My Deceased Son’s Answer to What It’s All About

photo (2)Headstone still fresh on his grave, my eldest son showed up in the middle of the night with the key to the meaning of life. In this dream where Parker appeared, I was guiding my three surviving children through a city I knew well. It was evening, I was sad and wrung out and felt pressed to get to my car, to get back home.

Suddenly behind me I heard my youngest, Luc, (seven years old at the time), squealing like a newborn. Call it my Mother Bear, call it my short fuse, I swung around to snap the head off of whomever was bugging my boy.

The instant I spun, lip curled and neck tensed to snarl, instead of a “Hey! Cut it out!”, I snagged on the “ow” of “out” and gasped. There, in shorts and his favorite blue t-shirt with his trademark cropped hair was 18-year-old Parker, as unscathed as the last time I’d seen him alive, the day before he died.

He was playfully dangling his youngest brother over a trash can.

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Luc on Parker’s shoulders.

You know that full body-and-soul whiplash that yanks you from nearly biting through someone’s jugular to buckling to your knees and kissing their feet? Melting, I lunged toward Parker, and he, (with a look that said, “Oh, Mom, you know I was just kidding around,”) handed his little brother to his sister and reached for me.

His shoulders were familiar, as was his smell. Desperate, I pled, “Tell me, honey. Tell me everything you’ve learned.”

He pulled back a bit. That mini freckle on his nose. That scar on his eyebrow. That one steely fleck in his right iris. It was my child’s face, only seasoned. Slower.

I waited for words.

Bending down, he whispered, “This is it,” and he took a small breath. He searched my eyes, then:

“Every relationship is to bring us to God.”  

I strained.

He stared.

“That’s … that’s it?” I gaped, “There’s nothing more? Nothing else?”

His soft eyes remained fixed.

And the dream closed.

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The boys, July 2007

Every Relationship Is to Bring Us to God

Since that dream it’s been my mantra. And like most mantras, it slips out too slickly, sounds cliché, yet has more layers than the Himalayas, more depth than the trenches of the Pacific. It risks oversimplification, and yet it will take my whole life to comprehend. But here’s how I’ve broken it down up to now:

Every relationship.

Every.

This means the obvious: all my bona fide biological ties, my family. Then my family through marriage. Then my besties, my closest friends. Then all ranks of associates and regular contacts like teachers, students, classmates, work colleagues, teammates, neighbors, congregation members, parents of my children’s friends, the lady who delivers my mail on her yellow bike even in the snow and rain, the commuters who share my daily ride on the bus, the blue-haired widow who waves as she walks her Dachshund past my window evenings at eight.

All are people with whom I share different degrees of blood and intimacy, experience and history, all people with whom I share space, time, ideas, efforts. All people with whom I share myself and who share with me something of themselves.

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Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi, and Iranian German Students

Family, Friends, Strangers, Followers, Foes

Everyone.

In addition to these ^ relationships, there are interactions with those I meet sporadically or even just once. Like the guy loading my mulch on a cart at the garden store. And the lady who cut me off on the freeway exit ramp this morning. Or the infant who cried all through that transatlantic flight. And the parent who slept with his headphones on while his infant cried all through that transatlantic flight. And the crew on that flight. The passengers on every side. The pilot, whom I never saw and who never heard the infant, but whose voice we all heard and whom I trusted to take me “cruising safely at 37,000 feet.”

I interact, most of the time mindlessly, with all of them.

Then there are those I’ve never actually met, but with whom I’ve had some sort of fleeting or superficial interchange. The rabid politician in the news, the celebrity whose fifth marriage is material for a trash mag I leafed through at the doctor’s office, the musician whose song I wail along with in the car.

And the virtual relationships, the FB acquaintances, Instagram posters, Twitter commenters. Blog followers.

And the people on either end of history; my ancestors, my progeny.

Or people on either side of the globe; my countrymen, my political foes.

Relationships. Every last one.

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Every Relationship Brings Us To …

All this social interaction, all this mortal jumble? It’s more than learning about teamwork, or an effective way to get stuff done. And it’s also more than learning tolerance and compassion and patience with crying infants and drivers on the Autobahn.

“Every relationship is to bring us to God,” maybe, has to do with this:

Author Toni Morrison, in an interview, remembered having been the young mother who, when her kids walked into the room, scanned them up and down looking for faults. She’d be thinking, Tuck in your shirt, or Comb your hair. She felt that her critical stance meant she was caring for them, which I get only too well. It is what I was doing in my dream when I wanted to ream out the thug behind me who was, I thought, evidently hurting my youngest child. I was set for censoring.

Morrison then offered another approach. She said, “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says ‘I’m glad to see you’. It’s just as small as that.”

There Are No Neutral Interactions

An approving glance. An encouraging smile. A forgiving shrug. A step forward. A brave nod. This is how we move ourselves and others toward the best in humanity and toward deity.

A whispered judgment. A punishing glare. A jealous glower. A turned back. A swift dismissal. A spin around to bite through a jugular. This is how we move ourselves and others away from each other, away from divinity.

What if I were to enter all my social encounters not perched to swoop in with criticism, or stiffened behind all sorts of false boundaries (like a difference in race, religion, political grouping, jealousy, shame, whatever), but poised, instead, radiating one primary thought: “I am glad to see you”?

I believe it would change me, the other person, the encounter, everything.

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I know.  You’re saying, “I’m glad to see you” is easy when you really are glad to see someone. And in my case in the dream I was more than glad. I was unzipped, liquefied with love and longing for my son.  Let me say the obvious: when there’s been no bad blood, and you see your absent beloved again, every minor critique you might have stockpiled during mortality vanishes in the hot flash flood of love.

But what about all the other relationships? What about most of them, the ones that exact superhuman effort from us? The ones where we’d rather say, “I’m glad to see you … go“?

That’s where Parker’s advice really gets traction. While most great mythic traditions and even modern pop spirituality claim God is found above and outside of the messiness of human interaction, maybe while sitting solo and contemplating a snowflake from atop a lone peak, I’m saying that God is found in the trenches. God is down here in the grit. God’s in the mix.

And so, too, say the experts. Harvard professor Michael Puett comments on what ancient Chinese philosophers would think about modernity’s going–it-solo attitude, and why our personal relationships are what mortality is all about:

They [Chinese ancients] saw each of us bumping up against other messy creatures all day long. This is what it means to be on this earth: our lives are composed almost entirely of the relationships we have with those around us.

 For most of us, those relationships aren’t easy. [Can I get an amen?] That’s because, as these philosophers understood well, as we endlessly bump up against each other, loving one another, trying to get along, we tend to fall into patterns of behavior. We react in the same predictable ways. Encounters with people draw out a variety of emotions and reactions from us: One sort of comment will almost invariably draw out feelings of anger, while a certain gesture from someone else might elicit a feeling of calm. Our days are spent being passively pulled in one direction or another depending on who we encounter or what situations we are in. Worse still, these passive reactions have a cascading effect. We react even to the subtlest signals from those around us. A smile or a frown on a passerby can cause a slight change in our mood in an instant. The reactive patterns we get stuck in — sometimes good, but more often, bad — ripple outward and affect others too.

In other words, there are no neutral interactions. All of our actions and reactions send vibrations into a vast webwork that either brings us and others to God (or to wholeness, light, love, healing, The Source of All Meaning, whatever you call The Best Thing You Dare Imagine), or drives us and others from the same. Every thinkable link I have to every last human being plays not just a part in how I grow and experience meaning and joy, but adds in some (major or infinitesimal) way to others’ wellbeing. And that truth is why relationships are what it’s all about, and why they are at once so infuriatingly hard while being so immeasurably valuable.

Every Relationship Brings Us to an Understanding of God

Yes, there are those few relationships that flourish without a lot of effort, and therewith offer a glimpse of what godliness might feel like. But more often relationships are plain old spiritual work. They grate on us. Leave us blistered. There are those, too –– and we’ve all had them––that don’t just pumice us. They skin us alive.

And how do those relationships bring us to God? In my experience, they bring us to an understanding of God’s nature. They let us learn of Him.

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Him. Let me take license and talk specifically for a moment about the God I worship. The Being I strive to comprehend and hope to emulate responded majestically in all relationships, but particularly in the most injurious ones. Herod, Pilate, Judas, Peter, Roman centurions, mocking Sanhedrin, ungrateful lepers, and the centuries’ long saga of modern scoffers and arrogant erudites –– before them all and for them all Jesus Christ stands blameless. No figure in history, no God of any other myth possesses the dignity, selfless love and self-mastery in human relations that Christ embodies. No other being I know of has not only withstood betrayal, exploitation, usury, abandonment, cruelty and hidden agendas but has gone so far as to absorb abuse in all its forms and transform those evils into healing for all, including the abusers.

Like everyone, I’ve known a small portion of those injuries I just listed. When I have, (like recently, when a close friendship took a turn I never expected into an unmarked dead end), I had to fight to muzzle my Mother Bear, retract my claws, and swallow my snarls.

And right then, in rushed Parker’s words. They helped me breathe through what felt to me like lovelessness directed at me and my family, but just as important, they showed me how far I am from mastering The Master’s manner in response to hurt and betrayal.

What have I learned, then, from what my son taught me in a dream?

That all relationships –– including the ones we might have to step out of for everyone’s wellbeing –– are gifts that help us approach God.  By reflecting on His exquisite response to even the ugliest human tendencies (others’ and our own), we see how far we mortals are from His standard of loving-kindness and perfect compassion. In the end, then, every relationship brings us not only to God, but also to the God within each of us.

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(Portrait: Courtesy of Jennifer Quinton ©)

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What do you think? Which relationships have taught you the most? Tried you the most? Are those two kinds of relationships one and the same?

What have your best and richest relationships taught you?

Taking the definition of “relationships” a step further, what other interconnections besides those with humans “bring us to God”?

And to the basics: What does “bring us to God” mean to you?

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© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2016. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

 

 

 

8 Principles for a Strong Marriage: What I Learned on the Death Strip

Sometime in my late twenties, in the first years of our now 30-year marriage, and somewhere on a lethal length of highway locals call the Levan Death Strip, I learned everything I need to know about marriage. The learning came in a dream. In it I’ve identified eight principles everyone can use for a better union.

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The Dream

My husband Randall and I are driving through central Utah’s high mountain desert along an endless, arid highway known as the Levan Death Strip. “Death”,  partly because there’s nothing on the landscape but tumbleweed and dust devils, but mostly because it’s one of the deadliest stretches of road in the state. Semi-trailers and careening motorcycles,  rusted out 1973 Chevy Impalas, and cattle trucks meet head on at high speeds here, exploding the desert silence with the hellish sound of detonating metal and glass.

As I was saying, Randall is driving. I’m sitting shotgun, my eyes on the map. Straight ahead is this hypnotizing strip stretched taut as if it were a towing rope attached to the hood ornament on our car and at the other end to the setting sun, which shimmers on a ridge patiently drumming its fingered rays across the horizon.

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Suddenly, the sky goes dark. In the space of one breath, daylight is swallowed up in a black tide that thickens, obscuring everything round us, three-hundred-sixty-degrees of palpable heavy.

Barely ahead I make out the blinking orange of some tail lights. There had been cars far, far ahead of us a few minutes ago and now they appear closer, having slowed to a crawl. Everything inches, struggles, lurches. Then stops.

We stop too, on the left side of the road. No discussion, no way to move ahead, not only because we can’t see, but because this heavy has body. Some sort of gelatinous, clinging, viscous weight that is cold and lifeless touches my skin when I step out of the car and creep, hand-over-hand along the car’s right side, palming the hood, then patting my way to the driver’s door out of which Randall emerges.

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We say nothing even though I open my mouth and try to push noise up from my throat. The sound waves don’t travel through this new quality of air, so no use calling out. No use, even, trying to whisper to Randall, at whose left side I now stand, right arm linked with his left, pushed up against him, drawing warmth and reassurance.

By the cars parked up the road there’s a faint outline of people. They’re shuffling in this serious, deadly quiet.  Now the Heavy coagulates and I can make out neither people nor the tail lights that had just been visible in front of us. Randall and I stand in silence, fused that way, totally, existentially alone.

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With no way to judge distance but by the length of our stride, no way to converse, and no way to get our bearings, we simply hold on to each other. I can feel the swelling and contracting of his breathing. We fall in sync.

At the driver’s side of the car, on the left edge of the highway, we begin moving, inching. Walking is a must; something tells us standing still will mean death. So we cling to one another––I on Randall’s left, toeing the edge of the road so we don’t slide off into the shoulder; Randall to my right, initiating every step forward into the darkness.

It’s here, engulfed in heavy murk, that we lean onto each other, pressing. There is a symbiotic, synergistic friction that generates heat and not only keeps us on track and moving forward, but holds us up.

Many dream-time minutes into creeping forward and I turn, straining to see my husband’s face just inches from mine. But I can only make out that he’s wearing a suit. And there are sparks scattered on that suit. Little fine embers seem to be falling onto (or is it emerging from? I can’t tell which), the fabric. Afraid they’ll make his suit combust, I start swatting and then slapping these sparks.

Strangely, the sparks give just enough light to help us push ahead, which I sense we do long after my actual dream ends.

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1. Road

The journey you’ve envisioned on the outset of your marriage as a tidy, well-lit straight line to infinity? Not. Life is neither tidy nor straight, nor is it necessarily well-lit. See up there, a couple of hundred meters ahead where the mirage makes the road look swimmy? That’s where the beeline disappears, giving way –– again and again –– to the reality of the changeable and unexpected.

Know now that this will happen and you won’t self destruct when life doesn’t go to plan.

2. Vehicle

Start together. Stay in together. Sure, we can also chose to have our individual cars where we’re free to listen to our own playlists, eat our stinky beef jerky, and go at our speed. We can select our solo routes and stop at our preferred points of interest at will. How convenient is that? Saves us from compromising our plans and preferences with another person’s, right?

But the whole point is to travel as a team, which means compromise over convenience, sitting elbow-to-elbow, someone driving , someone reading the map, beef jerky that side, dried sea kelp my side. It’s of little consequence, by the way, who’s driving, who’s navigating; both functions are equally necessary and of course interchangeable, because in my dream, we are both licensed, alert, and invested in the trip, our individual contributions therefore essential for the voyage.

Know now that your marriage is the vehicle that does not just get you to a destination, but will test your capacity to place compromise and commitment over convenience, sharing responsibilities and whatever arises on the route.

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3. Map

You’ve noticed: maps help. (And GPS is better.) But only when you can see a road. What when you can’t? That’s where the strength of your partnership kicks in and you must gingerly feel your way together, into the future.

As a newlywed couple we found marriage mentors––living guidebooks, maps––folks ahead of us in life who modeled how it could all be done well. But roads change, and so travel plans. We, for instance, started out determined to be tandem university professors. Some years into marriage, however, both of us decided not to do our PhDs. Instead, we took a different route, or better, several end-to-end alternate routes.

Know now that maps must be pliable plots, not strict strategies.

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4. Darkness

Midway along our route tragedy hit and the bright desert daylight was instantly choked with the ultimate heavy. In one stroke of fate, and in the middle of major international move when our stability was already compromised, we lost our eldest child, then 18, to a gruesome water accident.

It’s then we learned that darkness had texture, heft. At any moment the Heavy can hit and swallow up our sunny route. Loss of all sorts, not just the dramatic blow we have known, can change virtually everything in an instant. Struggles with illness both physical and mental, addictions, a partner’s or child’s illicit behavior, unemployment, and larger societal events (war, economic downturn, natural disaster, etc.) or a combination of any of the above, might be our dark tide.

Know now that darkness not only might happen, but it will. When it hits, your marriage can remain intact and even grow stronger, becoming the very thing that helps you individually and as a family to survive.

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5. Soft Shoulders

You know those signs that warn motorists of soft shoulders off the sides of the road? In Tanzania I once witnessed what happens when they are ignored. A public bus over-crammed with passengers, their goats and chickens and baskets of market goods dangling out the windows, tried to overtake a stalled vehicle by driving onto the soft shoulder. The moment the bus’s two left wheels were off the asphalt and on the soil, the bus began sinking, then teetered, then toppled over on its side. Screaming, crushed adults and children, yowling and fluttering livestock were the soundtrack I can never erase from my memory.

Know now that soft shoulders are everywhere and anyone can slip more easily than you might imagine. And when darkness sweeps in and disorients you threatening to drive you off your route or from each other, it is especially important to toe that edge, reminding yourself to push inward toward your partner and away from the soft shoulder.

6. Synergistic Support

Although my strong inclination toward rule keeping meant I sensed limits well with my left foot, I was afraid to move forward into the darkness. I kept pulling backward. Behind felt safer than ahead, and I recoiled from whatever was out there in that pitch black mass. In real life, too, part of me wants to retreat from the unknown because I lack confidence in my ability to conquer difficult and intimidating situations. Randall, on the other hand, doesn’t obsess over worst case scenarios and forges forward.

Know now that progression in marriage requires both staying out of dangerous soft shoulders and pressing forward into the unknown. When you and your partner are pressing inward, toward each other, the isometric pressure not only propels you forward but actually gives you energy and helps you to stay standing.

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7. Sparks

When I first interpreted this dream, I saw those sparks on Randall’s suit as trouble coming from the outside. My job was to beat that trouble down. Part of a strong partnership is being alert and sensitive to our mate’s vulnerabilities and doing what we can to keep our partner safe. Of course my message is not to feel excessively guilty when a beloved plays with fire, so to speak, because of course we’re all responsible for our own decisions and behaviors. But I’ve observed the strongest couples try vigilantly to protect one another from trouble.

Loving each other means attending to each other, helping keep one another safe and well. We can do so by staying extremely close and watching for signs that something is smoldering. Does your wife struggle with anxiety? Does your husband have addictive tendencies? Does she fly easily into a rage? Does he slump regularly into a depression? Is she on the professional road a lot where she could slip into a new identity and thus illicit behaviors? Does he work a lot on the Internet where he could slip into a new identity and thus illicit behaviors? Then you do everything you can to strengthen them for those situations where they might fall into trouble.

Know now that everyone has weaknesses and everyone is susceptible to temptations or attacks on their virtue and morals. Know now that central to loving our spouse is not only having their specific sparks at heart, but to help beat them back before they take flame.

8. Or … Sparks

And here is the most important portion of the dream. Because at 20+ years into marriage I found that my former interpretation of it, which you just read, and therefore my paradigm for marriage, had changed. Where I’d previously seen myself as the safe-keeper, the border patrol, the ever ready spark-slapper,  now I saw those sparks differently.

What if those sparks I’d been slapping at weren’t signs of danger? What if they were something else? What if those sparks –- what I’d thought were temptations, fiery darts –– weren’t flying at my partner but those sparks are actually emerging from him? What if they weren’t bad fire but good, even flecks of hot gold? Not trouble but promise? Not hints of weakness but signs of power? I thought, “What if those sparks are searing heat and power literally bursting out of Randall, and I, in my hyper-attentiveness and self-righteousness am beating them down, beating him down, extinguishing a light, extinguishing him?”

What then?

There are so many ways we can extinguish the light in others. We think we are being care givers and life coaches, but in over-critiquing, in hyper-patroling, we can become nit-pickers,  fault-finders, nay-sayers. We can also hold each other back in our jealousy and insecurity when we permit our own fears, self doubts, and insecurities (we all have them) to breed that nervous reflex that lashes out –– slap! –– disallowing others to simply be who they are, to shine, even brilliantly.

We assuage things by saying we’re just being honest, when we actually end up beating that person back, or beating her up. We slap out another’s light by refusing to forgive, holding a grudge, keeping score, playing tit-for-tat. We can engage in power plays, we can belittle, we can even discredit our own beloveds in slanderous gossip. We might play politics, demanding equality at every turn, not interdependency as an overarching guide, saying, in essence, “Well, if I can’t have those sparks, then neither can you!”

When this new marriage paradigm came to me, I have to tell you: I wept. How many years had I focused on potential faults in my husband and not on the promising strengths? How many opportunities had I missed to praise him, to celebrate in his light, to see his radiance increase?

Know now that even in purely selfish terms, you are the prime beneficiary when your partner glows. Indeed, we all benefit when anyone glows!  You’ll remember: those sparks on Randall’s suit gave us both just enough illumination to light our way through a world of complete darkness.

When we make it through this heavy passage together––and I trust we all will–– then it will certainly be by virtue of all this unsmothered, heat-generating, God-given mutual incandescence.

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© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2016.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

Cattle Truck Diva

Oliver bought her, cared for her, loaded her with heads of cattle and drove her from livestock auction to livestock auction up and down the state of Utah.  In places like Sanpete, Spanish Fork and Santaquin, she rolled in on dirt roads like she had rolled out of The Grapes of Wrath, only with a fancy new paint job. Fire engine red and nearly as big as your average city fire truck (though in his life Oliver had never lived in a big city, and had probably not seen a big city fire truck), she signaled far and wide to farm folk that Bishop Dalton, as they called him, was passing through. Rough hands shook over mottled heifers with molten eyes, and the red cattle truck trundled off, dust and trust billowing over the transaction.

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Jessie was Oliver’s wife, the Belle of Springville and mother to four lanky farmhand sons, who chewed on wheat shafts and the ends of their sentences, and grunted submission when she hollered to “scrape that manure off those boots of yours before you enter my home!” She tolerated the red cattle truck in the driveway.  But only if its bulkiness didn’t make contact with her manicured rose garden or prized lilac hedges. Fragrance –– from homegrown flowers to flasks of perfume she kept in the velvet-lined drawers of her dressing table ––marked the borders of her domain.

Donna and the lilac hedges

Donna and the lilac hedges

Donna would become Jessie’s daughter by marriage. Originally come north to Utah from the deserts of Arizona, Donna was raised by Mildred who had worked long, dull hours in a citrus-packing plant to fund the great dream: college, for all her six children. Donna was at university with one purpose, to sing. And it was while singing that she’d fallen for the blonde guy on the fiddle, the one who led the orchestra’s string section accompanying the choir concert where she soloed.

Donna with Oliver and Donna's parents, Leland and Mildred and the red cattle truck

The red cattle truck and Donna with Oliver and Donna’s parents, Leland and Mildred.

This was David, one of Oliver and Jessie’s cud-chewing farmhand sons who had shown just enough talent to set his heart on a future as a violinist. David had also set his heart on the brunette soprano standing in the university choir’s front row.  And as they say –– at least they said it in the1950’s –– the two ended up making beautiful music together.

David and Donna in concert

David and Donna in concert

They also ended up making for the due east. Leaving desert and Rockies, lilac hedges and red cattle trucks, they set out to study music at the finest schools and conservatories they could scarcely afford to get into.

Heading east

Heading east

Graduated couple

Graduated couple

In Vienna, Munich, at the Eastman School of Music, Indiana University – the two studied in tandem, parented in tandem (three daughters were born while they completed these studies), and finally, they built parallel careers. And a home. In tandem. In Utah.

Homebuilding gallery with the red cattle truck

Homebuilding gallery with the red cattle truck

FAM 1972 build house 079Donna became a melding of her two mothers, Mildred and Jessie, a thick crust of grit and workhorse filled with the sweet cream of cultivation and topped with a bright diva cherry. For a visual of her humility, tenacity and scope, imagine her pregnant with her fourth child, my younger brother, driving to and from opera rehearsals in the only second vehicle my frugal parents had: the red cattle truck.  Imagine her humming Puccini or Strauss while turning, with two hands the massive key that controlled the truck’s motor, a motor that grumbled, hissed and clunked like an apoplectic B-52 bomber. Then see her rappel, practically, down from the driver’s seat, slam the huge metal door, brush the dirt off her backside, and stride off to take to the stage.

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A defining shift in my life occurred when I understood for the first time that not every mother practiced Italian arias while re-caulking shower tiles.  And that few ladies wore corsets and Renaissance wigs to their workplace after having hauled and laid bricks all weekend long.  And no one – I mean no one – in our neighborhood wore a paint-splattered denim mechanic’s jumpsuit to re-shingle the roof in the afternoon, then donned a purple paisley kaftan at dinnertime to stand out on the sidewalk and sing their children’s names on a high note and at the top of their lungs:  “Oh Daaaaaaaaltons!  Come to diiiiiiiiiiinneeeeeeeeeeer!”

Oliver has been gone for many years, as has been Jessie. My mother is now 79. My father turns 80 in a few days.  And today I am older than the Donna who hoisted two-by-fours and power saws, wore a brocade costume for a Wagnerian lead, sang for many years in the Tabernacle Choir, and drove a cantankerous hand-me-down monster truck. That red cattle truck, I suppose, has long since been turned to scrap.  The scrap has been melted down, poured into other uses, uses that will carry cattle. Or bricks. Or maybe an opera singer carrying a son. Or daughters who carry stories, and the stories carry us all.

Donna, my mother

Donna, my mother

 

The (S)Low Down on Crazy Busy

“Truth is, Melissa: seems you’re always busy.”

He was right, my almost eighty-year-old Dad, who, sober-eyed, watched me from where he sat at the foot of the bed.  I scrambled on the floor, foraging through piles of clothing and gear for the three-day pioneer trek reenactment my husband and sons were slated to leave for the next morning.  Crack of dawn in dungarees, Tom Sawyer hats, suspenders and hiking boots.  Pulling hand carts and sleeping under a sky hung loosely over the high desert of northeastern Utah. My men were heading here:

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Oh, Pioneers!

Oh, Pioneers!

Luc trek

Dalton trek

Since arriving at my parents’ in the States on vacation, I’d been scouring Salt Lake City’s thrift shops, Army Navy outlets and bona fide pioneer-outfitting stores in between doing television, radio and print interviews for my book launch.  Delay-onset jet lag. Little sleeping.  Spotty eating.  When did I last shower? On this continent?

My mind was shredded by the intensifying yank between hand carts and hard copy, and I was having night terrors about covered wagons and book covers. I was wound so tightly, you could have used my spine to drill a tunnel through the Rockies. My brain was doing that thing I call not worrying but whirrying.

Whiiiir-whiiiir-whiiiirrr, like the propellers of a plane left revving at top speed on an abandoned tarmac.  Tight spine, whirring mental blades, fatigued physique, against the backdrop of a crammed calendar. I was always busy. Dad had nailed it.

But I defended myself to his face, and I’ll do the same here.

“That’s not even it,” I exhaled. “‘Busy’ would be alright.  To be honest, Dad,” the tension was now probably visible in my neck, “I’m not ‘busy’. I am maxed out, burning out. This is modern life!” I punctuated that last phrase by smacking my open palms on a mound of pioneer-grade burlap tenting.

sjwhipp.com

sjwhipp.com

Sometimes I’m driven too far into the whirr.  I take on more than is reasonable, more than is healthy, more than is humanly doable, and more than is needed.  This escalation of responsibilities – insanely, the busier I get the more recklessly I tend to take on additional tasks, and the faster my whirry whirrs – means that not only am I left with too few resources to do normal and necessary things (sleep, eat, talk with my Dad), but the quality of things I do (sleeping, eating, talking) is altered.

Even in restful moments like sitting behind the wheel at a traffic light, waiting for my bread to toast, standing in line at a small town post office, or lying in bed waiting for slumber, I sense a low-grade agitation surging and heating my sinews.

Jittery sleeping. Gritted eating. Clenched talking.

And then someone’s four words – “seems you’re always busy”- harpoons me, the bend of that hook lodging itself squarely in my tense, multitasking torso, with its puny heart valves thunking irregularly, its lungs never quite filling for one deep, full breath. It snags my whirrying and makes me stop. Makes me sad.  Very sad.

eyesonsales.com

eyesonsales.com

What is going on here? Why does some part of me apparently believe the myth that doing more means doing better? When did I agree to this myth? Why does any one of us agree to this? What is happening in a person and in a culture at large, when “crazy busy” is venerated, cheered on, sought out and upheld as the standard? And shows no sign of slowing?

What are the costs of frenetic hyper-productivity, of crazy busy? And please, is there a cure?

Science has long since determined that the popularized crazy busy lifestyle delivers a sound wallop to our emotional and physical wellbeing.  Like armchair physicians, we coolly tick off all the ways in which accumulated stress weakens our immune system, leads to increased respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive and sexual dysfunction. We draw faint lines between stress and certain cancers.  We warn ourselves about the dangers of distraction – what it does to drivers, pilots, teachers, students, parents, children – and we wag a finger at multitasking, noting that it is not, in fact, more efficient or more productive, but more fragmenting to our minds and to our human relationships.

When was the last time I lay for unmeasured, luxurious swaths, next to my beloved (child or partner or, yes, my nearly eighty-year-old Dad) and just listened to him breathe?

When, for that matter, was the last time I lay for as long as I needed, and just listened – calmly, lovingly, openly – to my own breathing? Or to God’s?

My version of "rapt attention" at a theater production.

My version of “rapt attention” at a theater production.

Before my whirrwind month in the States came to an end – a month I’ve not been able to write about until now for all its crazy busy-ness – I made time to connect with some of my beloveds.

One evening, I wandered to the end of the upstairs hall and into my parents’ bedroom. It’s right above the basement bedroom of my childhood. There was that familiar parental smell, the shushed drag of the door over the pile carpet, the ceiling fan making the lace curtains breathe like two lungs on either side of the window to my left. The known contours of Mom’s and Dad’s shadowy forms in the receding light lay on their relegated sides of the bed. They were fully clothed, just resting there in the dusk before having to get themselves up and ready to go to sleep.  The years are finally, finally showing on them. They are in need of repose. And so am I.

So, without invitation and in my street clothes, I crawled onto their bed and shimmied in between them. Lay down flat on my back. Took my Mom’s hand in my right (her trademark plush palms) and Dad’s in my left (his fingers always a bit chilly) and without much talk at all and with light disappearing along the walls and out of those lace curtains, I listened in love and reverence to them breathe.

Global Mom: Madame, Vos Trésors!!

From Global Mom: A Memoir

(Continued from last post, “Fête de la Musique”)

**

Dear Mom and Dad,

I write from a hotel where I’m staying as of today until Monday when I fly to Munich. Packed the house all week. Sent off Kristiina and her kids Thursday morning. Hard goodbye for me. R will flee with the kids to Zaki’s in Provence while I finish up all the messy boring moving details here. Cleaned and spackled today, walked around an echoing apartment and remembered 4 years ago arriving alone to an echoing apartment, the ordeal of getting our Norwegian table through the windows, the crazy and hilarious moving team, the growth in our family, the depths of my friendships here, and I realized all the things I have learned during these critical 4 years, the gifts of wisdom I hardly deserve. Before they left, R and the children and I knelt in the middle of our empty living room, so strange, to offer a prayer of thanks for the gift of that home, of the years we were blessed to spend there. All the miracles. You know some of them. I’m giving the main sermon in church tomorrow (on seeking for wisdom and not for riches), then will do the official apartment walk-through on Monday morning. I’ll ship Parker’s big African drum to you after that, please be watching for it; he’ll want it at university if he can play it and not get in trouble for the disturbance. That thing is loud! After that, I’m thinking I’ll probably walk the streets feeling wistful, so wistful I can hardly formulate words. Then I’ll fly to Munich late afternoon because goods arrive Tuesday morning and we unpack all week . . . and so forth and so forth until I fly to meet up with all of you and the kids in Utah on July 14th. Have been overwhelmed with work for so many weeks (months?) now, that I haven’t really allowed myself to feel very much about this departure. Now I’m so completely clotted with warm fluid feelings. I think my earlobes are waterlogged.

Love you both always and see you very soon!

 

Grandma visiting, Parker, Claire, the Sorenson children, Kristiina

Grandma visiting Parker, Claire, the Sorensons, including Kristiina

And so that late Parisian June evening of the Fête de la Musique, I had been standing with my family on a bridge. A day later, I found myself alone, standing at a crossroads. It was a literal crossroads, the moment I am describing now, since I was standing in front of our building, which stands at an intersection, and the extra-large moving truck with its forty- cubic-meter container was parked there, too. We were leaving an epoch, a densely blessed whirring Camelot of a time, we all knew it, and I was balancing all that emotion with the practical necessity of overseeing the countless details of clearing out our apartment and making sure every last gram of our material lives was packed into a box that would roll out the very next morning heading for Munich, Germany.

I’d sent Randall and the children off in the car to say neighborhood goodbyes and pick up baguettes still hot and crusty from Secco, our local boulangerie. They timed it so they would show up to see off our moving crew, a spicy mix from the banlieue of Paris, headed by a great, burly fellow whose charm and salt-and-pepper eyebrows were equally luxuriant.

As that leader clamped shut the massive lock on our container parked in teeny Rue du Colonel Combes, he raised his voice and arms in a dramatic flourish, smacked the hind end of the trailer, and pronounced to the skies, “Madame, vos trésors!!” Madame, your treasures. In that very same instant, Randall rounded the corner in the Renault, kids hanging out windows wielding baguettes, waving, whooping, “Bonjour, Maman!!” like a chorus of French school children.

“Non, Monsieur,” I responded, an eye on the family van, “Voici mes trésors.” No, sir. These are my treasures.

In that serendipitously choreographed moment, I truly felt what I was saying as it caught in my throat, and I thought I knew just how completely those gangling arms and hoarse voices were my true treasures. I knew that if my forty-cubic-foot, padlocked trunk of treasures drowned in the blue black of some ocean, I’d survive it well because I knew what was most precious. And what’s more, I had it. Precious and irreplaceable. My treasure. My treasured family. I had every last one of them.

 

070

Global Mom: Our Daughter With The French Name

From Global Mom: A Memoir

The following I wrote in my journal:

The hardest moment was in our bedroom tonight. We’d already told P by himself, which was a good move. We knew he’d be ecstatic. But C just finished doing Marian the Librarian in “The Music Man” and just last week we promised her a dog. Finally, the dog she’s waited a decade for. For D and L, we would just announce the choice when we’d make it, not discuss it, so we didn’t involve them at first.

Claire as Marian

Claire as Marian

Claire living her dream: horses

Claire living her dream: horses

091

Piano teacher down the street

Piano teacher down the street

Big yellow American school bus also down the street...and a 6 minute drive to school

Big yellow American school bus also down the street…and a 6 minute drive to school

Free range living

Free range living

Did I mention a cottage and lots of open space. . .for a dog?

Did I mention a cottage and lots of open space. . .for a dog?

...Or for a little brother?

…Or for a little brother?

P and C were sitting on our sofa. We told them we had big news but wanted to discuss it. This isn’t final, kids, we said. Want to get your reactions. And when we told C, she immediately glazed over then her eyes welled up. P put his arm around her, and she just started crying, crying. “I don’t want to go back to that hard life. This is easy, good, perfect. I want to be here. I want to STAY HERE!” And she fell into P’s arms, bawling. I think I gave R an evil look, and I know I lipped to him, “This means no go.”

We kept trying to reassure her. We haven’t said yes to a thing, we said. We’ve just been asked if we could and we are free to say no, we said. We’ll never do something that makes all of us miserable and that Heavenly Father does not encourage us to do. We walked around and around the back yard, C between us, our arms wrapped around her shoulders, listening as she cried out all the reasons why this was all bad, all wrong. “All bad, all wrong,” she kept crying, stopping to catch her breath, to bend over and then shake herself upright. It broke my heart. I wanted to weep, too, but held it in. I was believing her.

I felt how selfish it would be to pluck them out of such bounty and ease, and I had just hung red geraniums on the wrap around porch, gorgeous! Why would we ever head to where things were, as Claire knew, much harder. The edges, harder. The expectations, harder. The language, harder. The traffic and school and rules and sky and air and everything, she said, HARDER.

Inseparable, these two

Inseparable, these two

What happened when Claire went alone into her room is something Randall and I didn’t ask or hope for. We sat, nauseated and sweaty, conflicted and brokenhearted, hands between knees, rocking back and forth on the edge of our bed. So what? we said to each other, if the company has an “acute” and “special” need? So what if that need is, as they assert, “tailor made” to be filled with Randall’s expertise? So what if this would only be “a couple of years” and then we could come right back to the home and the huge yard and the cul de sac on the hill and corporate headquarters where Randall, having done this, overseeing his function in the company’s largest subsidiary outside the U.S., would be “very well-positioned”, as he was told, to take on the job that his whole career had been grooming him for, the top and final level.

So what? I said.

So what? he said.

So what?

086

And Claire knocked on our door.

She wanted to talk. She came with news that became a turning point and a landmark to which our whole family would refer for years to come. She sat with us on the bed and told us she’d run while holding back tears to her girlfriend down the road. That friend, whose parents were in the middle of a horrible divorce, reassured and comforted Claire, and listened as her new friend cried. Claire had then come back home to kneel at her bed and pray. Not for an answer — to move or not to move, that was not the question — but simple comfort in this hurting moment. It was then that she felt warmth and heat wrap around her twelve-year-old shoulders and a voice (she felt it, she didn’t hear it), told her clearly that though this would be really hard at the beginning, over the long run it would be the best thing for the family.

Yes, she should, we should, move to Paris.

141

Cold-Coping-Play-Haven

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2012. This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

Melissa Dalton-Bradford (MDB):  Dalton, Luc, it’s post-show, the flash and buzz have dimmed a bit, you’re both already deep into a new school year.

But before we get too far away from it all, I want to be sure to nail down your feelings about Coldplay and their concert. I hope I got some good shots and I know Dad got some great iPhone footage.  So, how about we sit and chat about how you two felt about the Coldplay concert. Sound good?

Dalton Haakon Bradford (DHB) and Luc William Bradford (LWB) : (In unison) For the blog, right?

MDB: Well, uh-huh, for the blog, yeah. But for me.  And for you, too. We call this “processing,” sons.

DHB: Okay, fire away.  Process. (He settles into his red beanbag chair, clears his throat, tucks his hands between his knees and stares at me. Intently.)

LWB: (Looking at brother, flops on bed, twiddles a dozen neon-colored rubber wrist band in his fingers.) Go for it.

MDB: Luc, what was your favorite moment of our trip to Copenhagen?

LWB: You mean favorite moment of the last year, maybe, or yeeeeearsss? ‘Cause it was the Coldplay concert, of coursssse. Nothing better than thaaat.

MDB: Dalton, you agree?

DWB: (Eyebrows raised, head cocked forward, hands open with palms flat toward the heavens like, “You serious?”)

MDB: Right. So, can you answer the question, Dalton, Why Coldplay? What’s their magic formula?

DHB: I think that to see a band grow so big that originally — they started way back in 1998, I think — that at first was very meek and intimate-sounding, that’s part of the formula.  You know, the formula isn’t that complex or anything. It’s not a big band, it’s got just these four everyday kinda guys, not a whole team of back up dancers and ten different wardrobe changes in a single concert.

LWB: (Still lying flat on his back on the bed. Arms spread wide and spindly over the edge. Oversized feet making a 90˚ angle out of his profile.) Except they changed out of their sweaty T-shirts a couple of times.

MDB: And thank goodness, is what I’m saying.

DHB: Yeah, but no flashy stuff, right? No synchronized dancers and lip-synching and dresses—

LWB: (He whips his head toward his brother.) They wear dresses?

DHB: I mean, what I was gonna say was no dresses out of raw meat. For instance.

LWB: You getting all this, Mom?

MDB: (Clickety-clickety-clickety. . .) Dalton, continue.

DHB: If you see Coldplay now, as a band — as a unit — they haven’t changed so very much from the start. Maybe Chris Martin has evolved some with a stronger voice and a greater focus in lyric writing. But as a whole they’ve perfected their talents and brought out what they can do best. They’re still with that original one-plus-one-equals-two formula, but they are arguably the biggest, most famous band in the world right now.

LWB: And we went to their coooncert! (Arms flopping all directions, Luc imitates an eighty-five-pound caterpillar being turned on a spit.)

DHB: Luc, seriously. We doin’ bidniss here.

(Just one of the thirteen-thousand random quotes our family seems to interject into every conversation.)

MDB: Dal-ton. Con-tin-ue.

DHB: The Coldplay formula is by and large nothing short of pure raw natural talent.

MDB: Okay, so no raw meat, just raw talent.  And talent for. . .?

DHB: They can play each other’s instruments, for starters, but they still do their own roles really, really well. Will Champion, the drummer, also plays like every last instrument on the planet—

MDB: Lute? Harpischord?

DHB: Mom. Rockband. So once, there’s this concert when Chris Martin [the lead singer with steal blue eyes and an irrepressibly affable persona and a wife named Gwyneth Paltrow and children named Apple and Moses] says at one point, OK, this is the moment we show you how good our bland really could have been. And so right then, Will Champion takes Jonny’s [Jonny Buckland, their lead guitarist] guitar and he sings a song he wrote.  And it’s really good. He can really sing. Really play.

LWB: You serious? (He’s raised his head.)

DHB: Serious.

LWB: (Groans and flops face first into the pillow.  From the depths of mattress, he mumbles.) Okay, like I only play some piano, some drums and the clarinet.

DHB: Kinda.

LWB: Mom?!!  (Meerkat springs up at full attention, eyeballs protruding like billiard balls, that behold-how-I-have-absorbed-the-villan’s-cosmic-affront look quivering from every muscle.)

MDB: Guys.  The blog. Dalton, what do we say?

DHB: Kay. Sorry.  But kinda.  And still better than me.

MDB: Better than I.

DHB: Mom. The blog.

MDB: Coldplay’s formula, men. How does it work?

DHB: There’s no unnecessary pizzazz, no wacky costumes that fashion designers have thought up to capitalize on this “artist’s” career, kind of like parasites, you know, making their designer career bigger on the back of someone else’s music career. Like Coldplay, think about it, what did they wear?

LWB: Homemade T-shirts.  No logos, even. Mom would have even let us wear that. And they wore baseball caps. Which Mom wouldn’t have let us wear. (Preteen evil eye.)

DHB: Like the band members could have been the audience members themselves, you know?

MDB: Hmm . . . so . . .  do you think that’s a gimmick? A strategy? Trying to stay right on the level of your audience? Play the Jedermann?

LWB: I don’t even think Will Champion plays that one.

MDB: No, that means Everyman. Trying to be your Joe Schmoe off the street.  I mean, these guys are multi-millionares now. Ultrafamous. Scary big. They could wear flashy jumpsuits like Elvis.  They could be Elton John.  Or Lady Gaga.

DHB: Gross. Never.

LWB: Gag!  Gaga. (Writhes and squirms, gripping throat with both hands.)

MDB: Actually, let’s go with this: Why a Coldplay concert over a Lady Gaga concert, guys? She was on all those posters in the middle of Copenhagen. Should we have gotten tickets to her thing instead?

LWB: No way! Coldplay all the way!  (Up on his knees on the bed, now, pounding fists into his thighs with every syllable.) Lady Gaga’s concerts are strange, vulgar, yicky.  They don’t make sense, and all in the wrong way, and she says everywhere that she’s just being unique, but she’s just being a . . . a . . . spectacle.

DHB: Good word, Luc.

MDB: Nice compliment, Dalton.

LWB: But Coldplay has meaning we can relate to.  (Standing on bed, posing oddly and speaking in a girl’s voice), “I’m just so different, so born this way.”  First of all, (one finger extended) no one’s born with horns implanted in their head. Second of all, (two fingers for emphasis), I think she’s just copying Madonna—well, going beyond her.  For some people who are really way, way out there and forgotten by the world, that might feel comforting. I dunno.  Horns and meat dresses, you know. But you can always, always relate to Coldplay.  This music is smart. Lady Gaga’s just . . .not.

MDB: Luc William Bradford, you willing to go on record with that statement?

LWB: Print it, Melissa Dalton-Bradford.

Back row, stage right, Luc’s concert dinner metabolizes into a halo

MDB: Because, well, I think Lady Gaga’s pretty darn smart. She’s sure got something figured out to become a person whose reputation has spread as far as a small village in Switzerland where we who don’t really like her or her music that much, are talking about her.  So she’s unquestionably smart about something. Right? At least about marketing.  You think?

DHB: Then why are we even talking about her?

MDB: Moving on.

DHB: Still can’t beat Will Champion for musical instruments, though.

MDB: Yeah, not going to be seeing any lutes or harpsichords in Lady Gaga’s act soon, either. Bummer.

LWB: (Eyes half closed, pointer finger in warning position like a grandpa hoisting himself out of the sunken marks of his old living room LazyBoy recliner) Ah, but you might. (He releases the pose then flops back down.)

DHB: But see, you could [have lutes and harpsichords] with Coldplay, and it would make sense.  But it wouldn’t be for spectacle.

MDB: Got a point there, genius.

DHB: It would be for the sake of musical inventiveness and to support the lyric.  Because they don’t need spectacle.  Their show augments what is already excellent, excellent within its genre.  Doesn’t depend on the spangley stuff or pyrotechnics.

MDB: Pretty darned good spectacle at this concert, though, I’d have to say. I mean, we were at the same stadium, weren’t we?  Or am I the only one who remembers fireworks, tons of butterfly confetti. . .

. . . Huge helium-inflated glow-in-the-dark orbs being tossed around the audience?. . .

. . . The titanic-sized hot pink graffiti-drenched hearts?. . .

. . . No spectacle? Really?

DHB: Of course there was.  But not to mask weak music or to compensate for mediocre talent.

MDB: Ooooo. Touché! Way to take a stand, Monsieur. Um, speaking of lyrics, what about Coldplay’s?

LWB: I like that they never swear in their songs, I like that a lot.  Most other bands these days do, even if just here and there. Bands that people these day are huge fans of, obviously parents are probably just saying that the swearing’s okay ‘cause their kids’ll hear worse stuff at school, and maybe they think the kids aren’t listening to the words, they’re just there for the beat.  Which isn’t true. You get the language. But Coldplay, you can enjoy without all those swear words.

MDB: But I’ve heard some of today’s music. It’s not just the crass language, but the dumbness. Like ding-dong emptiness — that’s a concern. But what’s worse is the violence and the suggestiveness. Well, not even suggestiveness.  Just pornographic.  And so soul-draining.

DHB:  Coldplay’s completely clean. And intelligent.  Their lyrics aren’t only curse-word-free.  The most suggestive lyric I’ve ever heard is, “Its not easy when she turns you on.” That’s it. Not steamy, They aren’t trying to be controversial. They aren’t trying to prove themselves. They’re doing what they do best.

LWB: And, can I just say, I like “Charlie Brown.”

MDB: Who can not like him? Or that song? You know, they do some tricky things with time signatures in that song, did you notice?

DHB: Really?

MDB: Oh, yeah, shifting back and forth all over the place.  Not simple stuff.

LWB: Personally, I loved the way the wristbands blinked with the exact rhythm of the music . . .

. . . How the animated walking man appeared on screens.  I just felt so incredibly happy in that moment.

. . . Like, okay I’ll say it. Did anyone else feel like they could have cried? Sorta?

DHB: OK, ‘cause I thought you just like “Charlie Brown” because of the lyrics: (Dalton sings):

When they smashed my heart into smithereens

I be a bright red rose come bursting the concrete  (Luc joins him):

Be the cartoon heart, light a fire, light a spark

Light a fire, a flame in my heart.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vBGI8-4puV4&feature=related

MDB: And what’s the “deepest” one of their lyrics, do you think?

LWB: “Fix You.”

DHB: “Fix You.”

DMB, MDB, LWB: (We sing it together. Because we have before):

When the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home

And ignite your bones

And I will try to fix you.

MDB: Luc,  what does that one say to you?

LWB: It’s a hard topic everyone can relate to at some point, maybe, I think. About losing something, someone, and wishing so hard you could get that thing or person back, then having someone else try to fix that for you in some way. Or maybe the someone you lose is the one trying to fix you.  With lights.  Maybe they are the lights.  Guiding you home.

DHB: But my favorite song is “Paradise.” Just this morning on the bus ride to school, I was listening to it, and had to conclude right then that it undoubtedly will be one of the greatest songs of the decade.

(Here, Dalton sings a riff.  Then beats a drum phrase on his thigh. Then compares it all to a Beatle’s riff.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGzbeEOWYgc&feature=related

DHB: If you didn’t have the bass riff in “Paradise” for instance, it would be empty.  Unsupported.  You have the full use of strings, synths, right? (He acts out strings and synths.) Then this impossibly huge explosion (he explodes) and this strong, I’d call it forceful melody. (And he launches into full air guitar version of the forceful “Paradise” melody.)

MDB: (Resumes typing.) What do you think of Alex Boyé’s and the Piano Guys’ version of it?

LWB: Ahhhhhwesome!

DHB: They took a great tune and added another dimension to it. All the lyrics are in Swahili. “Pepo-pepo-peponi.” (He begins singing the chorus.  He moves like Boyé. On a mountain top.  Luc starts fake playing a piano from the bed.  I add the cello. )

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cgovv8jWETM

MDB: But someone, your grandparents, for instance—

LWB: Omi and Opa?

MDB: Omi and Opa might argue that these lyrics are repetitive. Mundane.

DHB: Strong, language, young lady.

MDB: Well?

DHB: Look. You need repetition so the whole stadium of 50,000-plus spectators can sing along. Remember how that was? How incredible?

MDB:  Well, no kidding.  Of course I do.  You bet! Hey, you don’t need to convince me. It’s Omi and Opa — the opera singer  and the music professor, remember ? You have to convince them.

DHB: Right.  See, there are other popular lyrics like “Bay-by, bay-by, bay-by, ooooo”, which are  repetitive,  you could even say “universal”.  But who wants to chant about wanting a Baby, Baby, Baby over wanting Paradise? Case closed.  I’d say there’s a difference.

MDB: Point well taken.  Luc William, your favorite moment in the concert, sir?

LWB: The second our wristbands went on the first time.  WOW.  And when the wristbands blinked in time to Charlie Brown. Then those confetti butterflies.

I don’t know, the whole thing was just an all over big human experience of happiness and togetherness.

MDB: And Dalton Haakon? Favorite moment?

DHB: OK, Hard question. Maybe it was “Warning Sign”, which is not so well known, and Chris Martin even said once he thought it was too boring and “internal” to be marketable.  But that he himself liked it.  They played it at the concert without percussion, pretty naked, musically.  To tell you the truth, it’s the song that won me over first:

Come on in
I’ve gotta tell you what a state I’m in
I’ve gotta tell you in my loudest tones
That I started looking for a warning sign

When the truth is, I miss you
Yeah the truth is, that I miss you so

A warning sign
It came back to haunt me, and I realised
That you were an island and I passed you by
And you were an island to discover

And I’m tired, I should not have let you go
Oooooooo

So I crawl back into your open arms
Yes I crawl back into your open arms
And I crawl back into your open arms
Yes I crawl back into your open arms.

LWB: And what was your favorite part, Mom?

MDB: You interview me now, is that it? Good enough.  I’d say everything you two have just said, but there’s something that’s way above all the rest.  You don’t know this, but I have a kind of particular connection to “Viva la Vida”, and so when they finally came to it in their program, I don’t know, I just wanted to fly out of my seat and run through all the rows, hugging every single last stranger in that whole loud stadium.

LWB: We are so glad you didn’t.

DHB: Yeah, good thing we were packed in in that top row up there, right, Luc?

MDB: And when Chris Martin collapsed, remember that? Hello, this is a difficult yoga move, I wanna point that out.

. . . And we had to keep singing the chorus over and over and over to get him off the floor? Remember?

DHB: ‘Course.

LWB: Yuh.

MDB: I really got that moment. I think I might have had — I know I did  have — tears in my eyes, guys . . . So . . . anyway . . . Anything you might not have liked so much about the concert? Anything?

LWB: Ah, well, there was a bit of beer and cigarettes a few rows from us. That’s not so great. But I kept clear of the smoke.

MDB: Did it make you feel uncomfortable, though? You know I’m not a big fan. At all.

DHB: Since Copenhagen is the Carlsberg beer capital of the world, I sort of expected some drinking at a big concert like this.  How do you avoid being around it?  I’m just glad you never get that at Music and the Spoken Word.

LWB: I just focused on the music and all the people around me who weren’t drinking and were still having a great time, singing together and smiling for real and being part of a fantastic, incredible, awesome experience.

MDB: You mean the worst part wasn’t walking home afterwards?  Walking for two hours all the way across town? Without toilets? Without food? Getting home at 2:00 a.m.?

DHB: That was “savor” time. Didn’t mind it. I was in another world the whole way, really.

MDB: And last question, gents: If you were somehow magically granted back stage passes and could talk to Chris Martin and his crew face-to-face, what would you want to tell them?

LWB: I’d say, “Brilliant, it was the best concert I could have imagined—even better than that — and I’m thankful I was one of the people who got to be there. You made me so happy that night.”

DHB: Backstage passes?!! That would be the most surreal scenario.  But if you’re thinking up some plan for the next time you spring a big move on us, then I’d go with it. Seriously, I would want to talk to all the band members at once, by myself, face-to-face, no interruptions, quietly. Like that, alone and private, I’d tell them that my big brother Parker knew them before they released “Viva la Vida” in 2008. And that song came out the year after he passed away. I would say to them, “My big brother loved your music. Before you were ever huge.  Thank you for making such good music so that I could love it, too.  And be right here.”