"Life is a lot like jazz - it's best when you improvise."Last weekend, life picked up in Chambana. Or at least, it did for the rest of the town. There was our annual sweetcorn festival (this is Illinois), Quad Day where all the students are welcomed to the U of I, and a big garage sale the YMCA hosts. But I didn't go to any of them, and I didn't even go to church.
— George Gershwin
— George Gershwin
Because, the truth is, I've been down the past few days. It's nothing that won't pass, I know. My heart hasn't really been in what I've been doing lately. I've reached the postpartum point when I feel especially unattractive, and more like a mom and less like a wife, let alone just Erika. I'm just a little worn down.
So on Sunday afternoon, we had one plan, and one plan only. I did what I have been doing a lot these days, and took Millie to the playground. It's somewhere we can all have some space for our energy and our thoughts. She looped through the swings and climbed slides, and Walter and I sat in the shade, watching her. I hid behind my sunglasses (one of my favorite things to do), daydreaming until I heard booms of bass and hesitant microphone checks echoing throughout the entire park. Millie froze in her tracks, asking me what it was. I turned around and saw a large group gathered in the distance. We looked at them. We looked at each other.
And somehow, we found ourselves wandering away from the shovels in the big sandbox, and walking towards the beat.
We found chairs on the periphery and eyed the crowd, many still dressed in their Sunday best. The lady shaking a shiny tambourine, filling the air with the sound of those tiny cymbals clanging together. The woman in the long, black dress and straw hat with a sunflower. The men who tapped their feet and nodded. The kids who ran between adults as if they were weaving something, gorgeous and frenzied. And we took in the smell from the big barbecue, the glow of sunshine that was just enough heat to moisten our foreheads, and the feel of grass that was fading beneath our feet.
An announcer welcomed everyone to a jazz and gospel benefit concert. Different groups took turns on stage. There were church choirs who swayed and clapped, and Millie raised her hands when they did. There were dance groups who spun and moved in harmony. The audience sang and danced as much as the performers, and Millie did, too.
We soaked in the joy of the singers for a whole hour or two before it was time to leave, and I felt their happiness sink in, if only for a little while. I thought about the serendipity of it all on the way home, speeding by the cornfields bleached by the August sun. Sometimes, you plan. Sometimes, you look high and low for what you need.
But sometimes, what you need looks for you.