September 22

A Night to Remember

Two people twirled on the concrete dance floor in front of me as dark rain clouds hovered above and teased.

Occasionally a big gust of wind would rustle the leaves and threaten more serious weather, but the jazzy trumpet players and the Nash Hernandez Orchestra blew the clouds, and the crowd away.

I sat in my favorite brown lawn chair, the one that’s survived sunny days in the river, soccer games and weekends at Girl Scout Camp. It’s disintegrating now, the footstool straps broken, but my feet were on the ground, tapping to the sounds of Sinatra and classic songs that never fail to bring a smile to my face.

At last.

Bob and Sandy are two of the biggest music lovers I know in my still new to me, old-timey town. When she called to tell me about the concert at the library amphitheater, I knew I’d probably be too busy to go. When you are self-employed in sales, it seems there is always one more call to make or twenty-nine papers that still need scanned and turned in.

An impromptu orchestra concert was not on my Thursday night to-do list, but it will be. It trumps dishes in the sink and walking the dogs, although Charlie and Mr. Riley love a good concert. They sat next to me on the grass, soaking up cool vibes, music magic and repeated compliments about how well-behaved they were.

The band from Austin has been pleasing standing room only crowds since 1949! I sat there listening, giving thanks for amazing musicians, the library I love, and free entertainment. Thanks to the support of the Hill Country Council for the Arts, last night’s debut evening was just the first in a series of concerts.

Camping chairs in red, yellow, green and blue dotted the lawn with coolers of beverages kept close by. The man in the fedora twirled his dance partner with the red dress, ankle boots, and purple headband. For a minute, I remembered how much it hurts your cheeks to smile like that all the time.

When they played an old familiar song by Duke Wellington, the tears began to well.

Oh, good Lord. I dabbed my eyes the way you do when the wind blows a little dust into the corners. I thought of my grandpa Terrill, one of the greatest men I’ve ever known in my life. The kind of grandpa who proudly introduced me to all of his friends at VFW picnics and sat next to me on the couch with a snack on a t.v. tray. Together, we watched Walter Cronkite and the 10 o’clock news.

Last night I listened through the salsa and the sonatas, trying to catch the memory floating so close to the surface.

And then it came.

Long, long ago, before I knew what it would be like to be a big girl, the things we go through, the stuff we endure, before I knew that a seven-year-old smile could ever fade, I had a grandpa who was larger than life and loved me the right way. The way all little girls long to be loved.

The Nash Hernandez band gave me more than a gift of an incredible night of music. Their instrumentation, style, and perfect song selections surfaced a long-lost evening with The Duke, my grandpa and me.

And there I was, for just a moment, standing on my grandpa’s shoes as he danced me across the floor of the legendary Val Air Ballroom. Something to keep. Like hope that floats and knows new days come. At last.

It was a night to remember.

Life is like a song. The notes are always changing. I need stronger shoes than my own to stand on.