Wednesday, August 13, 2008

What Will You Bring Home?

I can hear them in the next room playing guitar - my kids, along with their friends Jake and Evan. Anna is trying to write the music for Evan’s new song “Paper Cuts”. Charlie is trying to choose which harmonica to blow. They are in a spirited discussion now, about a name for their new band. Will it be the Banana Bandanas? The Banana Smurfs? I love this. And believe it or not, this is a result of traveling.

Follow me here…..I have brought lots of souvenirs back from our travels and realized along the way that it’s not the things that have made my life richer, but the ideas.

On dozens of hopping Saturday nights in Belize, over the past nine years, I have performed with area bands. There is nothing in the world quite like the feeling I get while belting out “Me and Bobby McGee” on the beach – with a band. I watch the honeymooners dance, all snuggled up together. The singles and old-marrieds sway in their chairs with their drinks held aloft. Some croon along softly, smiling. Others are surfing on a memory and sing full throttle, their heads thrown back, their eyes closed.

And on Sunday afternoons in Belize, local musicians meet at a certain beachfront bar and hold a jam session. They work on songs that are not ready for primetime, and case the crowd for anyone who might want to sit in. Often they have to cobble a band together in order to play at all, asking over the open mic if anyone can play bass or drums, or knows all the words to “Hotel California”. The musicians, the regulars, the newcomers, everyone has fun, because it is impossible to have a bad time when you are singing.

I have brought this concept back home, and a couple of Sundays a month we host a “Sunday Sundown Jam Session” in my dining room. Now the crux of this gathering is the talent and willingness of my two actual musician friends, Joe Tougas and Ann Fee. But thankfully they happily attend, and even bring food. Everyone is invited to bring their whole family and something to strum, pluck, shake, blow or bang on. It is impossible not to have fun, especially when the babies dance.

When I meet someone new and they seem receptive, I ask if they play an instrument, or sing, and if they would be interested in bringing their family to a jam session. Most people are shy about it, or downplay their talent. But when they show up on a Sunday afternoon; when they plug in their guitar, or grab the microphone, shake the tambourine or bang on a bongo, they get that look in their eyes. The same look that I must have when there is a guitar strap on my back, a microphone at my lips, and sand between my toes.

And now as I listen to my kids with their friends, playing something that doesn’t involve shooting or exploding, death or injury, I am sure that this is one of the very best things I have ever brought home.


Last year at this time I was in Japan. This year I am sorting socks, school shopping, and taking kids to dental appts. Last year was better.

Here is a link to all the photos from the trip and some that I've posted since.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

And Now It's Your Turn

If you’ve ever read my column you understand that I have an almost pathological love of travel, of moving on, of finding the next place. I have visited more than 23 countries and schlepped my family across 5 continents. Last October, after 180 consecutive days on the road, my weary family landed at the Minneapolis airport. As we were blearily shuffling our way to baggage claim, my son was talking about how good it was to be going home. “Can you imagine how great it will be to sleep in our own beds tonight?” Eldest son remarked.

“Yea, and to stay home awhile. I don’t think I will leave the house for a month” Middle son replied.

“I want to see my friends tomorrow – but I’ll invite them to come and see me at MY house.” Youngest daughter said.

I however, was completely distracted by the airline departure signs, announcing the destinations for which these lucky crowds were bound. “Oh wow” I thought. “Those people are going to Hawaii. That might be a fun….”

“JULES!” My husband shouted as I started to wander off in the direction of the departure gate. “Where are you going?”

So you get the picture. I like to keep moving.