What I learned by taking my 8 year old to a Jimmy Buffett concert
Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,
Last weekend we took you to your first Buffett concert, Izzy. You’ve been a little Parrothead since you were a baby. Since you were old enough to talk really. We loved listening to you sing “Volcano” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” from the backseat in your raspy Stevie Nicks voice.
Mommy and I have seen Buffett together a few times over the years – including a few years back; a night that you laid in the floor crying when you learned where we were going and that you weren’t coming along.
You’ve grown up on a steady rotation of Buffett, Jack Johnson, James Taylor, and Bob Marley. Mommy and I are proud of that. A lot of kids your age are already into some pretty questionable stuff that passes for music these days. You’ve never shown much interest in music outside of that genre – and Taylor Swift.
So, with the memory of you crying in mind, and you now old enough by our estimation, we took you to Atlanta for your first Buffett experience. We left Max and Kate with Gramma and Grandfather and headed down to Atlanta on Saturday morning.
Mommy woke you up and said “Are you ready for the Justin Bieber concert tonight?”
You sat up, rubbed your eyes, and said “No! We are NOT going to Justin Bieber. JB stands for Jimmy Buffett!”
We stayed with my childhood friend Michael and his family. Michael and I have been friends since 1985, so watching you with his kids was a moment of self-realization for me. It was like watching the wrinkles spread across my face where the smiles have been. I kept that moment to myself. But thought about it over the weekend. Lots of years have passed since I introduced myself to Michael’s 5th grade class at Indian Lake Elementary in Hendersonville TN as the “new kid from Tampa.” I remember I was wearing corduroy pants that first day. Someday I’ll fill in the gaps for you, but Michael and I have been there through highs and lows for each other over 27 years. Hard to fathom the time that’s passed and the memories. And the Jimmy Buffett concerts.
At dinner you drew this sign for Jimmy:
The huge crowd made you nervous at first and I reacted to that. As I made my way through the crowd, holding your hand, I saw people differently. I felt sad for the one’s who clearly wouldn’t be remembering the show. I felt suspicious of just about everyone – wishing I had a 10 foot barrier between everyone and you. I wanted to cover your eyes as couples danced a little too close. I wanted to cover your ears when those around us, and occasionally Jimmy himself, used foul language. I wanted to take you away when the frequent smell of marijuana drafted by.
20 years ago I was one of them. And it occured to me, as I stood with my hands in my pockets silently watching Jimmy Buffett, that as much as things change in my life they also stay the same. I rubbed your head, and hoisted you up onto my shoulders. For a minute I shuffled my feet, you on my shoulders singing along with Jimmy Buffett.
Mommy snapped a picture of you on my shoulders – a smile as big as the caribbean itself across your face. The drunks, the chaos, and the Hawaiin shirts disappeared and what was left was a moment alone with you, sharing something joyful that I hope you’ll remember the rest of your life.
I think Jimmy Buffett helps us dream, Izzy. Don’t ever let anyone tell you those dreams aren’t true or attainable, that living at the beach is out of your reach or a foolish whim. Whatever that means to you.
So, I thought back again to you playing with my childhood best friends kids and wondered what Michael and I thought about the world at 10 years old when we met. I’m sad to say that I don’t even remember. I just know he was there and we lived like children do. We built forts in the woods, jumped from the roofs of docks into Old Hickory Lake, made boats and paddled to islands, and everything else that’s beautiful in life.
I read a Jack London quote recently: “I would rather be ashes than dust.” I forget that sometimes and Jimmy Buffett and Jack Johnson help me remember that I’m not wired for average pursuits or an average life.
27 years ago Michael and I weren’t worried about our bank accounts. Or our careers.
20 years ago at Jimmy Buffett in Nashville we stumbled through the grass, singing without embarrassment. And we weren’t worried.
Part of being a dad is wanting desperately for that Jimmy Buffett moment to last forever for you. It may feel a little heavy for Jimmy Buffett, but in 2012, with you on my shoulders at your first Buffett show, I thought about your life 20 years from now. I hope you hold onto your childhood and to Jimmy Buffett concerts.
Somewhere deep within me, I hope I always will to.
ps. I also learned that the lyrics go like this: “I really do appreciate the fact you’re sittin’ here. Your voice sounds so wonderful, but your face don’t look to clear. So barmaid bring a pitcher, another round of brew. Honey, why don’t we get lunch in school.” Who knew?
Tues: Swam 2000 yards at 5:00am
Wed: Ran 5 miles during lunch
Thurs: Swam 2000 yards at 5:00am / planned bike tonight