Sometimes you hear a song on the radio and you hunt down the band to hear more, other times someone will tell you about a song and share the music with you, and other times music shows up at a time you least expect it to matter. It is often those unexpected moments where music can change your life. This was one of those times...
People do not realize that the heat in Minnesota is often as bad as it is in Texas; the humidity causes people to wish for the ability to ring out their flesh like sponges.
At the Minnesota State Fair the heat typically is unberable; that year was no exception. In the open air theater a group was about to perform. The seating--aluminum benches that would cause skin to sizzle, and few people were brave enough to test the structural integrity of their clothing. My mother, surly, sweaty and swearing about the day and the inability to find a thirst quenching novelty on a stick; my father, reticent and hunched over, tried to pacify the latest of her legendary rants.
My sister bounded ahead and plopped down on a bench in the back row shaded by a large oak tree. She didn't know a concert was about to start; her feet hurt.
We all followed suit, and the coolness of the shade revitalized us. People filed past, dinner time approached and many had been at the fair all day. The day guests were leaving and the younger, rambunctious night crowd was slowly filtering in, heading directly toward the midway.
My people watching was interrupted by two men and two women walking onto the stage; all four of us had forgotten the clam shell amphitheater, and then they opened their mouths and started singing a tribute to The Mamas and the Papas.
The heat of day was buffered by softness in the air, and a cool breeze started to rattle the leaves in applause. This was a group my parents knew and loved. Under that tree, they revisited memories of high school parties in the woods and driving rural roads with radio blaring, windows rolled down despite the chill in the air. Their talk floated over my head and sparkled with a life of its own in a space between the ground and sky.
Even the music became more tangible as my parents injected each song with meaning and worth. Time slowed down as we sat there almost to the point that it was turning backward, and though my parents watched the singers and ignored us, my sister and I stared at them in complete silence.
What we were witnessing was a transformation. When one of the girl singers started to sing a love ballad, my mother reached over and started to pet and gently scratch the back of my father's head. They spoke only through glances and at one point my father reached over and held my mother's hand, their hands linked together until the end of the song and even then they did not break their hold when the applause started.
After that moment, I knew love was real....and The Mamas and the Papas have been one of my favorite bands ever since.