We gathered last night at John and Ashley’s house, all adorned with beauty and festivity, to wish Ruby a Happy Birthday. Our little treasure sat on her mother’s hip in her pretty holiday dress, full of smiles and kisses. I thought back to one year ago when her parents clasped hands in the hospital and welcomed her here, a rare moment when the other kids were not buzzing around them; Ashley as beautiful as a woman can ever be; baby Ruby so fresh and quivering in innocence.
I paused in a moment of introspection in the middle of the night last night, thinking about birth, trying to recall, somewhere down in the memory box behind the belly button, what that very first breath felt like, when I was still connected to my original life source, when my flesh first encountered air all chill and dry against my new wet skin. I can’t recall it in exactness, but it feels correct that it did happen, much the same way as it feels correct that I came from somewhere meaningful before I got this skin. The snowy white softness of Ruby’s cheeks when I hold them in my leathery old hands reminds me how blessed I am to have lived this long, to have been privileged to see my children grow, to embrace a new generation of my love-line. I know this is a sweet spot in life: my mother is still with us, as are all my siblings and Dave’s siblings, and our children are well and whole and faithful; our grandchildren are small and innocent and unable to make major mistakes; Dave is happy with his work and I can walk and play my instrument and sing. I recall seven years ago, when Guillain Barre Syndrome redefined my life, wondering if I would ever do any of those things again.
I run the pad of my left thumb over its sister-fingertips, recognizing the hard calluses on top of each finger earned by hours of purposeful guitar playing. For over a year, when I was ill, those fingertips were soft and supple, the calluses having peeled away after the nerve endings were stripped away beneath the skin. Thank you, Lord, for calluses on my hands and on my feet. They are evidence of use.
I have spent this past year in a deliberate creative mode: writing songs, arranging and re-arranging songs, interfacing with skilled musicians, singing and re-singing twelve little tunes that became an album called ONE SMALL BOY. I’ve been so busy doing it I have offered no acknowledgment of it in any other place than my own heart.
Few people understand what goes into making an independent recording. That’s ok, people don’t need to know. Besides, everyone does it differently. Suffice it to say it is a lot of work, thousands of hours from the inception of the songs, each one having their own birth process, clear up to the completion of the artwork for the cover. We were blessed with a beautiful and large audience for two album release concerts, one at the First Presbyterian Church in SLC and another at the Farmington Arts Center. The album has received good reviews and has sold well. I have been performing nearly every night since mid-November, and gigs continue until just before Christmas.
I am surprised and grateful that anyone still wants to hear my music. I’m grateful to my best roadie, my housemate and the winner of my heart, Dave, for making these nightly engagements more fun than work. It is a task to lug equipment into a different venue every night; to set it up and adjust it for a new space; to perform according to the group’s schedule, then break it all down and lug it back out to the van…only to repeat the same process the next night…and the next. What would I do without Dave? Or Mark Robinette, who gives me his voice and his bass and his muscle and skill for every performance where he was not previously booked to play with the Orchestra at Temple Square or Joe Muscolino Band. Music almost always tastes better when its shared.
It’s a risky thing to make a new album. Risky, too, to stand before a different audience each night and try to touch them with music they have not heard before. One day I’ll be too tired to take the risk.
But not today. The fulfillment still outweighs the work. We’ll drag our load of equipment up the canyon to Taggarts restaurant and play for yet another company party tonight. I’ll continue to celebrate each CD order I package and label and drop at the post office. I’ll open the red door on the front of my house and peer into the milk box to see who has come while I was away. What could be more wonderful for a maker of music? It’s like…well…it’s kind of like Christmas!