Father-Daughter Dance

Back when I was in single-dad mode, my eight/nine year old daughter and I were living in a small apartment by ourselves. Like many kids that age, she loved cartoons and animated movies, but she could not sit down and just watch them. She always had to be doing something else at the same time; dancing, playing with Barbies, coloring – typical short attention span, multi-tasking kind of stuff that her generation is infamous for. There was only one exception to that rule – one that surprised me, and might surprise you too – The Wizard of Oz.

Judy Garland and her misfit band of fanciful friends absolutely mesmerized her. She would sit and watch the VHS movie all the way through, from beginning to end. Then she would rewind it and watch it again. It was the only movie or tv show for a number of years that captivated her imagination like that.

She knew the songs. She knew the dialog. She knew the whole movie forwards and backwards.

Which is why, when she asked me to choose a song for the Father-Daughter dance at her wedding this past Saturday, I chose the Israel Kamakawiwo’Ole version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

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First of all, it is an awesome song. And the merging of it with Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World was genius. “Brother Iz” was amazing.

But the primary reason I chose that song was that the memory of she and I watching the Wizard of Oz together reminds me that it was her presence, her sweet face, her loving heart, her beautiful innocence that helped me survive one of the most difficult, lonely times of my life. I couldn’t have made it without her. She gave me a reason to keep fighting – a reason to keep living.

Though it remained unspoken, I think we both knew that if we could get through that valley – if we could find our way out of that wilderness – and reach the land above and beyond the rainbow, a wonderful world would be ours. But we would only be able to get there together.

And we did.

And it’s wonderful.

 

Who gives this woman?

My daughter sent me a text message yesterday asking; when the minister asks, “who gives this woman to be married to this man?” what I wanted to reply.

It is a valid question considering that the typical “her mother and I” response doesn’t really work since she has two step-parents that should be included just as much as her biological ones. And, “her mother, step-father, evil step-mother, and I” doesn’t roll off the tongue very well.

But it begs the question – Is she really ours to “give”? Or is this wedding tradition another one of those remnants still hanging on from a patriarchal society where daughters and wives were treated as property?

But suddenly, in the midst of my internal debate, it hit me. My kid – my only child – my baby girl is getting married tomorrow.

Holy crap!

Everything just shifted from my head, to the middle of my chest.

A coworker asked me last week if I was okay with her getting married, and I responded with a light-hearted “yeah”. And I am. She is a really good kid with a good head on her shoulders. I believe with all my heart that she is making a well thought-out decision about her life. She loves her fiancé and is marrying him because she wants to spend the rest of her life with him – not because (like too many young brides today) she wants to be a princess in a fairytale or because all of her friends are getting married and she doesn’t want to be left out. No, she is smarter and more grounded than that. So, yeah, I am okay with it.

He replied, “You can say that now. But when the day comes and you see your little girl in that white dress – you’re just going to immediately become a big blubbering idiot. You know that right?”

Yeah – I know that too.

And I’m okay with it.

So while I am being sappy anyway, I will share with you a song that I did NOT choose for our father-daughter dance in an attempt to avoid that whole blubbering thing. (The song I did choose will be a topic for a later blog.)

I love you Kiddo!

I have a request

When it came to my own musical tastes, for a number of years I drew a very solid distinction between the kinds of music I liked and the kinds I absolutely hated. I left very little room in between for music that I kind of liked but didn’t really love. One of the things that I always said was that I HATED country music. Unfortunately if you looked at my iPod right now, that statement wouldn’t hold water. In fact over the years, that line in the sand has become blurry; blown around by the winds of time, washed away by the crashing waves of maturity… and a few other corny sounding metaphors.

A more accurate statement is that I dislike most of what can be categorized as “modern” country. I still feel like the stuff they play on local country radio is mostly drivel. In fact, I keep my alarm clock tuned to it so that when it goes off in the morning, I want nothing more than to get up and turn it off just to make it stop! MAKE IT STOP!!!

But I love a lot of classic country as well as “alt. country” and americana – not to mention bluegrass and folk. But for the majority of my life there has been one man – one singer/songwriter – that has walked that line brilliantly. His studio albums make a considerable footprint in my CD collection and get plenty of iPod play-time. That man is Lyle Lovett.

And for the first time ever, I have tickets to see him live on Tuesday sharing a stage with another long-time favorite, John Hiatt.

I am a little bit excited.

Lyle is a master – a legend. He is the penultimate example of smooth, Texas gentleman country. And in the 80’s, he had epic hair AND Julia Roberts.

Wow.

Dad introduced me to his music in my youth with clever, often funny, and musically masterful songs like “If I Had a Boat” and “She’s Hot to Go”. It’s tough to forget such easy to identify with lyrics like “she was ugly from the front” – isn’t it? And as much as I still love those songs, my tastes tend to lean more towards those hauntingly beautiful, dark, and melancholy tracks. I am not sure why, but those are the ones that really stick with me.

So since my voice doesn’t carry very well, especially in a place like the Fabulous Fox Theater in St. Louis, I thought that today I would use my blog as a platform to shout out my requests:

“PLAY FREEBIRD!”

1.  She’s Already Made Up Her Mind is one of those haunting songs. It is about that soul-crushing moment in a relationship that you realize that the relationship is over, but the coroner dwarf has not yet read the proclamation. It is such a personal and accessible feeling for many of us that no matter how many times I listen to it, my heart breaks a little each & every time.

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2.  L.A. County is a dark and brilliantly written story song. It has one of those driving rhythms that starts off kind of slow but builds slowly, like the story itself, to a dramatic climax that you never really see coming.

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3.  If I Were the Man You Wanted is another heart-breaker from Lovett’s eponymous debut album. It was actually recorded by (the awesome) Nanci Griffith before he released his own version. “if I were the man she wanted, I would not be the man that I am

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4.  (Please ignore the cheesy video – it’s the best I could find unfortunately.) Private Conversation seems to be about regret, or getting over those relationships above and moving on with your life. I’m not sure, but I love it. My favorite song from the Road To Ensenada album is a close race between this one and “I Can’t Love You Anymore”.

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5.  Lyle Lovett is an amazing songwriter, so I will be perfectly satisfied if he only plays his own songs – but if he decides to play one cover, if there is a God in Heaven, it will be one written by Townes Van  Zandt, like the unbelievably beautiful If I Needed You.

I’m a Slacker

Last Friday I openly hoped (through a Facebook status) that the weekend would be relaxing and stress-free for once. Someone must’ve heard me, because for the most part, it was! We worked a little around the house and yard, read a few chapters in our respective books, grilled out a meal or two, watched some bad TV, and listened to music.

Some might even say that we took it a little too far.

Any time I think of the word "slacker" I picture the movie Reality Bites for some reason - especially Ethan Hawke's character. To me, he will always be the epitome of a slacker.

When we woke up Sunday morning it was too late for us to make it to church – so we casually just skipped. And we skipped in style. We got up, got ready and went to Cracker Barrel for a little too much breakfast. Then we went to see a movie – an activity that has been severely lacking lately. That’s right – we replaced worship with a date. And I would be lying if I implied that it wasn’t great.

But as a guy who holds more than one church leadership position, the son of parents who have also held leadership positions nearly as long as I can remember, and the brother of a United Methodist pastor… to some extent I felt the unmistakable pang of guilt about it.

To be honest, I think it is fine to miss church occasionally. Sometimes it’s even necessary. And if I were to pull my fictional records from the last several years it would probably show a history of a few missed Sundays around the end of the school year / beginning of Summer. It is typically a time of decompression – at least for us.

And with my daughter’s upcoming nuptials in less than two weeks, we better take a day of rest and relaxation when and where we can get it.