I’m Banana-Seat Bicycle Years Old

4th grade: Linda, Taryl, Me, and Christy

When I was a kid, back in the Dark Ages, we didn’t have the Internet. There was no YouTube. No Nintendo. No TikTok. No Snapchat. We couldn’t text friends. We didn’t even have answering machines or voicemail, so if you tried to call your friend and they didn’t answer you had to ride your banana-seat bicycle blocks to their house to talk to them. We didn’t have homework that took hours. We walked to the local school by ourselves, walked home with friends, and hung out. We didn’t spend our nights in front of screens. Instead, we ran around with our neighbor friends playing Hide and Seek or Kick the Can until our parents yelled from the front door or flickered our porch light to signal they wanted to go to sleep so they were required by law to make sure we were home safely.

With all that free time and parents who really didn’t care what we were doing or where we were just as long as the house was quiet, we were “free range kids.” We would yell that we were going to ride our bikes, the screen door would slam behind us, and no one would have a clue where we were for hours on end. No one had an app to track us. They did not care. So, we did stupid things. We made mistakes. We were creative. We had endless hours of unstructured play and not a parent around to check up on us. It’s how you learned about life in the days before you watched “content” from the security of your bedroom while your parents yelled at you to get off your iPad, monitored your electronics usage, and turned off the Wifi to get your attention.

Here are a few things I did between the ages of 9 and 15, which should illustrate how innocent life was back then:

I would walk to the end of the block to see my friend, Amy. In the basement of her split-level home, we would listen to Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves by Cher. I am pretty sure we made up a dance routine to that song. I have no idea why we chose that particular song, but I’m going to hazard a guess it was because her parents owned Cher’s record. I believe it might also have been at Amy’s house where I sang into an ice-cream-cone-shaped candle that served as a microphone. Sadly, we sang was Barry Manilow’s Can’t Smile Without You.

Back in the days before caller ID, my best friend, Kerry, and I would call the house of a cute boy we knew. He was a mall rat we also knew from church. He had brown, curly hair, and we thought he was adorable. We would ring his house repeatedly, hoping he would answer. He often didn’t. So we would hang up. Sometimes, though, he would answer. We would still hang up. We just thought he had a cute voice. After a while, they stopped answering their phone altogether. One day we discovered the number was out of service. His parents had changed to an unlisted number because they had grown sick of getting hung up on.

My sisters and I would walk to the local swimming pool, which was two miles away. We would stay there for hours, swimming with friends. buying Cokes and Big Hunks from the snack shop. One time while we were walking home, we got caught up in a heavy thunderstorm with lightning. As we were running through the park parallel to the road, a police officer pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride. He drove us the last few blocks to our home. Our parents worked, so no one was home when we got there. No one saw us arrive in a squad car, so there were no questions.

In elementary school, my friends and I all had Drooper dogs. They were toy dogs with soft, plush fur, stuffed heads, plastic eyes, black pompom noses, and bean-filled bodies. My friends and I had many of these dogs, as they were one of the “in” toys then. When Grease came out, we decided to recreate the movie using the stuffed dogs as the characters. We used fabric scraps to create dresses for the female characters and vests for the male characters. We had an 8 track tape of the soundtrack, so we choreographed dance numbers for the dogs and worked out the entire performance.

A lot has changed in thirty-five years. Kids are more carefully watched. Parents are more vigilant. We have phones that can track everywhere we are. We aren’t really free range people anymore.

Get Out Of Their Way And Oh The Places They’ll Go

“You’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~Dr. Seuss

KWCW 90.5 Walla Walla

Yesterday I wrote about how freeing it is to let your adult children find themselves. It’s not easy to step back and get out of their way, especially if they have been your full-time job for twenty years, but it is a game changer for them and for you. After finishing my post last night, the universe provided proof of this to me.

On September 30th, the day I left Joe at Whitman College to begin his second semester, he attended the Student Activities Fair. When I asked him what activities or clubs he approached at the fair, I was a little taken aback when he told me he was submitting an application to be a DJ at the campus radio station. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised. Joe has long been aware of and interested in music. In May 2005 when he was not yet four, I put on some classical music for him to listen to and he listened for a few seconds and then said, “I don’t like that song. I just like to listen to Green Day in the car.” Since the day we brought them home from the hospital, our children have been exposed to alternative and indie rock, with the occasional 80s or 90s song thrown in for good measure, because that is what we listen to on satellite radio. Joe’s interest in Green Day grew into interest in The Killers. In his early teens, he acquired a side affinity for Asian pop music due to his love of anime, but ultimately he landed back in the alt rock genre around his sophomore year of high school.

Joe asked me to look over his application. He was putting in for a slot for a program he was calling Breaking Down Alternative. He was planning to go by JC (his first and middle initials) on the air and his show would go behind the music and delve into the artists’ influences and their personal stories. I told him it all looked good and took a “we’ll see” approach because I had no idea what kind of competition there might be for DJ slots. Lo and behold, a couple weeks later he casually texted it was official. He was going to be a DJ on Wednesday nights at 11 pm.

So last night, Steve and I stayed up from midnight until 1 am to listen to our son the DJ through a link he had provided to us. After a little fumbling at the beginning of his time slot, where two other DJs could be heard helping Joe get set up before realizing with a laugh that they were live, Joe finally came online. We heard him introduce himself and his show and then play his first song. With each passing song, the seamlessness with which he spoke and then started the music increased. It was amazing to be part of his first on-air experience. We could hear his smile through the radio, and it made us smile. We texted with him throughout the program. He was relaxed and happy and stunned by the quality of the music through the radio headphones. Our son blew us away, not because we thought he wouldn’t rise to the occasion but because he was out there, pursuing something that he loved and taking risks to put himself there. And this is why I said yesterday that he is a joy. He continually surprises us with his adulting, his knowledge of himself, and his choices. Like any college student, sometimes he misses the mark and stumbles, but he has proven that he learns from his missteps and then improves with the freshly acquired knowledge. Isn’t that exactly what a parent hopes for when they launch their child into the big, wide world?

This is why giving them a strong foundation and then letting them go to see what they will accomplish while they climb their own mountain is rewarding. The things we want or choose for them might pale in comparison to what they choose for themselves. What do we know, after all? As much as we tend to see our children as extensions of ourselves, they aren’t. They are completely different animals with their own ideas and talents. If we get out of their way, they might teach us something.

Joe introducing his second song on air last night

Kids Are Only Exhausting Until They Become Adults

The dog on her daily W

While taking the dog for her nightly “W” (that should be read as the sound of the letter W), I wandered by a house where a toddler was whining heavily in a garage. I heard a parent sighing and trying to coax them into the house. It took me back to the days when my sons were young and when I was that exhausted. It feels like a lifetime ago, and it kind of was. I realize now that what was so exhausting back then was the being fully responsible for someone else. The kid is covered in dirt and is also somehow sticky and he needs a bath, and he’s never going to stop playing long enough to use soap on his filth. That, unfortunately, is my problem. It makes me tired thinking about it. I felt for that neighbor with the whiny toddler. As I passed by, I sent him some silent encouragement. “Don’t worry, buddy. You’ll get through this.”

Tonight, my oldest son called from college. We don’t talk often on the phone. When he started school in Washington, I told myself I would let him have his space. He was free to call me when he wanted to, but I would only reach out via text. It was both a good way for him to start his own life without parental interference and a good way for me to accept that his life was his alone now. Putting some distance between us was difficult at first, but it was crucial. How could I expect him to adult if I was checking in, making him feel he had to worry about what his mom thought of his choices? Plus, it has given me space to consider what’s next for me in my life. And it’s always a fun surprise when he calls.

As Joe was updating me quickly on his life, talking about feeling overwhelmed with papers coming due simultaneously, I gently reminded him about the syllabi and how he can figure out ahead of time when these things might happen. Then I told him that I know he will get it worked out and next time he will probably manage his time better. College is about learning, and that learning isn’t only done in classes. It’s done in figuring out how to manage your workload, how to balance friendships and extracurricular activities with obligations, and how to step out of your comfort zone to find out who you are and who you might want to be in the future without anyone else telling you what that should look like for you. Once he had chatted with me long enough to realize that it’s his problem how he chooses to complete the four papers he has due this week while not falling behind with his assigned readings, he said he was going to go for a bike ride to clear his head so he could get down to it. “My work here is done,” I thought.

The thing about letting your kids go is that it is hard. You cry. You miss them. You slowly come to understand that your life with them will never be the same. They are no longer yours. They are free and they are their own people. And that can be hard to wrap your loving-parent brain around. Where once you really were the boss of them, now you are merely an advisor, and that is only if they award you that position. What I’ve come to embrace about this new dynamic is that giving my sons their freedom also gives me mine. So, yeah. I miss the hell out of Joe. Ninety-five percent of the time, that grown kid is a goddam joy. I don’t, however, miss being his keeper. I don’t miss cleaning up after him or keeping him on track with deadlines or making sure he has everything he needs for school. Those are his issues now. And my issues now are making sure I have ordered my favorite espresso beans, taken time to give the dog her W on a gorgeous fall day, and gotten tickets to that comedy show I wanted to see. My new responsibilities are a lot more fun than bathing a whiny child at the end of a long day and then falling into bed exhausted so I can wake up and do it all over again.

If you keep moving forward, you eventually come out on the other side. It’s not so bad here.

Back when our kids wiped us (and themselves) out

Exorcising The Ghosts Of The Past

What I used to record portions of the Live Aid concert in 1985

In the days before the Internet and FaceTime and Zoom and texting, people wrote letters. A stamp, a pen, and a piece of paper were all you needed to share the contents of your mind and heart with someone who was worth the effort of your time and questionable penmanship. As is the habit for many people, I saved quite a few of the letters I received over the years from friends and boyfriends. I kept them in a box that once held my cassette player (back in the days when cassettes were a thing). Over time, that box got rather stuffed with random correspondence. I didn’t open it very often to read its contents, but I dragged it with me each time I moved. It would relocate from the top of one closet shelf to another, from apartment to apartment. There was something about knowing those letters were there if I ever wanted to trot down memory lane or perhaps clarify a memory that had become distorted or foggy.

When my husband and I got engaged and decided to move in together, he was helping me move boxes into my car when he came across that one. He asked me why I was bringing it. After all, if these letters represented relationships that had long since gone defunct, why was I clinging to them? I honestly could not give him a suitable answer. If I’d said I was keeping them for sentimental reasons, that would only make the box more of an issue in our relationship at the time. I didn’t know how to respond. In the absence of a viable response, he asked me if I could add them to the dumpster along with the wooden case holding 100 cassette tapes I no longer needed since he had a CD player he was willing to share. I acquiesced because he had never asked for anything from me, we were getting married and he was my future, and it seemed like a small sacrifice I should be willing to make for someone who had never been anything but kind, loving, supportive, and patient with me. With a pang of disappointment, I lobbed them over the wall of the dumpster, turned around, and tried not to look back. I was twenty-six then, he twenty-four.

In the years since, we both have felt deep regret over that event. He has felt horrible for asking me to toss a box of papers because he felt a little jealous about its existence. I have felt anger at myself for not defending my right to keep them because they were harmless mementos from my youth. But there is no unringing that bell. They are long gone. So now we just carry around the shame regarding that missing box instead of carrying around the box itself, which we have both agreed is so much more emotionally cumbersome than that damn box ever was.

This decision, made in our youth when we were not emotionally mature and had no real experience to gift us with greater perspective, has laden us with invisible baggage that we have hauled for decades. It’s something he doesn’t like me to mention because he feels just that bad about it, but I don’t blame him because the box is gone. I blame myself for not being self-aware enough to tell him it was part of my life I wasn’t ready to jettison. But it’s time for us to unload our disappointment in ourselves and the choices we made when we were younger and not able to see so far into the future. Seriously. Who can see twenty-seven years into the future when they aren’t even twenty-seven yet? The guilt and shame we feel needs to go. That box has long since been replaced by countless wonderful memories and experiences as our life together has been filled with love and fun and two absolutely-perfect-in-nearly-every-way adult sons, not to mention dozens upon dozens of cards and notes we have written to each other and saved. Therefore, I am declaring it time to move on. I may not be able to read those missives again, but I have something much more important. I would never trade my current life, our family, our shared experiences for those pieces of paper and neither would he. It’s way past time for us to toss the shame and self-flaggelation in the dumpster and move forward.

The Growth Proposition

Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Angelou

This saying by Maya Angelou is what I have to remind myself every day. It’s not right to beat myself up over mistakes I made in my past because I was doing the best I could with the knowledge and self-awareness I had at that point. Current me wishes I had been capable of making better choices for myself back then because if I had grown more back then, I wouldn’t be working so hard now. I would have had a head start. But that is not how personal growth works. Personal growth begins with awareness. Sometimes we don’t recognize that we need help right away. Sometimes we aren’t even aware that we’ve been abused or that we have any personal deficiency at all (I’m looking at you, narcissists).

The good news is that I know better now and I am doing better. Yes. I still overreact and get anxious. Yes. I constantly think I am I am screwing up and then mentally beat myself up over it. Yes. I am still often incapable of seeing what anyone would see in me and I have a difficult time trusting people. But there are things I now understand about my past that have helped me to do better in my present. I was able to break cycles from my childhood and do better for my sons. I have learned to be braver. I am working at standing up for myself, asking for what I want, and even (gasp) inconveniencing someone else if what I have asked for has not been delivered correctly. I’m getting better at catching myself before my fears and anxiety spiral out of control and lead me to dark places. It’s just not going as fast as I would like, but I understand now that this is a process. And that thought is also proof that I am doing better.

I remind myself daily that I might not be as far along as I would like, but awareness is a better place than many people get to. You can’t have personal growth without it, and I like to think that I am a growth proposition. Put your money on me, people. I can do this.

The Next Step Is A Doozy

“You don’t need to take all of the steps. Only the next one.”

For thirteen years, we’ve lived with a beautiful, anxious, determined, crazy, personality-plus border collie. We have adored her 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time we were wondering what planet she came from and pondering how to deal with her quirks. Dogs are something else. They are furry animals. Animals. And you let them live in your home and sleep in your bedroom. You buy them food and put them on ropes and walk them around outside. You travel with them. They become part of your people family, but they are still animals at the end of the day. Short-lived animals at that. It took us about ten years to understand our border collie, and now we’re on the precipice of losing our sweet baby girl. It’s been a rewarding (and now heartbreaking) journey.

We’ve never had one day in our home without a dog, so when we learned Ruby is losing kidney function we decided it was time to get a second dog that at some point will become our only dog. This is how Ruby came to us. Buddy was our senior dog who began having seizures and other problems. We saw his suffering and knew he wasn’t long for this world, so we selfishly got a puppy to ease our sadness around his transition. A funny thing happened when Ruby came along, though. Buddy (who Luke said was “on death’s doorstep”) suddenly perked up. He initially wasn’t thrilled to have Ruby around, but soon enough they settled into an arrangement. As time went on, Buddy became a bit more active. He played. It’s as if he saw the new dog and said to us, “Hey, hey, hey. I see what you’re doing here. Not so fast. I’m not done yet.” Luke said Buddy “must have drank from the Holy Grail” because he lived a year beyond the seizure we thought would be his end. I suppose now we are thinking that a new puppy might also give Ruby a new leash on life in her final months.

So today we did a thing. We made a commitment to purchase our next, greatest furry family member. Not a replacement for Ruby, as there will never be another dog like her, but a successor. We will be getting a BHT (black-headed tri-color) Corgi from an AKC breeder in Utah before the end of September. When we pick him up, he will be 8 weeks old. He will have been socialized with his five littermates and the breeder’s children, other dogs and pets, and farm animals. He will be cute but he will not look like the dog he will eventually become. He will be an energetic, active, ball of shedding fluff that will keep us awake at night for a while and keep us on our toes for years. We don’t know who this new family member will be or what role he will fill in our family unit, but we know he will bring new life into our home and shake us up. It’s scary, but it’s also exciting as hell. It’a a big commitment, but our kids are grown and we’re ready to experience some youthful energy again.

So, without further ado, meet our future family member, Loki.

He has a seven on his head, so we’re thinking he will be Loki Seven.

I’ll Carry My Own Wine, Thanks

Something occurred to me this morning. The purpose of this trek was to deliver Thing One to Washington to begin his first full year of college. Everything I’ve done the past twenty years led to these moments. And as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing Joe here and helping him get set up, one thing has finally sunk in. My work here is finished. Maybe not completely, as I’m sure soon enough he will be asking me to edit a paper or send him something he forgot. But I can’t pretend any longer that life as I have known it is the same. It’s not. I’ve spent the past twenty years laser focused on my children. Now it’s time to shift my focus. I imagine it’s like the day after the retirement party. You wake up and think to yourself, “Well, now what?”

The beauty of eastern Washington with her eye on the Blues

Joe and I had tentative plans to have dinner together today, but I woke up this morning with not one other thing on my agenda. I sat in my hotel room and took a deep breath. What the hell do I want to do? Not what do I have to do, but what do I want to do? I haven’t had many occasions to ask myself that for a long time. I decided that rather than sit in bed and feel sad and lonely, I had best get showered, do something with myself, and get some coffee. Seeking something new but still in my heart needing something that felt like the life I have known, I decided to drive out to Target in Richland because Richland is new to me but Target is my normal.

At Target, I wandered aimlessly to kill time. I knew Joe needed hangers and a small fan and I needed some water, so I took care of those things. I would pick an item up, thinking Joe could use it in his dorm room, and then I would remember that it’s not my job to decorate his room anymore and move on. I quickly realized that, although on most days Target can cheer me up, today was not going to be that kind of day.

I decided I needed to regroup. I bought myself a green tea from Starbucks and sat in my car thinking about what else I could do. I began researching a winery I had driven by on my way out to Richland. Going to a wine tasting solo sounded awkward, but I needed to get comfortable being uncomfortable. I’m starting over. Everything is going to feel weird for a while until it doesn’t anymore. Be brave. Be bold. Go big or go home. I booked a 2:15 tasting and went to grab some food. I ate lunch at a picnic table near the Columbia River and enjoyed the shade before heading back towards Walla Walla.

Nice day on the Columbia

I had driven past the L’Ecole No. 41 winery a few times on previous trips. I found my way up the stairs and into the main sales area and told them I had a reservation. I was seated on the back deck at a table with just one chair, which immediately made me feel at ease. Nothing can make you feel more obviously alone than being a single at a table meant for two. I made small talk with the server as he poured my wine. And then I was there alone, sipping delicious wine, enjoying the sunny day in eastern Washington, the wasps swirling around a tree and some children playing on an old seesaw on the grassy yard below. As each pour came and went, I started to relax a tiny bit more. I allowed myself to envision a life where I have fewer demands on my time and greater freedom to be conscious about how I choose to spend that time. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all?

I did eventually meet up with Joe to give him the last few items he needed, to see the finished dorm room, and to grab a bite to eat. We enjoyed Indian food from the same restaurant we ate takeout from when we arrived in Walla Walla in January. Joe told me about his past, solo 24 hours. He told me he nearly had trouble assembling the storage unit we bought for his room until he remembered his bike tool had a screwdriver he could use. He told me his new section mates seemed like a quiet group and he was glad. He thanked me for bringing the final items. I told him about my trip to Richland and the winery. I told him how an older gentleman (yes…older than me) asked if I needed help carrying my wine to my car. I complimented him on his dorm room. Before I knew it, we were discussing when to meet up in the morning for my departure.

Lovely downtown Walla Walla urging me Forward

I know this is going to be a process. I’m creating a new normal, but I can do it. It was a new normal when Joe came into the world weeks early and weighing only 5 pounds. I survived that and then doubled down and spent years doing a pretty good job at Mom. I bet if you give me a few years, I’ll be doing a pretty good job at Justine too.

Do I need help carrying my wine? Jesus, man. I raised two kickass sons and dropped one off at college yesterday. Can’t you see how goddamn strong I am? I’ll carry my own wine, thanks.

I bet this dog carries his own wine too

And In My Next Life…

I am going to take a break from my melancholy to say that, in my next life, I would like to come back as my son. This is not some sort of weird, Freaky Friday swap idea. I’m just saying that my son is currently living his best life. He would agree with me. Ask him. After a summer break when he flew out of town three times, climbed multiple 14ers, spent time with friends, logged hundreds of miles on his bike, and played a thousand games of corn hole, the kid moves to college where he his dorm room is a single with a full-size bed in a residence hall opened in 2018. His room also has a decent sized closet with an actual door and full-length mirror, a built-in desk/reading light on the wall, and a floor-to-ceiling window. And did I mention there is a small wall with built-in shelves too? My college dorm had none of this.

Basic sophomore digs at Whitman College

I knew the dorm was posh. It is directly across a lawn from the dorm Joe was in over the spring semester and right next to the dining hall, which was also built in 2018 and deserves its own post with its coffee house, sushi chefs, and wood-fired pizza oven. Joe had us watch a YouTube video about his hall before he headed back to school, so I was well aware what would await us when we walked in the doors with Joe’s belongings. Still, it was something else stepping inside the building.

Main floor hang out space complete with fireplace and grand piano

After this welcome, we ascended two flights of wooden stairs to reach the common area, which they call the “section lounge.” It has a full kitchen, a long table for sharing communal meals, and another seating area for casual meetings. Everyone has to to pass through the section lounge area before reaching their rooms, which facilitates conversation.

There are nine of these separate sections in this building, each with its own kitchen and lounge area. I look at this and I can imagine my son stumbling out of his room, pouring himself some cereal, and sitting down on one of the sofas and spilling Cinnamon Toast Crunch. It’s going to happen.

Oh…and the bathrooms. The bathrooms are behind the kitchen further down the center of the hall. There are four showers with changing area, shower stall, and locking door.

I think the look says, “Really, Mom?”

After we had moved everything out of the car, set up the bed and mini-fridge, and made a trip to Walmart for a couple last-minute items to spruce up his space, I took my leave so he could finish up himself. He likes setting up rooms and making them his own. I’m looking forward to the reveal tomorrow.

I am enjoying living vicariously through him. I’d like to come back as my son not just because he’s got cool dorm digs for this year. I’d like to come back as my son because he’s in a lot better place at 20 than I was, literally and figuratively. If I can’t come back as him, though, I hope he’ll keep living his best life because that is really all that matters to me.

Patching The Small Hole In My Heart

Car loaded and ready to go

Today was D Day. That is shorthand for Departure Day. Today was the day Joe and I began our trek back to Whitman College so he can begin his first full year. It’s a 16-plus hour drive that we break down into two travel days. Today we headed to Boise. It is my third time this year making this 1,100-mile trek. But I love road trips, and time with Thing 1 is at the top of my list of favorite things.

I won’t lie. I cried a little last night. It’s the weirdest sensation to be so happy for someone and excited to hear how their college experience and life unfolds and at the same time be sad for your loss of their daily presence. I could not be any prouder of or happier for Joe. And I am proud of any action I took that helped him achieve his goal of being college ready and getting accepted to a quality, respected institution of higher learning. But, I will miss him tons.

The other day, during another short pre-departure cry, I told my husband that sometimes parenting hurts so much that I think maybe it would have been easier if I’d never had children. But that is just silly because my sons have been the single greatest joy of my life. I would have missed out on all that love, laughter, and learning if I hadn’t been their mother. They are everything to me, and I would not take back one single moment of the life I have led because of them. Not even the ones that made me cry.

Today during the drive I recalled this story. When Joe was about 7, he had a plethora of Webkinz stuffies. One day he came to me with his stuffed rhinoceros. He pointed out a tiny hole in one of the seams on his furry, light blue body. He was visibly sad. I told him I could fix that small hole and he would be fine. Joe, reflecting on how the hole came about, said “I think I must have loved him too much.” As I was discussing this story with Joe and got weepy again. I told him that this is hard because I guess I love him too much. He told me it is all good and I don’t need to cry because he’s not really going anywhere.

This time, I guess, it was his turn to sew up a hole in the thing he loves.

In the olden days

I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night — In Person Again

Last night my family and I did something we haven’t done since February of last year: we attended a concert in person. What seems like ages ago, we purchased tickets to the Hellamega Tour featuring Weezer, Fall Out Boy, and Green Day. The show was supposed to be last July, but then we all know what happened. So, it was rescheduled. The concert was held outdoors at a soccer stadium and we are vaccinated, but still we were a little wary about attending because of the crowd size and our knowledge that the vaccine we got is only 66% effective against the prevalent and more contagious Delta strain of Covid-19. Since Joe is heading off to college tomorrow and doesn’t want to end up in quarantine, we decided as a family to wear masks just in case someone we encountered in the 20k people crowd was contagious.

The show was held at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, which shall henceforth be known simply as “not my favorite.” We paid $20 to park in Egypt and walk a literal mile to get to our seats. The venue’s web site listed that you could bring in one factory-sealed water bottle per person. I don’t normally buy water bottles because, well, single-use plastic, but I bought one for each member of our family just to be told at the gate that they were not permitted. Grrrrr. Once inside, we ended up spending $20 for four bottles because capitalism. Not certain I will clamor to see a show here again.

That said, the concert itself was AMAZING, easily one of the best shows I’ve ever attended, and I have seen somewhere around or above 100 live concerts in my estimation. Due in part to the parking nightmare and the cross-country trek to our seats, we were a little too late to catch the majority of the Weezer set. We saw Weezer in July of 2018, though, so we decided to make our peace with it and adjust our attitudes accordingly to prepare for the rest of the show.

Fall Out Boy

Luke and I had seen Fall Out Boy together in 2015, so we knew what to expect. Patrick Stump had zero trouble with the altitude that often trips up other singers and belted out their set list like a Colorado resident. The stage show, complete with all manner of pyrotechnics, including flames shooting from Pete Wentz’s bass, was great. Fall Out Boy performs true to their album sound and with twice as much energy. I started listening to Fall Out Boy in 2005 when the boys were just 4 and 2, so it was fun to have Luke turn to me during some of their older songs I was singing along to and ask, “What is this one called?” It’s always good to surprise your kids with your knowledge about anything. And I loved when Pete Wentz called out a person in the front of the stadium for being on their phone too much. He reminded the crowd that we’ve been locked up looking at our phones at home for a year, and it was time to put them down and live life. Preach it, Pete!

As expected, Green Day was the highlight of the evening. Before they came on stage, the speakers blasted Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for a little pre-show sing along. When Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool started the show off with an oddly appropriate American Idiot, they set the tempo for the rest of their set. They were rocking like it was 1991 and they were still 19 rather than 49. I had to marvel that I have been listening to this band for THIRTY years. I couldn’t decide if that made me really old, them really old, us all really old, or all of us just incredible cool. Billie Joe made a point to remind us all several times that we were alive and finally here to enjoy live music and that we should all be basking in the joy of the moment. So, we did. When they covered Kiss’s 1975 classic I Wanna Rock n Roll All Night, the crowd was a haze of jumping, clapping, and singing along. At times it felt like the entire stadium could be heard miles away. And during a couple particularly punk songs, I was transported back to the person I used to be, the one who would end up in the middle of a slam dancing group on the venue floor. (Mind you, I didn’t do that in the stands because I’m 53 and that might no longer be a wise choice.) We left physically exhausted but mentally energized, without a second thought to the ticket price that initially had given me sticker shock.

It had been 18 months since I had seen a live show, long enough that I had nearly forgotten how much being in person at a show is in my DNA. I have been seeing concerts since I was 15. Some years I could only afford one show, while other years I saw upwards of ten. There is something magical about attending a concert, knowing that all the strangers there have something in common with you. They also like this music enough to invest in it. There is nothing like singing and dancing along with thousands of other people who share your love of music. It’s intoxicating. It brings me to tears at some point during every single show. How lucky we are to have music to remind us that life is worth living even when it’s been challenging and somewhat dark. Last night was a good reminder that those who enjoy live music are never truly alone in a crowd.