Saturday, August 29, 2009


“This is the saddest day of my life.” He says still draped in sleep from the night before as he slumps into a chair beside me. “It’s the last day of my band.”

“No it isn’t.” I reassure him knowing how much effort went into arranging tonight’s upcoming farewell concert. “Everyone will be home for Christmas break and you’ll do a show then.” Tyler is not reassured, visible loss in his eyes.

I think back to his first public performance, terrified and frozen; barely able to swallow much less sing. His “band” has changed several times since then, different names, different members, but this group, From Dark to Dawn known locally as FDTD, has been together for a long time. They write all of their own music and it never ceases to amaze me that the crowd sings along as if the music was on the radio daily.

When my boys were young they played sports and belonging to a ‘team” provided that sort of camaraderie that seems part of healthy development; all for one and one for all. As parents we are programmed for this. Athletics are a comfortable, predicable part of parenting. I never realized how sportsmanship is in the player, not the arena.

The musicians are a unique crowd and not one that we as parents are necessarily prepared for. Their alternative hair and dress raises eyebrows and makes most parents uncomfortable. People stereotype the group making the assumption that they abuse drugs and alcohol and nothing could be further from the truth.

The band experience has been incredible.

There is no rule book, no guideline to follow and no coach calling the plays. The band is self governing, bringing everything from within. The commitment and dedication to their music and to the group is not mandated, they just bring it themselves...consistently.

There are several bands in town, our small CT town seems to be the new Seattle, and most often they will play shows that feature four or five bands playing in order of seniority. The most profound difference between athletics and music is the lack of competition. During the shows, they roadie for each other, stage hand for each other and always have each others backs. They share equipment, work the light and sound for each other and when a guitar string breaks in the middle of a song, it will be a musician from another band jumping up and handing in his guitar.

These kids, all long hair and alternative, have a deep-rooted sense of honor. They have visible, genuine love for each other and that is what makes it all work. They do not have a showcase in the foyer of the high school that features their State Championship trophies. They are not sponsored and funded through the town. They do not have their equipment provided or facilities for practice or performance. Coordinating shows means renting a building, making tickets, selling tickets, hauling equipment etc.

And yet, with a last minute, late in the summer idea for a final show, in spite of the fact that many of their peers have already left for college, they fill the house.

Tyler’s band is the featured band playing last, as they are the one dis-banding for college. The crowd is ready and the energy high. They play most of their music, brand new songs and those where the audience swells with sound as they sing along. Finally near the end, Tyler asks everyone to sit. He and Mike grab acoustic guitars and the lights dim.

The boys sit on the stage together, Tyler sweetly singing a song Mike wrote for his girl. Their fans hold up lighters and cell phones in tribute. These two have been friends since elementary school and Mike has nearly lived at my house over the last year. Tyler’s decision to attend a local art collage leaves him saying good-bye to his friends, several of whom are going to the same college four hours away.

The love in the air is tangible, palpable and my heart aches with bittersweet pride. I scramble home after the last song to heat up a mountain of food that I prepared earlier, knowing the bands will inevitably show up at our house. They do and it is just like the usual routine; no one speaking about the finality until the end.

Matt is the first to leave and he comes into the kitchen and stands before me. “Well, this is it.” He says, looking twelve-years-old, “I’m leaving tomorrow.” He will be Mike’s roommate in Vermont. He gives me a big hug and I tell him that we love him and will miss him. I offer a few motherly words of advice for good measure and ask him if he has an address yet. “I’ll probably need to send cookies.” I tell him and he quickly scribbles his dorm address on a post-it note, placing it on my fridge.

Watching these boys end this chapter to begin the next is not easy. I know they will all find their way and continue to play music in spite of their distance, but FDTD is irreplaceable.

“We booked a Christmas show.” Tyler tells me later smiling.

“I knew you would.” I tell him.

Friday, August 14, 2009


It is safe to say that my husband and I agree on major fundamentals in the way we see the world and it is also fair to say that we are polar opposite on others. It is also evident that this provides both balance and chaos; perhaps more truthfully a blend of both.

On the day to day front line with the kids, I am the active disciplinarian, chasing them around to pick up after themselves, do their homework, keeping track of their whereabouts and who they are hanging out with; my busy husband somewhat oblivious to this. Brad, however, is the real backbone of discipline, sticking to the rules and abiding by the consequences. The kids know that I am the soft side…the one who will cave in eventually.


Our children are now teenagers and social and I love having them around. Summertime is made for friends and this has brought to light a new set of differences in my husband and I.

I am yes to sleepovers and groups of kids hanging out in the family room.

Brad is no to all of this and why does it always have to be our house?

I have come to realize that most this has to do with food.

Brad is gourmet.

I am meat and potatoes.

Brad is cook to order, exact portions with appropriate garnish and perfectly paired wine.

I am casserole with enough for an army; plenty of leftovers to feed the masses.

Brad is plan in advance; headcount required.

I am set one more place at the table; the more the merrier.

This has become a huge problem.

Brad enjoys creating in the kitchen and it is artistry.

I enjoy seeing the hungry eat…plain and simple.

The difference was evident from the beginning of our marriage. We hosted regular dinner parties, large and small. I made things pretty, he made them tasty and it was enjoyable for both.

One evening, a stray cat wandered to our porch; young and shy and thin. I offered her some leftovers, artistically and lovingly prepared by my gourmet husband, only to meet fierce opposition. “Do not feed it! If you do, it will never leave!”

My need to nourish won over this obvious statement and I took to sneaking her cheap hot dogs in the empty, wooded lot next door, only to find out later that Mr. Gourmet was doing the same. Over discussion and some good red wine, he softened and “Kitty” became our first married pet.

It is apparently true of teenage boys…if you feed them they will never leave and Brad would prefer not to. There is something so enjoyable to me about watching teenage boys eat and the regularity and cost of it makes my husband crazy. .

Trevor is prone to ask to have a few friends over for a couple of hours, which always means ten or twelve and the hours always come around dinner time. He falls naturally into the role of host and looks for food to offer.
I cannot help myself when groups of kids spontaneously evolve at my house and I find myself in the kitchen, cooking up batches of quesadillas or baking brownies. They move as groups like locusts and we either have more of our share or none at all, creating what I see as balance

Tyler’s band will often appear late in the evening, rummaging through he freezer for the bags of homemade burritos I put there for that purpose and I count shoes in the doorway to know how many have spent the night, leading me to make big batches of waffles or pancakes.

Like stray animals, they can smell across town when I am baking and somehow appear as things come out of the oven. They know that if they come to my house with girl trouble or broken hearts, I will attempt to mend them with chocolate chip cookies.

As the summer comes to a close, some of my boys will be moving off to college and I am sad to see them leave. I know that I will continue to attract the next batch of strays as Trevor is still in high school. I know that Brad will continue to grumble about locusts and the food bill, but every so often over a bottle of red wine, I see him soften and go out to grill them hot dogs, moving them from strays to pets.