Last night we went to see Lex sing holiday songs with his school singing group.
That’s Willow in the pink jacket standing on John’s lap.
We didn’t arrive in time for seats, so I stood in the back, John and Willow found a chair, and Nate, Sophie, and a friend who was with us sat on the floor up front. It was really warm in the cafeteria. (Is our elementary school the only one that calls it "cafetorium," and am I the only one who just cannot call it that?)
My mom, ever the smart woman, requested that I call her after the band played, so she could time her arrival accordingly. The poor band. Most of them just started playing in October, and they were cute and tried hard, but they still sounded kinda like geese. We all have to start somewhere, though.
I ended up passing the time with a woman in her late (?) eighties who lives across the street from the school. We know her just from walking by her house when she is outside. I remember that we saw her on New Year’s Day this year when we went for a walk. She’d come over to hear the kids sing and to find some company. Before the band started, we stood outside the door getting some cold, fresh air and she told me a little tiny bit about her life. She’s from Chicago originally, then lived in New York and all over the East Coast. Living in New York didn’t impress her much, since she had grown up in a big city. I just looked around and said, SO, I’m from Chicago, this isn’t new to me! I told her that I’m going to Chicago for the first time next summer, and she told me all about how fun it is and all there is to do. She’s lived across the street from the school since before it was a school, since it was just open space. She told me that the first time she went to downtown San Jose, she didn’t know if she should laugh or cry. It was full of a bunch of hick ranchers in fancy hats, she said, back then, everyone wore hats.
Every once in awhile during our conversation, I got a good blast of booze from her breath. She was holding it together just fine, but my nose told me that she must’ve been sauced. I don’t know if she’s lonely or not. She said one of her three children, a son, lives nearby. She mentioned that she’d offered to let him have her house, but that he preferred his own. I got the feeling that she was not lonely so much as she was just bored and stuck in suburbia with a body too frail to go do the more exciting things that she preferred.
My mom got there just as the kids started singing and stood with us. Between each song, one or two kids would come up and say a little line about the song into the microphone. Every time they did, my friend would lean over to me and say, "How cute! I couldn’t understand a word she said!" It was funny (though, honestly, it made my eyes water a little), and she did it every single time.
I’m always, always thinking of things to add to a conversation after the fact. Last night I found myself wishing that I’d asked her if she ever considered selling her house (the houses in our neighborhood (even the ones that haven’t been updated and only have three bedrooms) go for about $800,000 (dude, that is why we are renters, through and through)), and moving to a swingin retirement community in Chicago. And, her name; I forgot to ask her name.