"I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work on earth during the few days of their life which God has given them, for this is their reward." (Ecclesiastes 5:18, NET)

July 20, 2013

The sound of fun

Getting there
The Houston Symphony's free concert series, "Sounds Like Fun," was almost over when I found out about it. Each peformance was at a different neighborhood location in Houston and surrounding areas. I suggested to Angy that we take Jackson, our music-obsessed darlin', to the next performance, which was at a church in Conroe on a Tuesday evening.

I was rushing around after work to get ready and thought I could fit in a snack before Angy and Jackson arrived to pick me up. Standing at the kitchen counter in my underwear, I was so focused on seeing if I could eat a banana and a granola bar faster than any human had before, when the doorbell rang, I wasn't convinced I actually heard it. After all, why would I expect my always-punctual daughter to arrive 10 minutes before my deadline of "by 6:00 at the latest"?

I trotted to the door and looked through the peephole. Nobody there. Finishing my banana on the way back to the kitchen, I decided I must have imagined hearing the doorbell. But wait. What if Angy rang it just to let me know she was here, then returned to her car with the engine running and Jackson inside? But no. She always calls me when she's waiting for me in the driveway. But what if ...

I called her cell and Darrell answered, explaining that Angy had left her phone at home. "Oh no!" I said as the lightbulb came on. "That means the doorbell really did ring and she's waiting on me. Gotta go!" In a panic, I threw on the rest of my clothes and semi-brushed my teeth before rushing out to the car, getting in with breathless apologies and excuses, as is my norm.

If you read my previous post that included me learning how to be on time for Sunday School, let me clarify that being punctual only works if I get up out of bed to go somewhere. For events at any other time of the day, I still struggle. My lifelong tardiness might have been what motivated Angy to be not only on time, but early to most events. Perhaps her punctuality is fueled by childhood experiences like when she was so excited about me taking her to a coworker's wedding because she'd get to watch the bride walk down the aisle. As we approached the church steps, however, all my little girl got to see was the bride walking out hand-in-hand with the groom after the ceremony.

I still feel bad about that one and when I make us late for things now. But she's used to it and calmly asked, "So where are we going?" What? Me sending her the link to the church's website didn't prompt her to take care of getting directions? I called my son, Zach, and asked him to find directions to "the Methodist church in Conroe." He told me there were five and started naming them. I picked the one that sounded familiar and prayed I guessed correctly. It wasn't until I saw the Houston Symphony sign at the parking lot entrance that I was able to fully relax.

Being there
We entered through a side door, and making our way toward the main foyer, we heard disjointed musical sounds. Discovering that children were trying out instruments in a packed foyer, we went on inside to get a seat. I expected a mega church auditorium, but I was happy to see an intimate sanctuary with a resplendent stage area and a high vaulted ceiling—perfect for a concert. I thought of it later when reading what a TV producer said of his concert series held in intimate settings, that it was an "exciting alchemy between artist and place."

Jackson playing a note on the trombone
We staked our claim on a padded pew. Then Angy took Jackson out to the foyer, where a nice lady offered to let him play a trombone. She showed Jackson how to hold it, position it on his shoulder, and blow. He tried twice to no avail and was ready to give up, but she encouraged him to try again. Success! Jackson smiled broadly and returned the instrument. Then after playing the xylophone, he was ready to come back in where the musicians were warming up on stage.

The concert lasted a riveting 90 minutes, with the orchestra playing eight pieces. Between each one, Conductor Robert Franz interacted with the audience, even doing a Q&A session toward the end. His charm was engaging, but what capitvated me the most was his conducting. The maestro's body was music in motion.

A special guest conducted "Stars and Stripes Forever"—seven-year-old Jonathan Okseniuk, who became famous at the age of three with a YouTube video, Beethoven 5. Jonathan did an amazing job, at one point turning to the audience and asking us to clap along. It was a rousing performance, and I always love me a little John Philip Sousa. Two other standouts were "Suite No. 2 from Spartacus" and the finale, "Suite from Star Wars."

During the liltingly beautiful Spartacus piece, Jackson was leaning over with his eyes closed and his head swaying to the music. He looked like he was really feeling that one. When the concert was over, Jackson bounded out to the foyer, twice shouting, "Yay!" and following it with a hard clap. I couldn't agree more with his review of the Houston Symphony's exquisite performance.

Getting home
Jackson and Angy were both hungry afterward, but I was feeling vindicated about taking time for my snack earlier. Instead of getting on the freeway, Angy stayed in the right lane on the feeder, assuming there would be plenty of fast-food options. But the outskirts of Conroe didn't offer any, and the quest for food nearly got us in a wreck.

In close succession, we had three near misses with other cars. The first was at a red light. When the light turned green, the car in the middle lane turned in front of us to take a right. It's a good thing Angy wasn't quick to take off like she usually is. Then as we were going down the road at a high rate of speed, a car in the middle lane whipped in front of us to turn right into a neighborhood at the last second. A little further down the road, yet another car in the middle lane turned right in front of us to enter a parking lot. We'd never seen anything like it.

Angy decided to forget about eating and get on the freeway. The entrance was just ahead, so she moved to the middle lane, glanced at the car right behind her in the next lane, and as she put it, "thought about pulling a Conroe." But instead of jumping in front of the other car to make it on the freeway, she went down to the next entrance. From now on, I'm sure we'll refer to crazy driving as "pulling a Conroe."

It was all freeway all the way home. Whenever I looked at Jackson in the backseat, he would do his version of sign language that conveyed he was hungry, and I'd let Angy know. She finally said he would just have to wait and eat when they got home. Jackson then signed that he was thirsty, so I said I'd run in the house and get him a drink when they dropped me off.

Once again, I was very focused, this time on quenching that precious boy's thirst. With my hand on the seatbelt release as we approached the driveway, I was ready to sprint inside and grab his drink of choice, a room-temperature orange soda. When I sprung from the car, Angy called out, "Hey, Mom. You didn't notice the fire across the street?"

In my defense, my house is tucked in the corner of a two-way cul-de-sac, so we hadn't actually driven past the scene. But when I turned to my left and saw the fire engine, bright lights, and billowing smoke from a car fire, I wondered how I could be so oblivious. I prefer to think, however, that I just have laser focus when a task is important.

Although the trip had some hiccups, the concert made it seem like a perfect evening. On second thought, it really was a perfect evening. It's not about everything going perfectly—it's about who you're with and the memories you make.

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