A familiar street ~~ college students brisk by, two fiftysomething women in bright bike gear wobble from seat to store, an occassional big-eyed toddler girl stretches up one arm to link to the above, a bright-eyed street scraggler glides away among the people who walk the sidewalks during our town's September Thursday night festivals.
I sit at a plastic table in front of a custard store. Behind me, the J-school takes notes. Behind it, my husband and son scamper around the columns, a requisite response to the cracked open campus which tonight permits an alum to introduce his son to collegiate pomposity, and the customary frivolity to test it.
In front of me move five stationed women. One glistens on the accordian; another perks up next to her bass; my friend shoulders her guitar; two dulcimer ladies wave their magic, wondrous wands. Their music reminds me of my days as a highland lass in Scotland, reminiscent of the old festivals where Robert Burns and I used to kick up our heels. Or not. But, I happily sit back as the music washes over me and is remindful. Returns me to a land. A field of Queen Anne's lace and daisies. And, I am young all over, and gleeful. I smell the place which reopens again with the melodies. I kick up my feet and giggle, and whirl.
I have secret hopes of being in the group, yet am just checking in on them. They know nothing about my playing or singing or Dad in the Ozarks who can burn "Earl's Breakdown" with me along with him.
The women are enjoying themselves. The bass player singer belts out her tunes without any effort. She grins as she directs her vocals to a passerby-er, "Hey good lookin' what you got cookin'?" I met her just a week ago at a local venue for a disco reunion concert with Sister Sledge and KC and the Sunshine Band; she and four of us forty-something women formed a Conga line and chugged around the sports arena, waving at the band on the stage who waved back, hipping along until we were out of the limelight, laughing crazily.
Now she is on stage here, streetside, grinning mischieviously at me and those playing around her. All of the women frolic on their chosen instruments. The accordian player occassionally grabs her guitar and mandolin and leads her girls into new sights and sounds. Her eyes are lit, alive; the wrinkles on her face upturn to the captured flight of the chords. All unknown concerns she carries melt away. The dulcimer women pounce prettily upon their strings, oblivious to anything but their precise mallet placement upon their most perfect pling. Pa-ling!
I keep staring, listening, returning. Keep sending my family away to wander. It's just I'm stricken with the desire to be like these musicians, aging into tune and memory and cadence and dance. As I clap, I send out a plea for invitation. If not with them, then with someone who knows the same field, the same calloused finger tips, the same practiced lightness of being.
The walk to the car is happy, despite the concerns I carry. Tomorrow, I will seek more of this music I know that I am a part of. A pling! A promise.
Monday, September 11, 2006