Monday, July 18, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

We’ve been in Colorado for the last several days and while we haven’t been at the top of the Rockies at all, we are now staying in the midst of one of the mesas. I believe our elevation is about 6000’ and we’re in a little valley full of rolling, grassy hills with views of higher mountains in the distance. I’m enjoying a rare bit of peace with quiet. Our hosts have taken the majority of this party out fishing. I thought more were staying behind, but I think there are just 3 of us women here. All men, children and a few other moms and young ladies are gone.
This is a stark contrast to last night, when the band Tony came to Colorado to play with set up on the big back porch of our hosts’ home and played for hours to a crowd of close to 100. A temporary dance floor was set up over the gravel driveway; food came from all over-as did the multitude of family members of the hosts. The children were loud, the music louder. Some danced, some chatted, some continued to eat, some played horseshoes, kids played whatever their imaginations could dream up. Those so inclined drank. And drank. And drank some more.
It was the kind of scene that causes me to long for it when seen in a movie or the pages of a magazine. Being in the midst of it was different. My original perspective was one of “how long will this take?” However, once the music started (and not even music that I choose to listen to at home) my discomfort eased a bit into realizing precisely what I just stated-this is the real deal. This is what goes on all across the country when large families gather for good times and good food.
The fact that I am not part of this family and knew not a single one prior to arrival (except one guitarist whom I’d met on one occasion in the past, though would not have recognized him passing him on the street) made it a bit uncomfortable for me. Not for Goober Gus though. He was in heaven with all those kids to play with. They ran all over the upper and lower yards, used a discarded length of plastic to slide down a short dirt hill, teamed up and played spies, danced from time to time and likely all assortment of other childhood activities.

To my credit, I did try to strike up conversations with a few women, but that was a challenge when the music was playing. That challenge was not made any easier by the fact that since this was a family gathering, they all knew each other and already had connections and things to talk about. They probably wondered who this strange lady was at their event. I would have thought the same thing had roles been reversed. I did manage to talk to one woman that homeschooled her 5 children, 2 of which were adopted thru foster care. We got to share a bit about the horrors of the foster care system and the hurdles that families are required to jump prior to adopting a child. The unfairness of the process to the child involved. The struggles that families face when resolving issues created by far less than desirable living conditions that the adopted child was removed from. I felt a bit cheated when she left without saying goodbye.

I thought once night settled in and it was too dark to see that the kids would come down off the hill they were playing on and spend time in the grassy yard next to the band. I was wrong. They got out flashlights and continued to play. Most would run through the crowd from time to time and I kept waiting for Gus to make his appearance. I got a bit distressed when he never did. I thought about trudging up the hill to look for him, but having not been up there with daylight to orient myself, and not having a flashlight of my own, I decided against that approach. I searched for one of the older kids to do my searching for me, but could not find one that was old enough to follow through and return with the desired news. I decided I’d wait until the next band break and have Tony go with me. Just prior to that happening, here comes my sweatshirt-with-the-hood-up wearing son. Crying. Profusely. He’d been playing spies with the older boys of the lead guitarist, they are 10 and 12, I believe, when some of the tween girls came looking for dance partners. Gus was assigned the task of guarding the fort until the boys’ return and also given orders to misdirect any future girls seeking dance partners. Apparently he took his orders quite seriously and patiently waited for more girls to come looking, while also anticipating the return of the boys. But he could wait no longer. It was dark. He was alone. He wasn’t sure how to get back to the crowd, though he obviously figured it out. After holding and comforting him and hearing his loud description of what had happened, amidst great tears, the band took a break. Dad came over to help out. The father of the boys stopped to see what was wrong and was pleased to get the inside scoop on what was happening between the girls and boys. Gus felt sufficiently reinforced to traipse out into the dark woods again. Pondering what had happened, and feeling bad that I hadn’t gone in search of him, it hit me. I think he was more upset over not getting to carry out his orders than he was scared of being left in the dark.
By now it was about 10, but since we’re in DST, really just 9, but past his bedtime either way. I knew I’d never convince him that it was time to go to sleep while there were kids still playing. I began to wonder just how late the other kids would stay up. I then realized that the other kids-or many of them anyway-would be leaving to go home to sleep. Not us. Our bed was scarcely 100’ from the amplified band, if that far even. The reality that getting him to go to bed before the band was done began to sink in. How long would the band play? It was already approaching 11, but by beer drinking, concert going, partiers, that was nothing. I was long past ready for sleep, but also realizing it wouldn’t likely happen while there was music playing. It was about this time, while the band was on another break that my son approaches me and asks when he can go to bed. “Who are you and what have you done with my son?” was my first thought. Gratitude my second. Mixed with a bit of disbelief that I’d even heard what I thought I’d heard. OK, so off to bed it is.
Sleep on the other hand was an entirely different story. The band only played one more set, but that didn’t mean the party-and thus the noise-was over. The last time I checked the clock, it was just after 3AM and there was a crowd of men outside talking-which was OK, but apparently whatever they were talking about was worthy of hearty laughs approximately every 45 seconds. Exhaustion must have finally taken over because I don’t recall anything else until the sun started bringing light to the windows. That had to be 530 or 6, though I didn’t check. I stayed in bed until nearly 9, Gus had been awake for a while and there was no convincing him that it was too early to be up. I learned that hardly anyone else got any sleep either and so didn’t feel singled out. :-)  The plan the night before had been for the guys to leave around 9 to go fishing. They left about 115.

I was eager to get to my book-the one whose first chapter (only 6 pages) I had barely finished the night before, and I started reading it when we checked in to our hotel Wednesday night! The one that I was certain I’d be able to get a great start on, given that I thought I had two entire nights with nothing else to do but read. Yeah right. I joked that I could have had 5 more chapters read had I not been waiting for them to leave prior to opening the book again. Oh well. I did read 3 after they left, amidst a good nap too.
Is there a moral to this story? What I’ve learned is to come prepared for the best. In this case, bringing 4 books (not that I’d finish them all, but to satisfy any mood), a planning notebook, and laptop for blogging, but allowing for unplanned and unforeseen schedule changes and taking advantage of those “un’s”. I’m not so good at the last part. I go to the Murphy’s Law way of thinking and mutter that had I not brought anything to do I’d have far too much free time. The other lesson is to seek out the person in the crowd that appears to be uncomfortable or lonely and ask about their day. I challenge you to do the same, you just might bring a bit of missing joy to that lonely soul.