Now is Good.

Just because life hands you lemons doesn't mean you have to suck.

“God is a Good Friend.” July 29, 2010

Filed under: 3 kids,Childhood,divorce,Motherhood,Realizations — nowisgoodblog @ 6:39 am
Tags: ,

Those who know me know I’m not overly religious at present.  I’ve been there and there’s a part of me that hopes I will be there again one day, but right now?  Not so much.

And no, I don’t want to discuss it with you.

But the title of this post?  This is what Owen said to me as I was cooking dinner last night.  Avery was in a twist at me (could the preteen drama REALLY be starting already?) and Amelia was consoling her with voluntary hugs and kisses and back-pats.

I asked Avery how she could possibly be upset about anything in the world with special love like that being bestowed so freely.  I joked, “That baby girl got me through my divorce.  Her hugs and kisses made every one of of my saddest days happy—surely she can get you through being mad at your mama.”  I said it lightly, but I meant it.  And Avery knew it and smiled.  Just like that, drama done.

Owen was feeding the dogs, but unbeknownst to me had overheard everything.

Out of the blue, he said: “Mama, God is a good friend.”

“Why’s that, buddy?”

“Because he gave us a gift like Amelia….One time she even hit me over the head with a sword and it really hurt but then she gave me a big hug and a kiss and it was all better.  She’s really (reawy) perfect and God really (reawy) knew what he was doing when he gave her to us.”

Well, damn skippy.

Out of the mouths of babes.

 

Mmmmmm … Bacon. July 28, 2010

Filed under: Realizations,Uncategorized,vacation — nowisgoodblog @ 10:04 am
Tags: ,

Pretty sure this photo needs no explanation.  Or at least, doesn’t really benefit from one.  Perhaps my favorite pic from the Dude Ranch vacation:

I’ve decided it will serve as a funny reminder for me: No matter what happens, I’d rather be kissing this pig than The Ex.

 

Single. July 27, 2010

Awhile back, my friend Clare wrote this: “I’m lovin’ life too much on my own to f*ck it up by having a significant other in it. I’m too busy, too content, too full to split what I have with someone else. I am open to the idea, at least in theory, of sharing it with someone, but it would take an incredibly special someone … like the kind of someone I don’t believe exists, to make me really want to do that. But in theory it sounds okay I guess.”  I laughed when I read this, because it suited me so perfectly (as Clare’s writing and observations at Life on the C Train so often do).

This is me. In some ways and on some days I’m still in the painful, sad part of post-divorce (and in other ways on other days, not so much at all), but this is still and already me.  The idea of a 24/7 relationship with someone again is ok in theory, or ok for other people, but when it involves me, I can’t really get an actual picture of it in my mind.   Which makes me think that as much as I miss parts of that type of partnership, I really, really don’t want it or have the capacity for it in my life right now.

Partially, this reflects the inherent difficulty in maintaining a relationship with someone who is not the father of your children.  Step-parents, step-siblings, differences in parenting and discipline styles, peoples’ toes getting stepped on by the co-parent’s significant other, the “You’re not my parent and you can’t tell me what to do!” issue, etc.  I’d really just rather avoid all of that.  Relationships are hard (obviously, given my divorced status and the divorce statistics in general)—plenty tough enough with the person you created the children with in the first place, much less with someone who has no historical or biological connection with these little ones whose needs absolutely must be placed first.  Right now, I can’t see the pay-off there.

Partially, this reflects the fact that I’m just not sure I buy the whole forever commitment relationship paradigm anymore anyway.  Success seems like way too much of a crap shoot to actually invest any time or resources into maintaining something that is so fragile and so dependent upon a person’s change of emotion … when that emotion, when what we want or who we love, isn’t really in our control anyway.  The heart wants what the heart wants, and if it doesn’t … well, then.

I’m starting to wonder if I am meant to be single.  If so, I think that’s ok.  As it turns out, I like being single.  I don’t mean single in the sense that I don’t want companionship—that I don’t need to feel a connection with someone—that I don’t enjoy sharing time and space with the right person at the right time.  I do.  I really, really do.  But I mean single in the sense that nobody gets to decide where I go or what I do or how I do it except for me.  Single in the sense that I am in control of my life and my children.  Single in the sense that I stand alone.  Single in the sense that I remain distinctly separate and apart from whomever I choose to spend time with.  Single in the sense that I am and will remain me … just me, with no need to apologize or compromise.

Maybe I am just better that way. Single.  For now, staying single seems worth the price of admission. It’s an odd thing to admit and to sit with, but there it is.  Like my new pair of cowboy boots or my very favorite pair of jeans, being single feels like a perfect fit.

 

Another Weekend Wrap-Up. July 26, 2010

Filed under: Free time,Recharging batteries,Running — nowisgoodblog @ 7:29 am
Tags: ,

Or maybe, Weekend Round-Up since I’m still not fully emerged from my Dude Ranch experience.  I don’t have anything particularly thought-provoking or purging to write today, but wanted to catch cyberspace up on the events of the past few days….

Thursday night I went to the Lady Gaga concert.  (Add another show to my #18 perk.)  I was in one of the suites, which meant I was able to view the freak show from the perfect vantage point without having to actually participate in it.  I’m not a particularly big Gaga fan (in fact, I find her fairly annoying, truth be told), but the show was pretty impressive.  She has talent and is an absolute master of image and persona, selling out an enormous venue two nights in a row during a summer where very few concert tours are making any money.  And she’s only 24 years old.  Go, her.

Friday night I went to another concert—country this time, seeing Charlie Robison at a fun outdoor venue near my house.  I went with several girlfriends and I had a blast dancing with strangers and shamelessly (and harmlessly) flirting with wanna-be cowboys.  It was fun, and I felt 23 instead of 38.  Being that young isn’t a place I want to live again, but it’s sure nice to visit there every once in awhile.

I spent Saturday at a pool party with my high school girlfriends, getting sun and laughing and refilling that place inside of me that only the company of good girlfriends can provide these days.  I love these women—they are kind and supportive, they worry about and are proud of me, and they make me laugh.

After a quick shower, a fancy dinner date Saturday night at Dean Fearing’s at the Ritz.  The occasion?  Just because … which is my very favorite reason to celebrate anything.

Sunday was a movie date to see “Inception” … I’m still processing that one.

This morning I ran.  I haven’t run in a couple of months because of the incessant heat, and due to vacations and a messed up ankle I haven’t done any exercising at all for a couple of weeks.  All of which means I’m back to square 1 (or maybe square 2) with my running.  I only ran 3.5 miles, and that was plenty tough enough.  Still, I’m trying to focus on and praise myself for the effort rather than the end result.  They tell us to do that with our kids these days, and I think it makes good sense.  If I worry about how I ran many many miles less than I was running this winter and spring, I’ll get discouraged and be unlikely to try it again.  If instead, I focus on my success of making the effort after a lull, of just pushing myself to do the best I could do today, of being glad I ran 3.5 miles instead of none at all, then I’m teed up to try again next time.

All in all, a good few days and I feel prepped and ready to take on the week.  Plus, my kids will be home in a few minutes, which is a good way to begin anything.

 

Another Look At A Year Later. July 22, 2010

I’m sure I’ve overdone the “one year later” thing, but since I’ve never been one to get while the gettin’s good, here’s yet another of my navel gazes at my divorce, one year later.

My wonderful nanny, Morgan, (Aside: I am not a fan of the word “nanny.”  It sounds … entitled, or spoiled, or something, although I think she prefers it.  And I get why—she is so much more than a “babysitter.”  She keeps my children while I work, but she also teaches them and guides them and challenges them and mothers them when I cannot.  I need to coin an appropriate term.) is on vacation this week.  Casie has filled in, and it’s been enlightening.  I do love those eye-opening moments.

Casie was our sitter last summer.  She was the first regular-schedule part-time nanny/sitter I ever had.  I hired her when The Ex filed for divorce.  I knew there were going to be meetings with attorneys and court dates.  I knew I’d have to go back to work.  I knew there was a truckload of emotional stumbling blocks coming that would require more of my time and focus and energy than I had to give.  Casie came in a few days a week and provided me with the assistance I needed to deal with the anvil dropping on my head.

Sometimes, I think people are put in the middle of your path for a reason.  Sometimes, there’s just a congruity of purpose and a fit that fills exactly the need you have at exactly the moment you need it filled.  Casie was that fit last summer.  Her parents had divorced when she was younger, under circumstances remarkably similar to mine.  Casie knew what I was going through because she had watched her mom go through it before.  She knew what my children were going through because she herself had experienced it.  She was there the day I went to court and got divorced.  She knew how hard that day was.  She was there when my kids needed to tell someone, ask someone, relate to someone.  She knew how it felt when your parents divorced (I didn’t, and still don’t) and she was the listening ear and voice of understanding for my babies during a very confusing and tumultuous time.  I was grateful … still am grateful … that she came into our lives at that much-needed moment.

We haven’t seen Casie since last summer.  She was away at school and she’s back for a few weeks and filling in while Morgan’s away.  And it’s been such a nice bookend.  She was there while it was crumbling, while I was crumbling.  She saw it razed.  She was witness to my slate being wiped clean.  And to see her and talk to her this week, to hear her say the things I think myself (the things I want to believe), to have someone who was there then flashforward to here now and express amazement that I am fine, that the kids are fine, that The Ex and I are civil, that I am happy, that the dust has (mostly) settled, that I have taken bad and made it good, that I am doing my best to make the best of things … well, that’s felt pretty damn great.

In a way, it makes me wish that I could’ve seen that flashforward a year ago, that I could’ve been shown it was going to be ok.  Of course, seeing it then probably would have made it feel much less valuable to me now.  And I wouldn’t have wanted that, because it is so valuable to me now.  Being ok feels rich.  Feels lush.  Feels proud.  There is satisfaction and contentment at having tried (and succeeded more often than I’ve failed, which may be the best I can hope for) to do the “right” thing.  To be mature.  To be a good mother.  To be the better version of me.  To embrace my life.  To grow.

I wonder what Casie will see if she comes back a year from now, how things will have progressed. I wonder what will be, where we’ll be … because I’m definitely not done yet.

 

Recharged, Reinvigorated, Revived, Refocused, Rewarded. July 20, 2010

We’re back from the Dude Ranch and I don’t even know where to start.

We had a wonderful week—a very different kind of vacation from our usual.  There is so much I want to say but my writing feels awkward and rusty after a 10-day absence here.  I feel certain I can’t properly do justice explaining all the good and all the odd and all the … depth of where I’ve been since my last post.  Because I’m not sure how to bring cohesion to it all and because the massive volume of the task threatens to prevent me from attempting to share it, I’m just going to dive right in.  I’ll scattershoot, and hope this collection of snapshot moments provides a somewhat accurate sense of why this might have been our best vacation ever.

I want to convey the sheer beauty of where we were.  High north in Colorado, close to the Wyoming border. 8,000 feet above sea level, where desert cliffs meet lush green wildflower meadows.  It was QUIET.  So quiet at night that I literally couldn’t hear a single sound, no matter how hard I strained my ears.  Very strange and very isolating and yet very comforting.  And oh my gosh, the stars.

I want to talk about how I was completely unplugged for a solid week.  There was very little cell or internet service.  I managed to check email and texts once a day and let the kids call The Ex—but then only if we climbed a hill and scaled a big rock and held my iPhone up to the heavens in order to physically pull the signal down. For 7 days, I didn’t see a tv, hear a radio, read a paper, get online, or watch a movie … and neither did my kids.  And never, not once, did I ever hear a single “I’m bored.”  In and of itself, a miracle.

I want to tell you about the horses and how amazing they were.  My preteen girl fascination (like all of my gender) was finally fulfilled, some 25-odd years later.  I had never really ridden a horse before.  Last week we rode every day.  Foxy was mine, Avery rode Red, Owen rode Dusty (a shockingly spry 37-year-old, no lie).  For hours each day we walked trails and trotted and loped.  I rode down (and back up) Suicide Slide.  I trusted my horse, and trust felt good.

I want to laugh about how and why, after 20 years of living in Texas, I might finally have become a cowboy boot and hat kind of girl.

I want to rave about how on Saturday, I rode Foxy bareback and swam with her—a truly unbelievable once-in a-lifetime experience.

I want to talk about how it was a week chock full of “firsts.”  How in addition to first-time horseback riding, there was first-time rock climbing and first-time whitewater rafting and first-time serious-ass hiking.

& And I want to tell you how my hands were shaking when I finished that first climb, and how the adrenaline rush felt good, like a drug, like something that changed me and altered my reality a little bit.

I want to explain how funny it was that Amelia refused to take off her pink cowgirl boots all week.  How she charmed the pants off of everyone she met (as usual) and how proud I was when people commented, at least 100 times, about how well she talked and how big her vocabulary was.

I want to write about that “summer camp” experience I remember from childhood, and that I watched my kids experience for the first time (another “first”)—when you spend a week with new people and you’re sad when you leave and you hug and you cry and you know, just know for absolute certain, that you’ll keep in touch with them and see them again … but then you never really do.

I want to tell you how filthy dirty and caked in grime my kids were for 7 days, no matter how many baths I gave them.  Smudgy faces and a line of dirt so thick under their fingernails that it took days to get it out after we came home.  The kind of dirty that only comes from hard outdoor all-day play, and I want to tell you how I kinda stopped worrying about it mid-week and just let ‘em be grubby.

I want to write about how Owen got tossed from Dusty one day, and about how proud I was to hear all of the male wranglers discussing how impressed they were when Owen immediately tried to climb right back up on that horse, and how one of the wranglers (James, below) even wrote a poem about it and read it by the campfire one night.

I want to tell you how good it felt to hear other moms praise the way I handled Owen when he wasn’t quite as brave … when he got a black eye 20 seconds after we started our whitewater trip (my son, the disaster magnet), and when I didn’t let him quit, and when he ended up LOVING the rafting because of it.

I want to write about how we celebrated Avery’s 8th birthday while we were there, and about how the staff baked her a birthday cake and sang her Happy Birthday.  And about how after sundown, she and the other kids played an impromptu soccer game in the horse arena with a Frenchman, a Croatian, and an Australian.  Is that a birthday memory or what?

I want to write about the many bottles of wine and the adults’ laughter at night on the front porch while the kids ran free and roamed safe.

I want to talk about how odd it felt to sit around that first night or two and realize I was the only single in a group full of doubles.  And, odder still, how it felt to realize that I actually wasn’t the only divorced person there … that in my discomfort I’d made incorrect assumptions and suffered blind spots and been so keenly aware of my own awkward feelings that I simply hadn’t noticed there was another single mom there with her kid.  And then the discovery of how offensively similar my divorce story was to hers.  And how I was, as always, sort of stunned by what a cliche’ The Ex became.  And how, by necessity, what a cliche’ he also made me.

I wish I could write about how tremendously lightened I felt when I realized that I was having a much better time without The Ex being there than I ever would have had if we’d been there together, married.  About how I met new people and truly enjoyed them—their conversation and their children and their stories and their company.  About how glad I was to interact with them and about how I never would have done that if The Ex had been present, because his sense of superiority made him feel that interaction with others was an annoyance and a waste of time.  I wish I could explain how, among so many other discoveries this past year, I’ve realized that I am not nearly the misanthrope I believed myself to be while we were married.

I want, I want, I want, I want.  I want to tell about all of these things, completely, because I gained so much from this vacation.  I need to write them and write them well, so that I won’t forget.  But I can’t … there’s just too much.  It will have to be good enough to say, “It was a truly amazing week and a wonderful vacation.”

 

Dude Ranch, Beware. July 10, 2010

Filed under: 3 kids,vacation — nowisgoodblog @ 9:37 pm

We’re heading your way.

We’re off on vacation again tomorrow.  Heading to Colorado for a week to stay at a dude ranch with the kids and my parents.  Horseback riding, lots of animals to play with and care for, hiking, campfires, etc.  I’m hoping the kids will plug into nature and not get frantic by the absence of electronics.

I am desperately looking forward to the quiet of it all.  I adore the mountains … I never feel quite as alive and simultaneously at peace as I do when I’m in them.  They recharge my batteries and still my soul, and I’m in need of a little serenity right now.

I’m hoping I’ll have very little cell phone or internet service, because I really want to disappear for a few days and do some heavy focusing on my kids.  I’ll be back in a week.

Until then, Yee-Hah!

 

Being a Gentleman. July 9, 2010

Filed under: Childhood,Motherhood,Realizations — nowisgoodblog @ 5:35 pm
Tags: , ,

My boy absolutely owns me.  This exasperating, exhausting, amazingly perfect, feels-everything-so-deeply little man has me wrapped around his finger.

Things Owen said to me, completely unbidden, in his first 24 hours home:

“I think a week is too long for me to be away from you.”

“I love you more than The Girlfriend.”

“I’m not sure who I love more—you or Daddy.  Actually, don’t tell anybody but I think I love you more because you gave birth to me.”

“When I grow up and get married and have my own babies, I’m still going to love you the most of all.”

And my personal favorite:

“Mommy, don’t tell anybody, but the biggest thing in my life is that I love you.”

In the middle of playing, he would suddenly drop whatever he was doing, run into the room where I was, wrap his arms around my legs, squeeze hard, and drop one of these tender bon mots.  We’d have a cuddle, I’d tell him how much I missed him while he was gone, and then he’d be off again.  At times, he amazes me with his tenderness.

Other times, he just makes me laugh.  Tonight, as he was leaving to spend the night with his dad, it was raining and The Ex was shuttling the kids to and from the car one at a time under the umbrella.  First Amelia, then Avery.  Owen was waiting on the front porch and asked me, “Why do I have to be last?!”  I told him that real gentlemen always let the ladies go first.  He looked at me with irritation and said, “Well, doesn’t that just make the gentlemen miserable?”

The secret to male/female relations?  My brilliant boy.

Happy weekend, everyone.

 

My Babies Got Back. July 8, 2010

(Yeah, cheap shot but I couldn’t resist.)

My children came home last night.  Late last night.  Like, long after bedtime last night.  Meaning that Amelia had just napped 30 minutes in the car on the way over (her only nap of the day, btw).  She showed up groggy and confused.  There was no “MOMMY!” reunion moment with her.  She came to me, but shyly.  She wouldn’t really talk to me and she wouldn’t hug me back, although she did allow me to sit right down on the floor with her and hug her.  She wasn’t opposed to bodily contact, but she sure wasn’t initiating it.  She leaned into me, against me, but didn’t put her arms around me.  She was exhausted and I put her to bed soon after she got home.  She asked about her Daddy.  She seemed content to be home, but not overjoyed.

She seemed fine today and there have been plenty of hugs and kisses, but damn.  Last night stung.

I know it’s to be expected.  She’s two and she just spent 7 days away from me, which is probably about 2 days too long on the outside.  How do I know?  The last two days she refused to talk to me on the phone when I called at night.   Again with the heartbreak.  I get it, I really do.  I am certain she wonders where I was and why I wasn’t there.  I am sure she missed me.  I know that talking to me probably made it worse in some ways.  But what was I supposed to do?  From where I sit, the only option is to call each day that she’s gone, tell her I love her, tell her I miss her, and then try to be patient when she comes back home until we all settle back into our normal routine.

Avery and Owen are easy-peasy.  They had a blast with all their cousins on The Ex’s side of the family (they have none on my side).  They know where I am while they’re gone and they know I’m anxiously awaiting their return home.  They give me bear hugs the second they walk in the door and they slide right back into normal without missing a beat.  Amelia will get there, too … eventually.  But for now, the transition on either end is tough for us both.

At dinner tonight we played our usual “What’s the best/worst thing that happened to you today?” game.  I expanded it into “What was the best/worst part of your vacation?” … “What was the funniest/saddest part of your week?” … “What was something that happened that you think I should know about?”  Apparently, I should know that Daddy’s family says a lot of bad words (yeah … I realized that lack of filter 14 years ago).  When asked, “What was the thing you liked most/least about The Girlfriend?” … no one had a “least” answer.  Which is good for them, although I shallowly have to admit that I was hoping there was something about her that annoyed them.

As for Avery’s favorite thing about The Girlfriend: “She has a lot of make-up she lets me steal from her purse.”  Things called Lip Viper and Lip Glass—things that “make your lips tingle and taste like vanilla.”  Let’s not even go into how displeased I am that Avery is sharing lip gloss with The Girlfriend, or how I get a little ooged out by the anti-sanitation-factor of anyone sharing lip stuff with others.  Avery: “She’s a real girly-girl.”

Well, of COURSE she is … because I am so totally NOT, and The Ex’s goal was very obviously the opposite of ME.

There are no real stories from the week.  No real dirt.  Which means The Girlfriend slid right into my place in the family.  She’s the new aunt, she’s the new sister-in-law, she’s the new daughter-in-law.  I wonder what she thinks of The Ex’s family.  I wonder what she thinks about my children.  I wonder how long it will be before none of the former in-laws really remember me at all.  I wonder how long I’ll care.

For now, what matters most is that Avery, Owen & Amelia are home.  With me.  I am mama again.  They are safe and they are here and I am whole.

 

Willie Nelson Kissed My Cheek In Front Of 7,500 People. July 6, 2010

Filed under: Divorce Perk,quality time — nowisgoodblog @ 9:12 am
Tags: ,

That’s how this story’s going to end … just so’s you know.

I am coming off of the most fabulous 4th of July weekend ever.  EVER. So fabulous that I’m a little embarrassed to even write about it because it will sound like I’m bragging.  (Which, truth be told, I kinda am.)  The story is long, but even so I am leaving out volumes of funny and amazing stuff that happened.  Here goes ….

My kids were gone so I headed down to Austin to spend the weekend with Jen (you know Jen).  Jen’s kids were out of town, too, and we figured (correctly) we could find some kind of fun to get into.  We bought tickets to Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic at the new Backyard.  One week before the concert, Jen met and befriended legendary songwriter Sonny Throckmorton, who thought he might be able to score us some backstage passes.  For everyone’s information, these kinds of things happen to Jen fairly regularly.  She’s got the magic … or maybe she’s just blond and hot and friendly as hell.  Also for everyone’s information, these kinds of things do not regularly happen to me.

Saturday afternoon Sonny called and invited us out to his house in the Hill Country.  “His house” turned out to be the house Willie lived in “during his IRS years” … a big blue barn of a home with a perfect backdoor view of the incredible Texas sunsets.  We spent the afternoon sitting around the living room listening to Sonny and Bee Spears (Willie’s bass player for the past 42 years) and another Memphis songwriter named Ricky Ray Rector play guitar and stand up bass and sing the many, many songs they’ve written over the years, more than a few of which have hit #1.  Bee serenaded Jen with the most depressing song ever written that just happened to have the name “Jennifer” in the title.  Sonny sang the hit he wrote and George Strait recorded—”This Is Where the Cowboy Rides Away”—just for me.  These guys were good, and they were doing what they loved, and watching them play the music they had pulled out of the ether over the years was pretty amazing.

Saturday night we went to the Saxon Pub to hear Gary Nicholson play.  Nicholson wrote “One More Last Chance,” “Better Word for Love,” “Squeeze Me In,” “Fallin and Flyin,” and a bunch of other stuff you’d know if you heard.  He was joined by the incomparable Mickey Raphael (Willie’s harmonica player for the past 37 years) and we had front row seats.  Sidebar:  If there was a woman in the audience without a puddle of drool under her chin after watching Mickey play that harp, she was a dead woman.

On Sunday we headed back out to Sonny’s, hoping to head to the concert immediately.  Bee told us they had run out of backstage passes, but he was going to five us these little blue wristbands “that should work just fine.”  (Since we had had the exact same wristbands on at the Saxon the night before, I had my doubts.  Worry #1 that we weren’t actually getting backstage.)  Bee wasn’t playing until around 6 pm and none of the pros were in any rush to get to the concert.  So … we went fishing.   This was Worry #2 that the actual backstage for Willie thing wasn’t really going to happen and this was when I started thinking about how embarrassing it was going to be to tell people after the weekend was over that I didn’t really get to meet Willie after all.  But you just have to learn to roll with these things, so … fishing we went.

And fishing was fabulous.  Gorgeous secluded cove on Lake Travis.  Spectacular recording studio leading down picturesque stone steps to a boat house and some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve seen.  Kinda (actually, exactly) like this:

Jen and I caught some perch for them to use as catfish bait later that night.  We sat on the dock and soaked up some rays and talked about how absolutely perfect life was at that moment … Willie or no Willie.  The sun was shining and we felt free and absolutely peaceful.  Do you know those moments that are so perfect that you just want to inhale them?  To bring them within and give them a permanent place of residence inside?  And so you try to do just that, as if breathing in as deeply as possible will somehow preserve the essence of that moment … that it will somehow write it indelibly on your brain, so that it can’t or won’t be forgotten?  There were many of those moments while we were fishing and sunning down at that boat dock.

After fishing, we finally headed to the concert.  Bee drove Jen’s car, so that when we got to the back gate he could tell the security guards, “I’m Willie’s bass player” and they could let us right on in.  I don’t know if they recognized him or if he just looked like he’s in Willie’s band (because he really, really does), but we were in.  Blue wristbands working so far.  We parked and went immediately to Bee’s tour bus to sit in the AC.  Um … Worry #3 that we were going to just sit in a tour bus all day and not actually, you know, see any music.  We spent the next couple of hours hopping from tour bus to tour bus, eating brisket and drinking beers offered by the kindness of strangers.  Meeting some really interesting people that have been touring with or following Willie for four or more decades.  Listening to the funniest guys I’ve ever met in my life tell stories about life on the road with Willie and Waylon and the boys.  It was a scene.  At one point, Bee and Ricky Ray headed up on stage to set up.  Jen and I tried to follow but got totally shut down by the stage security.  Apparently the blue paper wrist bands did NOT entitle us to head up on stage and watch the show.  Worry #4.  So we hung around looking pathetic for awhile and then went visiting for more brisket and beer.  And THAT’S when the magic started happening again.

We were visiting with some lovely folks who I’m pretty sure bankroll a whole lotta Willlie, when this adorable pixieish aging blond cheerleader type named Lynnette climbed on board the bus.  Lynnette could’ve been 40 or 65, there was no way to tell, but this whole Willie’s Picnic thing was obviously her bailiwick.  She chatted for a minute and then said she was heading over, and the money followed her.  The fabulously nice John Giles, a friend of the musicians who’d been hanging out with us the past few days and who knew how badly Jen and I wanted to go hear music, pulled us aside and said, in this voice crazy full with import, like he was giving us the keys to the kingdom, “Stick with Lynnette.  Don’t let her get too far ahead of you.  She will show you some things.”  God bless John, because Lynnette marched up to the side of the huge fence surrounding the stage, said hey to some guy standing behind, and the next thing I knew the fence was pulled apart for Lynnette, we all squeezed through, and then … we were on stage.

On stage with Kris Kristofferson, who, as if on cue, began singing “Me and Bobby McGee.”  And I’m standing 20 feet behind him, and looking at him and then out at a sea of 7,500 concert watchers, and feeling like I’d just gone through the looking glass.  I had told Jen earlier in the day that if I could hear Kristofferson sing “Sunday Morning Coming Down” live, I’d consider the day a success.  And then he did.  And really and truly, I could’ve died happy right then and there.  Except that I’d have missed him singing “Help Me Make It Through the Night” next, and that would’ve been a crying shame.

Security kept looking at us as if they knew we weren’t supposed to be there, but since we were with Lynnette and the money people, they didn’t dare say anything to us.  Any eventually they stopped caring who these two random pushing-40-year-old women were, and at that point, we owned the place.  We were there on stage for the rest of the night, for Ray Price and Leon Russell and Jack Ingram and a bunch of Willie’s kids performing.  Around 9, after night fell, we watched fireworks from the back of the stage.  I met Mickey Raphael (sigh).  Jen met Kristofferson (she wins).  We still hadn’t met Willie, but we were a little past caring.

Willie didn’t come out to play until close to midnight.  By that time, Jen and I were perched on seats just to the side of the band, just loving the hell out of every single minute.  Willie was singing, Bee was playing bass, Mickey was blowing that sexy harmonica, Paul English was playing drums, Willie’s older sister—”Sister Bobbie”— was tearing up the piano, Ray Benson from Asleep at the Wheel was playing guitar, David Allan Coe sang a little and Kristofferson came back out to sing a few with Willie.  There was a breeze blowing and a whole lot more of those “please don’t let me forget this perfect moment” kind of moments.

Paul, Ray, Mickey, Kris, Bee

Mickey, Bee, David Allan Coe, Sister Bobbie, Willie

Willie, obviously.

Around 1 a.m. Willie finished his set and the crowd went wild.  The lights came up and the band played Willie’s exit music.  He waved to the throngs of people and started walking off stage.  And then he saw us and stopped, I kid you not.  He made eye contact and waved and then saw Sonny sitting with us and turned a full 180 and made a beeline straight toward us.  He greeted Sonny warmly and then Sonny introduced us to Willie.  The band was still playing exit music and the crowd was still giving Willie a standing ovation.  And there, in front of 7,500 people, at the last possible moment of the show, as the icing on the cake of a perfectly perfect holiday weekend, Willie Nelson shook my hand and kissed my cheek and told me Happy 4th of July.   His beard was soft but scratchy, and up close he had the kindest eyes and nicest smile.  I get now why people love Willie—why people automatically think of him as their friend.  He just has that way about him.  And then he walked off stage—Jen and I were the last part of the show.

We followed Willie’s bus out of the parking lot, laughed hysterically as Bee told us over and over again the drilling Willie’s wife was absolutely positively giving him for kissing us onstage, dropped the musicians back at Sonny’s, begged off on a 3 a.m. fishing trip, thanked them all profusely, exchanged hugs of the did-we-all-just-have-a-crazy-day-together-or-what variety, and headed home.  Jen and I laughed and squealed the whole drive—a very punchy “Did all of that really just happen?!?” kind of conversation.

All those worries about not hearing any music … about not getting backstage … about not meeting Willie?  Pointless.  It all happened, in truly fine style.  As Sonny laughed and said after seeing our excitement when Willie kissed us and walked offstage, “HA!  I couldn’t have written that better myself!”  You said it, Sonny.  This weekend all it took was a game attitude, a little patience and a magic friend to create a truckful of great memories.

Divorce Perk #101:  Willie Freaking Nelson, y’all.


 

 
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