Aug 26, 2010

Forget Your Troubles

So a friend calls me at 6 in the evening and says, in an excited whisper: "They still have lawn tickets for Anita Baker!" 

I tell her that I am on my home and I have papers to grade and stuff to do and I'm on a tight budget and blahblahblah. 

And she says: "Really? I mean Anita Baker for $25?! And I've got your ticket covered, so all you have to do is come on and go!" 

So I U-turn in the middle of the road and drive into town to pick her up. Meanwhile, she dashes up the street to a little boutique on Georgia Ave. and quick-buys something to wear cause she didn't dress for Wolf Trap when she left home this Thursday morning ... and neither did I but I'm just going for it. 

We stop at Panera, pick up some sandwiches, and head for Route 66! I feel like I'm in my teens or 20s all over again, when it didn't matter whether it was a school night or a work night -- if Earth, Wind, and Fire was in town, you just went!

Now we're on our way to see Miss Anita, and Judy Garland is singing in my head: "Forget your troubles, come on ... get happy!" Yeah!!

So, naturally, Anita kills!!! Black hankerchief dress, her signature styling. The voice is richer than ever (altos rock!). She's all relaxed and warm and fuzzy, and we give it right back to her.

A full moon lights up the Wolf Trap lawn and the air is not too anything, but just right. Anita does love songs because, she tells us, "That's all we got!" Well that is more than okay with the audience. We know all the words anyway. 

I'm singing along, and screaming out requests, swoooning, laughing ... and cryyyying!

Aug 16, 2010

An Hour at the Beach

Aug. 16 -- 8:48 a.m.
I hadn't heard the swoosh-splash of the waves; stared hypnotically at the horizon – filled with hope and prayers, trying to see beyond; felt the sun and salt marinating my skin; breathed in the rich-sweet sand malt and tasted it on my tongue, since last August. Scheduled to return to work in three days, I needed some ocean. So for a couple of hours on Saturday, I stole away from a family gathering and went to the beach.

My Uncle Danny lives in Harbeson, Delaware, six miles from Rehoboth. For the second year in a row, he invited all the family up for a cookout in his big, unfenced back yard. After driving the two hours to Delaware, catching up with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and eating a hot dog appetizer followed by a plate full of all-things-cookout, I couldn't just sit around and ignore the beach. Just six miles. So I recruited three cousins, and we headed southeast to the water.

We hopped off the cool and convenient shuttle bus, and there it was: beach. Thousands of people of every color, size, and shape jumping into or dodging the relentless and animated waves. Wide blue sky. Warm sun. Shrieking children, over-the-top excited, dashing around like battery-powered toys. Boat-sized umbrellas shading paperback readers. Boardwalkers indulging themselves with cotton candy, pizza, fries. Beach bodies, some beautiful, some not so much, some ... just odd.

"This is the perfect beach day!" I must have said a hundred times. I took off my shoes and pushed my feet into the sand, which was perfectly moist, not too dry, not too hot, not too cool. The water wrapped around my ankles fluidly and lingered for a moment, as if making sure I wouldn't forget her touch (a quickie). We meandered on the edge of the water, went down the boardwalk, strolled down the sidewalk looking into shop windows, sat for a minute and people-watched, and then hit the boardwalk again headed in the other direction. I had a chocolate/vanilla twist soft ice cream cone that was so satisfying it is my new standard. Sorry Rita's.

I am reminded that it doesn't always take a lot of planning to make a great moment.

Aug 13, 2010

Jump In

Friday, August 13, 2010 at 12:19pm
More often, in my life, it has not been others, but some nagging voice inside my head that has sent out the warning call, kept me wading ankle-deep, even while yet some other voice – excited and hopeful – has screamed, "Jump on in"!
People see a great deal of competence, creativity, originality in me. A friend who hasn't known me too long recently said she doesn't know why I'm not more of a go-getter. "Why aren't you more ambitious? You can do so many things!" she said.True, I have never been able to put my ambition up against others'. I have never really made a connection with the word. But, oh, I have heeded that other voice: "Jump in!" My big splashes have not put me on a super-career track, nor fattened my bank account, nor earned me Alumnus of the Year.
Yet, I have had more careers than many people, putting curiosity ahead of security...jump! I have stayed when others left, left when others stayed, fought when others fled, stood in the spotlight when others sat in the stands, spoke out loud when others whispered. Every time that voice told me to fall in love, jump on in, I did. And I'm glad about it.
Before jumping in, you have to know that others won't weigh your success as you do. You will be splashing around in the water celebrating the mere fact that you made it that far. You will feel refreshed, renewed, reborn. They will be measuring the distance.
I want my 15-year-old students to have the courage, curiosity, conviction to jump in, even if the odds don't favor getting rich or famous. Jump in! Make your life!

Aug 9, 2010

You Have

You have not written 
the best-seller.

You have not given
your Tony Award
acceptance speech for
Best Actress in a Musical.

You are not the latter-day
Ida B. Wells
(though in your heart you are).

Stevie Wonder did not
sing at your wedding.

You do not regularly have
deep conversations
with your best friend
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

You don’t walk the halls
of the academy waxing
wise and funny.

But you have dreamed anyway.

You have laughed in your sleep.
You have sung through tears.
You have danced with your sister.
You have giggled with three-year-olds.

You have rolled in the grass.

You have heard Daddy recite Dunbar
and Ma’s rich alto/tenor render
Jesus knows, Jesus cares.

You have been held in strong arms.

You have inhaled the soft
sweetness of Johnson’s baby powder
on baby brothers’
smoothbrown bellies,
and have chased their happy
short legs down hallways.

Loving eyes have smiled at you.

You have counted stars.

© Avis Matthews