Finally, one of my childhood dreams has come true:
I spent last night in a Little House on the Prairie episode.
At least, that’s what it sounded like, if I closed my eyes.
I wasn’t wearing a calico dress (although, let’s face it, I would have, if I could have found one) but nonetheless, I managed to pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder, wearing calico, at a dance in the church/school, swooning over Almanzo (Manly) Wilder.
I was actually wearing jeans and a voopy blouse, at the firehall/library, swooning over Practical Man, so it was kind of the same, really.
After over a decade of living in the country, Practical Man and I went to the Friday night jam session at the firehall/library. The same firehall/library, which has my favourite librarian (her name is also Christine; I don’t think that’s a coincidence) and which, Practical Man rarely hesitates to point out, is just under 5 km from our front door, which is a very good thing because it means that you get a break on your insurance rate. Over 5 km and you’re out of luck.
I can’t believe I know that thing about insurance rates. What is happening to me?
Anyway, the sandwich board sign we have driven past for over a decade advertised “Friday Night Jam Session: All Welcome. 7-10 pm” so even though I wasn’t wearing calico, we decided to go. We were slightly late and smelling heavily of garlic, on account of having just consumed a super tasty dinner of bruschetta made out of cherry tomatoes, basil and garlic from our garden.
Fresh bruschetta is totally worth the social consequences.
We found some chairs at the back of the room and, trying not to exhale garlic fumes too much, settled in to see what was what. There was a couple waltzing near the front, a lady crooning some old, lovely song at the microphone and a plethora of musicians behind her, playing assorted instruments.
The man next to me leaned over (dangerously into the garlic fume zone, I might add), nodded his head in the direction of the waltzers and said, “Can you believe they’ve been married 70 years?”
Since I have entered the middle of ages–and strapping university football players have alarmingly started asking me things during career counselling appointments like, “If I were YOUR son, what would you tell me to do?” even though I feel 23 and FAR too young to be a university student’s parent–I might have described the man next to me as “a young man” except that even though he was easily 20 years younger than I, he and his wife and I were all a good 30 years younger than everybody in the room. Practical Man leaned towards my ear and whispered, “Even I feel young in this place!” and although I, like Laura Ingalls Wilder, have married an older man, I agreed with him.
He DID look young (and not entirely dissimilar to Almanzo Wilder, if I squinted a little).
The man who was young (ahem, like me), appeared to know everyone in the room and told us that this place was “like family” and “don’t be nervous to sing because everyone is really nice”.
I had not come to sing or play guitar: I had come to get the lay of the Friday night jam session land (and to pretend I was Laura Ingalls Wilder).
Because, here’s the thing:
Not everyone can sing.
I can carry a tune but I’m not sure it’s public-performance-get-up-on-a-stage kind of worthy. And, I have more than one music-loving friend who is completely tone deaf. Listening to them belt out a song with the car radio is sort of torture. But, I always let them do it. In fact, I sing along. When I was a teenager, I used to always roll the windows down with my friend Niggle, because the pain of listening to him sing (I use that term loosely because really, there was only one note) was lessened somewhat if I was simultaneously exposed to fresh air.
And lots of it.
But he loved music and I couldn’t rob him of that. The joy of music is that it’s free to everyone, regardless of talent or tone-deafness.
Sometimes, this is a slightly painful philosophy to uphold.
Last night, the singers were not professional. They were, more often than not, septua or octo-genarians, but enthusiastic and often, quite capable. It really was like an episode of Little House on the Prairie, with Pa playing the fiddle and Ma and Mr. Edwards dancing and Laura and Mary clapping.
Okay, I’m back.
Anyway, the rules of the Friday Night Jam seemed to be:
- if you want to sing/play, sign up on The List
- when your name is called, you get to sing/play two songs, max (don’t be hoggy of the microphone, even though it’s super fun to sing into one)
- no song shall have been written after 1955 (we’ll make an exception for Buddy Holly but only because Don does that stuff really well)
- audience shall clap enthusiastically for everyone
- dance if you’re inspired (waltz, foxtrot, two-step…ie REAL dancing only)
- there will, of course, be a lunch
The musical repertoire was from before my time (because I am oh-so young!) but often recognizable and sweet, even if I didn’t know the words. Practical Man kept singing along.
He seemed to know the words to that one.
And the next one, too.
As in, ALL the words.
This is what comes from having a May-September romance. He really is the Almanzo Wilder to my Laura Ingalls.
Around 8:15, there was The Lunch.
One of my favourite things about country parties and Legion dances is that there’s always The Lunch. It’s so vintage feeling and there is some magical formula that makes those triangle sandwiches always taste so good when you’re eating them in a firehall/library.
Then, it was back to the music. There was someone playing a fiddle (because that’s what you call a violin in the country):
There was also a harmonica, keyboards, guitar, base and even a mandolin (I love to imitate a mandolin, the way my dad does when he’s singing along to the Mr. Bojangles song, but I won’t do that here).
The couple celebrating their 70th anniversary would occasionally get up and waltz.
Mitch (the young man sitting next to us) and his bride Brittany did the two-step to a jaunty number.
There were some mumblers (think: Jeff Bridges in True Grit, not Bob Dylan) and painful singers who hadn’t quite cracked what key they should be in, but overall, it was lovely and rural and vintage-y.
That is, until, Mitch leaned over and said, “I guess you can see that you and us are quite a lot younger than everyone here.”
Before I could nod and act nonchalantly as if I wasn’t old enough to be Mitch’s mother, he continued, “I’m 26 and Brittany’s 22. What are you, 30?”
That’s when this episode of Little House on the Prairie became:
The Best Night Ever.