Saturday, November 13, 2010

Succeeding with Elijah, Cousins, and Buddies

Bouncing through the streets of Freeport in the pickup last night, I felt great waves of success as I listened to the constant giggles of the two young teens and one near-teen in the back seat. I think Gerald felt it also.

As the three cousins—Brianna, Sam, and Cecelie—planned and plotted, they were oblivious of their grandparents up front. We could have been miles away for all their awareness. They were in their cousins’ world, which started back at Jeannie and Rick’s house where we’d just had a delightful relaxed dinner with Mr. Higgens, their very special former neighbor who has meant so much to the Eiler family. The adults were at the dining room table, but those three and three others had filled their plates and were in the living room pleasantly occupied catching up with each others’ lives.

Elijah had left first for Jeannette Lloyd Theatre to prepare for the second night’s performance of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Jeannie and Rick, Mary Ellen and Brian were all on their way too. Trenton, a senior like Elijah, was riding, I think, with his cousin Leslie, who had driven up all the from Nashville, Tennessee, to see her brother Elijah play the lead role of J. Pierrepont Finch. (She’d had a late dinner Thursday night with her cousin Erin in Southern Illinois and then spent the night at Sam’s house with her Aunt Katherine before she started the seven-hour drive upstate to her home town.) Mr. Higgens like some of the rest of us had already seen the Thursday night show.

As I heard all that excited backseat talk as we drove across town, I knew one of my life goals had been achieved. I wanted these grandkids to be close enough that in the years ahead if they happen to travel through Chicago or Podunk or New York or Hong Kong and they have a cousin there, they will feel free to phone (text?) and say they need a couch to sleep on and know they will be more than welcome.

After the usual outstanding performance by the Freeport High School drama students and orchestra, we relished seeing all the performers in the backstage hallway where traditionally family and friends meet up with their thespians. It was a homecoming, of course, for Leslie seeing old friends, but we were all pleased and proud to be waiting to congratulate Lige and cast for their fast-paced hilarious rendition of this highly successful 1961 musical that will be reprised on Broadway in February with Daniel Radcliffe as J. Pierrepont Finch.

We were happy to visit a bit with director Tim Connors, who amazes me at his skill in consistently producing challenging musicals and drama with large casts. Thursday night was fantastic, and I thought Friday night was even better. They surely could not be any better tonight. The shows were not just error free, but musically and artistically completely satisfying. Cameron Rockwell and Elijah were perfect foils for one another as ambitious competitors at the World Wide Wicket corporation. I had fun imaging how much fun Connors had figuring out what terrific synergy these talented two would create together.

Back at the Eilers, Rick got the fire going in the fireplace and Jeannie spread food out again for late night socializing before Gerald and I headed back to the Country Inn where Mary Ellen and Brian were also staying although they were up for a little later stay than we were. I suspect Jeannie and Rick had a very late night slumber party with all the cousins at their house. We have still not heard all about that yet because shortly after we picked up Sam at 7 this morning, he was sleeping soundly as we headed down to the middle of the state for him to reach his friend Josh’s birthday celebration.

Josh’s birthday and the Freeport musical unfortunately conflict each year. Last year Sam went to the musical and he was especially desiring to see this year’s since Elijah is a senior. Yet he naturally wanted to be with Josh and their buddies for this super birthday party which started with the Illinois-Minnesota football game. So we made plans to skip tonight’s performance and help Sam connect with the birthday gang. With text and phone messages, we managed to meet up with Josh’s mom and dad and their van load with surprising ease.

Watching these eighth grade boys happily and confidently take off walking to the stadium, I felt more waves of success that we had actually made it safely from the opposite ends of the state and realizing how near those kids are to not needing us any more. (I’ve heard from Katherine that they are all back to Josh’s house now for a sleep-over and birthday cake and the guys all loved the exciting game despite the Illini loss.) I also found myself admiring Kirsten and Chad’s bravery in hosting this extraordinary party providing these lucky kids with a memory for a lifetime.

We reached the farm with the hope they’d be a message saying our car was repaired. If so, we planned to take off to Cape Girardeau to retrieve it. (We’d been told it would done in three days, so we had expected to drive it to Freeport, not the pickup.) The only phone message we had was from our neighbors Winnie and Jay Payne telling us to let them know when we returned home because they had prepared fish ready to bring over to us. Too tired to go to the church Thanksgiving dinner, we had a wonderful fish sandwich for supper, watched some of the Georgia-Auburn game and caught up on two days’ newspapers and mail. We watched the slide show of all the photos Gerald took of the cousins and the rest of us, and as you might have guessed by now, I again felt great waves of success. We did not have a book like J. Pierrepont did to guide us and we tried really hard, and we had a very successful weekend.

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