Monday, April 19, 2010

A Good Weekend and All That Jazz

Tara and her sons left Woodsong Friday morning after breakfast, and we did the same. They were eager to see Gma Vickie and Gpa Gerry and also GGma Shirley, who is visiting at Athens, GA. Shirley had not yet met Peyton, so everyone was excited.

Tara’s summer team, the Southern Force, had a tournament south of Atlanta this weekend, so that was one purpose of this trip. Now after coaching at the tourney, she’ll have a good visit with her parents and Geri Ann (Tara’s high school sister who plays on her summer team), and she’ll have an especially good visit with Gma Shirley since she is riding back home to our community with Tara. This should make traveling with three little ones considerably easier than the trip from here down to Georgia.

We were on our way to Freeport at the top of the state, where our youngest grandchild, Cecelie, a fifth grader, was one of the 12 dancing princesses in the Carl Sandburg School spring play. Her big brother, Elijah, was one of the more than 50 kids involved for the second weekend putting on the Freeport High School’s 30th rendition of Showtime. We drove by our fields and saw our son-in-law Brian busy planting—and farmers were in the fields all the way up the state. (One sad sight was seeing one farmer in the field harvesting last fall’s corn crop. It was standing pretty good and so was worth harvesting, but that’s the latest I’ve ever seen.)

Half way up the state, we swung by Raymond and met our daughter Mary Ellen and our granddaughter Brianna at Subway for lunch. Brianna wanted to see Cecelie’s first big play. All our grandkids like it when life allows them to see any of the Freeport plays, musicals, or Showtime. Sam wanted to go, but he was going up to Illinois State with his band for state contest.

We arrived just had time to check into our favorite motel, Freeport’s Country Inn, grab a sandwich across the street, and find Cecelie’s school for her 6 o’clock performance. Jeannie was waiting outside to give us a good parking spot and take us through her art room on the way to the gym/stage.

Cecelie’s other grandmother and friend Jerome were already there. Rick was working at the track meet, but he had been there with Jeannie the night before to cheer Cecelie on. Jeannie had roses for her and Gerald took photos, so Cecelie was ushered into the Freeport theater world with sufficient attention. Having her big cousin Brianna come just to see her was quite an honor, and the two blonds had a great weekend together since Brianna is talented with younger children.

After that show, taking only time for the photo session and to view Jeannie’s students art work using perspective, we hurried onto the Jeannette Lloyd Theater on the other side of town for the jazz band concert followed by Showtime. Gerald dropped me off to go back for an early opportunity to sleep after the long drive up. Seats were sold out and we needed one more, but Jeannie went up to view the show from the balcony, so the blonds and I had good seats.

As always, neither the jazz band nor the Showtime cast/crew disappointed. This year’s final segment honored senior citizens—after first roasting us with humorous skits. I’d seen Elijah’s monologue during Easter weekend, and I’d already told him it was sometimes too realistic of my life to be funny—though I could not keep from laughing. Then, however, some very talented older people (friends and grandparents) joined the high schoolers on stage and showed that they too could sing and dance very well.

It was sweet seeing Sam Wellman (who was at Woodsong with Elijah’s sister Leslie who once brought a group down for a summer Eiler Grey tour she created singing at coffee houses) and his partner join the older couple dancing, and Sam pretended to take his dance moves by observing the senior citizen. Finally they changed partners. The entire ending with many messages flowing from the seniors to the kids was very endearing, and the kids’ adoring responses warmed the cockles of us oldsters’ hearts.

Saturday was spent sleeping in, helping Jeannie put photos of Showtime’s spring tour into frames for the entire cast, lunch at Culver’s and our usual Freeport activities—Gerald checking out their Rural King and Menard’s and the cousins swimming together in our motel pool. Before we knew it, it was time for the cast potluck. Jeannie found time to make Mexican chicken pie, and we joined other families for this annual event in the cafeteria before the sixth and final performance of Showtime. Then the kids had their annual balloon launch on the front lawn, another photo op for Gerald. We found out seats in the rapidly filling theater and anticipated the jazz band and this year’s guest artist Ken Jarczyk.

Towards the end of the concert, after director Bill Petersen’s introduction of Jarczyk telling of the many jazz greats he had played with, Jarczyk would enter. Each night Petersen would lead him into sharing an anecdote or two about these famous musicians. This last night, I noticed he had on a sharp looking cap he had not sported on Friday night and that Petersen’s questions were different.

Telling about being with an awe-inspiring alto sax player while still a very young man, Jarczyk explained how he got up his nerve to approach his hero for advice and hoped, of course, he might hear a compliment from him on his own playing. The great’s response went something like this: Kid, there will always be someone who has better tone than you. Kid, there will always be someone with better technique. So always wear a great hat!

Immediately, as the jazz ensemble began to play again, the kids pulled out and donned the most colorful variety of hats and headpieces you can imagine. We had a visual treat as well as an aural one as they ended their participation in this last Saturday jazz performance before the curtain closed. And quickly reopened with the show choir giving a rousing opening rendition of “Showtime.” Some had somehow managed to change from the jazz band tux into the required costumes for the opening scene.

From then for the next hour and a half, these kids moved sets, changed clothes with lighting speed, interacted with the audience, and sang and danced with intense energy. After their tour and six local performances, they were bound to be tired, but you could not have told it as they gave their all to make the last night special. I was so glad I was there. I was also glad to go back to the motel to rest, while these kids stayed to strike the set.

We met up with the Eiler family and Brianna again at worship this morning, and after lunch and final goodbyes, we headed toward our end of the state. We learned Tara’s Southern Force had won their tourney, Gerry’s Georgia team won their home games against Auburn, and Erin’s A&M also won. When we dropped Brianna off and visited with Trent at their house out from the village of Waggoner, we found out Mary Ellen had gone to help Brian at the farm and she was leaving about the same time. We agreed if we passed on the highway we’d wave at each other.

As it turned out, she needed gas and we were both going by Okawville’s DQ about the same time, so we agreed to have supper together. We hashed over the good weekend together, and a couple hours later we were here at Woodsong and Gerald showed me his slide show memento of our trip.

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