Last Friday I had gotten home from Katherine’s and was relaxing by surfing the Internet when our daughter Jeannie and her son Elijah arrived together--Jeannie from Freeport and Lige from Illinois State at Bloomington. Gerald was already in bed as he is an early-to-bed person and an early riser. The other three of us hurried on to bed without visiting because we knew we needed to be early risers also for the exciting Saturday we had planned. For the first and I am reasonably sure for the last time in our lives we were planning a one-day trip to Nashville, TN, and back home. We achieved it.
We left long before 8 a.m. (the absolute deadline) in order to reach Leslie and Mike’s home for an early lunch before she had to head out to the theater to perform in the matinee that we were there for. Since Elijah would be 22 on Monday, we were also to celebrate his birthday with the lunch and birthday cake Leslie had waiting for us. We consider Leslie a cake expert since she worked at Kroger her senior year in college decorating cakes.
Elijah’s cake was such a reflection of their sibling sense of humor. It came with a story of how she had one chosen and was ready for the clerk to add wishes and words with Elijah’s name. But at that moment, she saw another cake with two little figures on it—figures of who knew what. Mysterious not-anythings with little faces—so Leslie had to reject the first one chosen and have the writing for Elijah put on the weird- figures cake. I suspect the employee who goofed up and created that cake was relieved to have someone choose it. Elijah, of course, was pleased with such a unique cake, as his sister knew he would be.
Then Leslie hurried off to the Performing Arts Theater, and Gerald, Jeannie, and Elijah hurried down to the nearest Wal-Mart for Jeannie to grab some things to go with Les’s belated Christmas presents since Les and Mike could not make the trip to
this year for the holidays. I stayed
behind so as not to slow the others down
with my pokey walking and to rest a bit on the living room couch. Mike had just
gotten home for lunch and needed to take care of the dogs and work out a bit and
planned to go to the evening show with us.
Besides musical rehearsals, dog care was one of the reasons they resisted holiday travel this year. Their big black dogs Sidney and Millie have a new playmate—a beautiful tan and black dog (also big) who showed up at their doorstep and for whom they have spent an enormous amount of time trying to find either Buddy’s former owner or a new owner. They have located a fine shelter which I think will find Buddy a good home this week. I can vouch for Buddy’s sweet nature. When Mike let him come bounding down from the dog room upstairs, this furiously fast canine diverted his path towards the kitchen and the backyard and in the flash had leaped into my lap and given me a luscious kiss and was on out the back door before I could say, “Hello, Buddy.”
Leslie had assured us that the venue for Ragtime the Musical was only 15-20 minutes away, and by the time the Wal-Mart purchases were put in gift bags with the other gifts, that was about all the time we had. This theater was new to us for this was the first time Leslie had performed with the Circle Players, a community theater group that participates with
Theater Program. Tennessee
Unfortunately, our GPS would not let us put in the name of the street for Performing Arts Center, and when it seemed longer than we expected, we were relieved to see the sign for the Performing Arts Center. Hopping out to hurriedly to claim the tickets ordered online, we left Gerald to try and find a place to park. The doors were locked, but we sped around the corner to what must be the main entrance, and rushed into the large lobby just as the show would be about to start. It was oddly empty except for a volunteer at the desk asking, “Are you here to see the museum?” Oh oh. There was no show going on in that theater.
We got directions to the university’s Performing Arts Center, and hurriedly made a phone call to reconnect with Gerald who had finally found parking. The directions we received left a lot to be desired for strangers to the city, the GPS was not helping, and when we finally reached TSU and tried to follow the directions we received at a booth there, we found signs that led us to fenced parking lots with locked gates. Yet another stop at a another booth on campus straightened us out and Gerald let us out in front of the building with columns while he parked across the street.
There it was the third set of doors that finally proved to be the right ones; and someone greeted us, took us in, and hand-held us down to great seats near the front of the darkened theater with both understanding and promises that he would see that Gerald found us. Later I learned that our host had been the Circle Players president himself. All I know is that gracious welcoming concern made the afternoon immediately turn wonderful as we slipped into the beginning of the 20th century when Ragtime was the top musical fad of that day.
Based on the novel by E. L. Doctorow, our program explained that three groups of Americans were in this story: “African Americans, represented by Coalhouse Walker, Jr., a Harlem musician; upper-class suburbanites represented by Mother, the matriarch of a white upper-class family in
New York; and Eastern European immigrants,
represented by Tateh, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia.” It was an exciting time and a troubling time
in our nation and we were reminded of how much progress has been made by the
women’s movement, the labor movement, and in race and immigrant relations. We were also frightened by how sadly timely was
some of this musical about an over-a-century ago era.
Along with the large cast and choruses, in a play that was mainly moved forward by beautiful solos and delightful choreography, we were also introduced to historical characters including Harry Houdini, Booker T. Washington, Emma Goldman. Evelyn Nesbit, Matthew Henson, Admiral Robert Peary, Henry Ford, J. P. Morgan, and Harry K. Thaw. My desire to read the novel and do some research on these people was proof to me of how emotionally compelling the musical was.
We had been able to accept being late for the matinee with fair humor because we knew we would get to see it again that evening before we loaded in the car for the long trip back to
Illinois. We met up with Mike for dinner,
and even Leslie was able to get off long enough to eat with us since Mike took
her back in time to be ready to go again at 7:00. She was a historical personage I had never
heard of—Evelyn Nesbit, a young girl who
made her fortune with her beauty and her fame through the scandalous trial of
the century because two wealthy men fought
over her. Hearing Leslie sing is always a highlight for me, and it was fun to see her sing in her red velvet swing
and later as an attraction with Houdini at Atlantic City.
We said quick goodbyes after the night show, and Jeannie got us out of town. But Gerald volunteered to drive us most of the way home since Jeannie and Elijah planned very short sleep times at Woodsong. They were already gone and on the road to Elijah’s church in
when we got up.
At our age, it has taken Gerald and me a bit longer to recoup. Soon the music in our heads was wiped away this week’s worries, challenges, and responsibilities. And suddenly it was Friday again. Gerald helped me finish changing the bed linens for a new week.