Shoo Fly

My father always promised us
That we would live in France
We'd go boating on the Seine
And I would learn to dance

We lived in Ohio then
He worked in the mines
On his dreams like boats
We knew we would sail in time...

- Judy Collins, My Father

Promises and dreams.

Last night, my son performed in his first band concert. Sixth grade. Trumpet. He and his compadres did a great job. Well, the percussion section had a tendency to rush things, but such are the ways of drummers. I watched as awkward hands and fingers on the end of awkward arms concentrated as if our country's welfare depended on them. Right feet kept time with the conductor's baton. The sixth graders played Fly's in the Buttermilk and Frere Jacques. The seventh graders played Another One Bites the Dust. And the eighth graders played Barber's Adagio. My lord.

I bent down yesterday morning to give my youngest daughter a goodbye kiss. She was still somewhat asleep, I had to go. I kissed her forehead and sleepy eyes opened. As she reached up to kiss my nose, as is her custom, she kissed me on the lips, as is not her custom. Her eyes grew wide as saucers and a smile broke her face. Well, shucks, little lady. That's right generous of you. Her saucered eyes rolled at the old man, the smile still firmly in place. Bye, Dada.

I listened last night as my middle daughter announced over spaghetti and french bread I've no homework! She declared this as her mother's earrings dangled from her ears, silver hoops. I'm not too fond of these silver hoops, as they make my sunshine look a little too grown up, kinda like that girl from Footloose. You know, the preacher's daughter? But my middle daughter wants to be seen, noticed. Little does she know that you almost cannot help seeing her, such is her beauty; she is like elf-light. Last night, at the band concert, she kept asking if we could move up closer to the front, so we could see. She was constantly bobbing up and down, like Zacchaeus, trying to see. And be seen. There were no sycamores in the middle school auditorium, just old knotty pines like me. She leaned in and put her head, earrings and all, on my shoulder.

I wonder if my children know the extent, the blessed depth, of my promises and dreams for them?

Skip to my lou, my darlings...


  1. I always feel so warm each time you write about your relationships with your children.

    What a special night for you guys!

    My heart can't even contain itself when I think of the depth of the promises and dreams I have for my blessed treasures :) ....I pray that they'll reveal themselves to my kids in every conversation we have together, every meal, every teachable moment...every snuggle and kiss...

    okay, I've gotta get some lovin' from those babies right now!! I'm all verklempt!

  2. This is beautiful on so many levels... a parent, I inhale and try to preserve those moments as you do. And dream BIG, yet wait for what the Father has in store. But I'm not good at waiting. a daughter, this post heals on so many levels and gives such hope.

  3. i was doing well with judy collins and the awkward sixth, seventh and eighth graders and the kisses and the leaning in ... really i was ... but then you had to go and say, "skip to my lou, my darlings..."

    i was thinking about you yesterday, John. thinking about your ability to lead people into their own tenderness.

    and so i sit here smack dab in the middle and without a tissue in sight!

  4. Laure has really captured your gift well..."your ability to lead people into their own tenderness."

    We catch a glimpse of your family's warmth while being inspired to capture our own and not let it slip away unnoticed.

    Thank you.

  5. that's quite a repertoire for a middle school band. an artist is one who actually smells the newly cut grass or hears the church bells in the distance - those things they write about that the reader is either alerted to or pretends to hear too. Was it Picasso who said that art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life?
    Thanks for smelling and hearing and then sharing your art with us.

  6. As the sole male voice here...I sure hope you and Mer do something to preserve these written memories. Can you imagine the kids approaching 40 and reading all about this simple but powerful night? A true gift on so many levels. Blessings.