Thursday, March 08, 2012

West Side Story and More

We just finished up our over-full, fun filled, too busy, exhausting, crammed, and sad weekend at Woodsong yesterday when Leslie left mid morning and mid-week to return to Nashville. Newspaper and television kept us aware of the sadness all around us due to the tornado, and we know personal sadnesses also.

When our grandkids learned about their cousin Sam’s spot in the pit orchestra in West Side Story, they plotted how they could be here for the Saturday performance. And despite the distance and parental fearful reluctance about all the travel involved, the younger generation had their way, and all cousins were here to cheer on Sam except the softball cousins, who were tied up elsewhere.

Down in Athens, the University of Georgia continued their winning ways at softball, and Gerald was able to follow part of the games on his computer. Erin’s team at Southern Illinois University Carbondale also won all four games to be the champions at the Coach B Tournament. Gerald and I did make the first game there, and we were glad it ended early with a run-ruled game. I was anxious to get back to the farm to be there when the grandkids arrived. Gerald learned on the way to the game that the young men he had asked to help burn the native grasses were going to do it that very afternoon.

The grandkids arrived after Brianna and Trent’s long trip up to pick up Elijah at Bloomington, where Jeannie brought Cecelie to join them. Five grandkids in the same car necessitated many prayers by parents for their safety. The five arrived in time to go by and pick up Sam to come out to Woodsong with them before they took him back to the Civic Center in town. They had every detail planned, and it was not five minutes after they arrived that they were at the dining room table eating cupcakes and playing a board game someone carried in. They also carried in a cookie cake with “My Little Pony” emblazoned on it as a birthday cake for Trent who had reached 19 the day before—their inside joke for teenage boys who watch the show for a joke. “Bromies” was the term for these guys, I was told.

I felt sorry for Gerald since he had really worked hard all Saturday morning to take off for the game. Meeting the government’s requirements for burning these fields had not been on his day’s planned agenda. But he was back at the farm in time to make the necessary phone calls, and he was thoroughly impressed with Brandon White and Randy Payne’s expertise and equipment for doing this job. He came in tired but pleased in time for a bite of supper and to take us in to West Side Story.

In the meantime, Leslie, who was on spring break from Belmont, also arrived and unloaded before we gave her instructions on parking and acquiring a ticket since when I bought tickets early in the week, I did not know she would be able to come. Mary Ellen and Brian also came downstate to support Sam and arrived shortly before show time. We all found our seats in the beautiful but very crowded civic center as we wanted to be sure to hear the orchestra’s prologue.

Sam’s parents Katherine and David and I had gone to the Friday night performance as well as Saturday’s. The second night I was more prepared to understand the plot even though the sound system was inadequate for actors’ dialogue, so I enjoyed it even more that second night. (It had been much too long since I saw the movie to remember the characters and plot.)

The vocalists’ and orchestra’s music was wonderful, the gymnastic dancing with fighting scenes was fantastic, and the set was spectacular. I cannot remember a high school set of that high caliber before. Scene changes were almost instant and always pleasing. Todd Graham, the high school band director, and parents had built set in the week before the performance. The unexpected day off school on Wednesday due to the electrical outage caused by the tornado did not seem to have hurt the cast’s successful execution of this complicated show.

While Sam was at the after-musical cast party, the rest of us came back to Woodsong to eat sandwiches and enjoy Trent’s two birthday cakes and ice cream. His parents had carried in the second traditional cake.

I don’t know when the kids went to bed that night but sometime after midnight when David brought Sam out. There were ten sleeping here, so couches were full. I do know only Leslie and Cecelie made it up in time to go to Sunday School with Gerald and me. Elijah and Sam came in with Mary Ellen for worship. I was glad when the pastor caught the kids before the service began and asked Leslie and Elijah to sing for us. I’d never heard them sing together before, and it did their grandmother’s heart good.

I’d stuck in a couple of large frozen lasagnas in the oven before I left home, so everyone gathered in for lasagna and salad with left-over birthday cakes for lunch. David brought Katherine and her aide out in the van. People were coming and going with the kids riding the Gator and playing with Jake and going over to see farm buildings that Mary Ellen and Brian were leasing. Too soon it was time for everyone to go back upstate or home to Marion, and only Leslie was left on the farm with Gerald and me. Again with all the upstate driving that Brianna, age 17, was yet to do taking the cousins back to Bloomington, I was grateful no painful phone calls ruined our weekend.

We were very pleased to have this special pre-wedding time with our Leslie. She was busy while she was here shopping, getting a haircut from her cousin Erin’s stylist, and most of all working at her computer and keyboard composing a jingle tune to be used as an introduction for a podcast. This was for her second paying client, and I was fascinated as she explained the process to me.

We still found time over bowls of cereal at late breakfasts and again at evening suppers to talk, and I loved hearing her ideas and plans for her and Mike’s future together. She and Erin had planned dinner together on Tuesday evening, but with SIUC leaving the next morning for their Honolulu tournament, a called team practice prevented it.

Since Lesley had a meeting with a professor Wednesday afternoon, she had to leave us yesterday morning. Gerald and his brother Keith were meeting Garry and Ginger for breakfast at Jonesboro to belatedly celebrate Garry’s Saturday birthday and also celebrate that Garry had gotten out of the hospital the day before his birthday. (In the meantime, Garry had to take Ginger to the hospital in the middle of the night Monday, but after they checked her heart, she was dismissed Tuesday afternoon.) Gerald was able to run by Bill and Mickey’s and see the tornado destruction there before he came home. Bill’s three daughters as well as many friends and other relatives had come and cleaned up as much as possible in the immediate aftermath. Of course, there is still much to do.

Now everyone is back safely at home except for Erin in Hawaii, who is thoroughly enjoying herself, I am sure. Leslie is again at her job decorating cakes at Kroger. While I am proud of her tremendous talent and academic success, I am also very proud that she has worked part time throughout her college career—on campus during the school year until this job at Kroger. I liked what she told me about all the things she has learned about people while working there and her appreciation for those who will continue there while she has hopes of moving on to better and more interesting things.

Today Gerald had a free lunch at a John Deere Day down in Union County, so I had a leisurely morning and was only eating lunch myself when he came in at almost two. Later I picked up Sam from jazz band practice and saw Katherine briefly when I took supper into their house. Tomorrow we are having lunch with Bill and Mickey, and we will be hearing more about their house and barn rebuilding.

As I said at the beginning of this blog, our lives have been overfull and much too busy. I can’t believe that tomorrow it is actually another weekend.

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