Cues and Shoes

 “Are you ready for Thanksgiving yet?” the young cashier asks the shopper a few cash registers over from me. 

“Yes,” the customer replies confidently.

I try to mind my own business as I pay for my groceries. It’s not my conversation but I somehow feel like it could be. 

It’s only November 5, I think to myself.

The determined cashier continues. “Well then, are you ready for Christmas?” It feels to me as if she’s now trying to one-up the shopper.

“I don’t do Christmas—too many expectations,” the customer says, loud enough that everyone can hear her. I try to keep my head down and resist making eye contact.

Secretly, I admire her and I smile to myself. She isn’t rude or obnoxious, but she clearly lets us know (because we’re all listening aren’t we?) where she lands when it comes to Christmas. And now it feels as if it’s a public conversation.

I decide in that moment to turn around and look at the person who is being interrogated, as if to let her know that I acknowledge her and can appreciate the position she’s just been put in. Someone needs to acknowledge her discomfort…at least with a nod or a smile. 

We all get it. Whether it’s expectations, loneliness, grief, lack of money or time, weariness in coming up with what to get someone, dread of dragging out all of the decorations, we all have buttons that get pushed during the holidays or in this case, the weeks leading up to the holidays.

I stand there feeling conflicted. While I feel sorry for the customer, I also appreciate that the cashier is just trying to be engaging. Sometimes we ask questions just to be friendly. They aren’t good questions, or timed well, but we ask anyway. Perhaps that’s what’s happening here.

When I turn to see if I can catch the eye of the disgruntled lady, to acknowledge her strong feelings, I’m a little surprised. Her hair is done perfectly, make up looks great. She’s quite beautiful for Friday afternoon grocery shopping. I don’t know what I am expecting to see but she looks very put together (talk about expectations.) I expect her to look…disheveled…old…something…I don’t know…  

She is giving me a gift. She is giving me courage…hope. A small dose of encouragement reminding me of why I do Portraits of White. I need some of this kind of medicine at this point in the marathon.

In fact, as I get ready to post this week’s video, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to change it, throw it out,  re-do it because I am letting you see me when I’m not feeling very organized. And this was before the grocery store drama. Her honesty gives me the courage to keep the video “as-is.”

I’ve called this week’s post Cues and Shoes because one of the stressful parts of doing the show is figuring out the lighting cues. I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself…REALLY? Our world has been turned upside down and you’re stressing over lights?

Then there are the shoes. Somehow I was born without a hint of an arch in both feet and I have giant-sized bunions—much like my mother had. It’s always been hard to find pretty yet comfortable shoes for the stage, and it only seems to get worse with age. 

One year after the show, my feet hurt so bad I couldn’t walk out to greet everyone. I finally figured out it was just easier if I went without shoes, so I walked out in the lobby, shoeless and it felt wonderful.

In the scheme of things, the shoes are a small part of the stress, but every little bit adds up, as you know.  And though I don’t actually run the lights during the show, I have to make sure that those who do are well prepared for every little detail. Spot on Doug, spot on Wayne, Frances at the piano, Frances in the center, George on timpani, Tim on a stool, trumpet feature…..Frances tripping over her dress. Oh I hope not! LOL! 

Similar to all of these show details, the expectations that come with the holidays can start with tiny things but when combined, they can add up to stress. Where to spend the holidays…when to have the dinner…what to serve for dinner…what gift to buy….And some people, like the shopper lady have decided they just don’t “do” the holidays anymore.  

Then there’s the lingering pandemic. We’re all weary of what this has done to our lives. I see the strain on your faces as I’m out doing concerts. I read your notes that tell me of the crises you are facing personally. My heart breaks for you. 

 I don’t know who that lady at the grocery store is, but thanks to her outburst, I found the courage to keep running this last leg of the race of Portraits of White. I know it will be worth it. I’ve been preparing, practicing, pondering, stressing…all of it. But I’m ready for December 10 and 12.  

I can’t wait to see you and finish this Christmas show marathon with you by my side. (Even if I end it in my bare feet.) 

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