave me two.”
“Seriously? It’s still on my Amazon Wish List,” I said, incredulous. “Thank you.” After the show, Shaun autographed it. “Thanks for coming back to Wilmington, Shaun,” I said as I shook his hand. “Say, do you know Christie Lenée?”
“Sure do,” he said, smiling, “and what a great singer!”
I walked out to my car in the cool spring night and started home down the long avenue that is Wilmington’s King Street.
All the lights were green.