Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our Little Lion

Our daughter Jeannie early on dubbed her first born her little lion. With her flowing blond hair and her lion-hearted enthusiasm for life,it was a fitting title for our Leslie. This past weekend Leslie’s family and her two grandmothers traveled from Illinois to Nashville, Tennessee, to enjoy Leslie’s senior recitals at Belmont University and to attend her bridal shower on Saturday. So did two of her high school girl friends—beautiful young women who prove that brains and beauty go together. Her fiancé Mike’s parents came all the way from Ohio, and her Uncle Scott’s family all the way from Michigan. We were not disappointed.

Somehow our little lion juggled all the out-of-state company, thrilled us with her singing, impressed us with her local bridesmaids who gave her such a fun-filled pleasant Saturday afternoon party, and I think she even managed to get her final paper done that was due this morning!

Jeannie and her youngest child, Cecelie, had been at Woodsong since before Easter. Her husband Rick met his mother, Rosy Eiler, and they picked up the only son, Elijah, at Illinois Normal. Cecelie was not only excited to see her daddy, brother, and grandmother, she was eagerly awaiting her first eye glasses that Rick was delivering to her. They were a very cute addition to her braids she has attitudinized in recent weeks. Since the group was arriving at Woodsong late Wednesday night, the plan was for everyone to sleep in Thursday morning.

I left breakfast on the kitchen table, and I was able to keep an early Thursday morning hair appointment before I ran by Katherine’s. So typical of her difficult life was the fact that the aide she had scheduled to go with their family so she could attend Leslie’s events had ended up in the hospital the week before. On top of that, her daytime aide’s daughter went to the hospital to have her baby. So that aide was off work unexpectedly on Thursday and part of other days. Katherine had made hotel reservations before any of us, and she had to cancel when all efforts to get another aide fell through. She has grown used to grieving so many things she can not do. We grieved with her that she could not make this longed-for trip to her old Nashville stomping grounds to participate in her special niece’s special times.

Back at Woodsong, we ate a hurried lunch, told Gerald and Jake goodbye, and six of us piled into the Eiler van for music city. Rick wanted to show the campus to his mother. Belmont in all its springtime glory was a lovely spectacle indeed. Rick found parking in the parking garage, and we had an excellent dinner in the university cafeteria with its many choices of entrees, veggies, and salads. There was no room for the enjoying the lavish dessert bar, although I think Elijah succeeded.

We did not want to bother Leslie while she was readying for the 6:30 rock ensemble recital, but she made time to greet us anyhow. Leslie had completed her ensemble of black jeans and boots with a thrift-shop T shirt that she deeply fringed. Her mother could not have been more pleased. Why? The shirt from someone’s school team proclaimed: Lion Challenge.

We were seated near the front of Massey Concert Hall as soon as they would let us in, and soon we were listening to the talented guitarists Cody Keener, Carter Murphy, Nathan Phelps, Logan Ramp, and Eric Shadrick. Sheree Pantuso and Matthew Roberts pleased us on their keyboards. Andrew Fleming and Bryant Lowry amazed us with their drumming. But, of course, for the Eiler gang, the star we loved most was the vocalist, our little blond lion. The only criticism was the concert was too short.

We took Leslie and Mike out to eat afterwards although Mike was getting up at 4:00 the next morning for an early appointment with a fitness client at his gym. Elijah and Cecelie went home to their sister Les’s apartment. Even though our desire was an early bedtime, it was quite late when we finally settled in our hotel rooms. But we could and did sleep in Friday morning before we started another afternoon of sight seeing and then meeting up with the Eilers coming from Michigan.

I had not seen Rick’s brother Scott since he ushered me into our village church at Jeannie and Rick’s wedding in 1987. Although I had never met his wife Susan and their daughters Stephanie, Madelyn, and Lizzie, I felt like I knew them from the photos and stories down through the years. It was nice to meet them in person. Cecelie was delighted with her cousin companions, and they started giggling and probably didn’t stop until we left Saturday evening.

It was funny that when Jeannie went to the Kroger store, where Leslie works part time, to get flowers for her recital, she not only met up with Les’s friend, the flower lady, but surprisingly she met up with Mike’s parents and his grandmother in the store. Soon we were all in Massey Hall for the 8 p.m. recital visiting until they allowed us in.

Accompanied by Rose Rodgers on the viola, Melodie Morris on cello, Carleton Coggins and fiancé Michael Thompson on electric guitars, Johnny Williamson on acoustic guitar, Sheree Pantuso on keys, and Paxton Williams on bass, Leslie looked beautiful and sang with her usual lion-hearted enthusiasm. I wished for more musical knowledge so I could really appreciate all the talent I was hearing. We were all glad to see Bryan Lowry again on drums although he was more restrained than the night before, and I don’t think he broke a single drum stick. Five numbers were definitely not enough, so our only criticism again was the program was too short.

We wanted to stay for yet another recital later, but we were hungry and were ready to enjoy the wonderful dinner Rosy treated us to. Part of the fun was watching Cecelie and Elijah at the booth with their cousins.

Saturday was filled with packing, check out, and various people meeting up before all the women went to the bridal shower. First we had all managed to go by Leslie’s apartment she shares with a roommate Bridgett after she tired of dorm life. I was eager to see this under-the-eaves place that Les calls “the shire.” There was generous back-yard parking, and we took an outside wooden staircase up to a generous deck looking out on a tree-shaded lawn.

As long as you are not tall, the apartment seemed amazingly large—plenty of room for siblings to bunk out. The two bedrooms were joined in the middle by a living room, with a small kitchen and bathroom in back. In front under a window, there was a cute little cubby hole with a couch.

We hurried from there to the bridal shower in “The Living Room” at Leslie and Mike’s church. Since one of Leslies’ many enthusiasms is British life, the theme was a royal tea with the invitation telling us hats and pearls were optional. The hats were definitely fun, and Cecelie decided instead of dressing up that she would go as the Royal Rebel with a British flag shirt and pigtails under a red bandana.

The bridesmaids, Jenny and Anna Catherine, had done an extraordinary job of filling the large room with beautiful flowers and refreshment tables with luscious hor doures in addition to the tea and punch on one end of the room with lovely decorated white tables and chairs on the other. There was a special cake for Mike (who was not present, of course) and special sugar cookies with British décor. After we ate, we gathered in the middle for games directed by Helen Bush, and then Leslie sat in her special settee to open all the pretty wrapped gifts for her entry into the role of homemaker.

She kept us laughing, and older women noted that this generation did not seem to even know the old custom of making much fuss about how many ribbons the bride-to-be might break—indicating how many children she might have. Obviously these bright young women have other goals in life than just creating children, but I do not doubt they will do a good job with the babies also. Jenny’s mother had driven from a town a couple hours away to help with food and dishes and to take photos. Another friend was also snapping, so there were photos to put up on the Internet for Katherine to see.

People were enjoying being together, but we finished final visiting at the party, and took off for the last item on our agenda—to see where Leslie and Mike will be moving in late June. They are near downtown on a tree-lined road going back into the hills. The apartment duplex is built into the side of a hill with a large staircase leading to their front door, which the landlord is going to paint red just for Leslie. There are new appliances waiting them in the living/kitchen area and place for a washer/dryer hook-up. They have an idea for putting a shelf above the laundry area to make more counter space. Everything is clean and inviting, and the landlord and landlady, who are holding the apartment for them, live next door and keep all the neat green lawns around the complex in good shape. As well as the master bedroom, there is a room for the couple to share as an office for some of the freelance music work they plan to do. After college housing, this new home is a step up in life for them.

All good things must end, and Rosy and Rick had to say goodbyes to their Michigan loved ones while Cecelie and Elijah hugged the cousins one last time. It was beginning to darken as we left for Woodsong for a night’s sleep before the Illinois Eilers left for the north end of our state on Sunday morning.

Unsuccessful efforts had been made both nights to Skype the recitals for Katherine, but Jeannie finally had to settle for putting the video tape on Facebook, which Leslie did before Saturday morning. You can watch it too by going to her Leslie Eiler home page on Facebook. If you do, I hope you enjoy hearing our little lion roar.

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