The recent passing of Jimmy Buffett has me thinking a lot about music, memories and making space for spontaneous moments – something that’s hard amid my daily hustle.
I grew up in a household that was often filled with music, with my parents’ taste including artists ranging from the Beatles to Bonie Raitt. I can remember being rocked as a small child, my father’s voice quietly singing James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James in my ear. My dad and I would dance to it years later at my wedding.
As a teenager, I would often lay on the living room carpet, watching dad’s “Hotter Than July” album turn as Stevie Wonder crooned his own version of Happy Birthday and Lately, a song I would come to love all over again thanks to a cover from the 90s band Jodeci.
Years later, I took a road trip with my parents, my husband and our son, Wyatt, who was about five at the time. My dad entertained Wyatt on the trip by changing the words from All You Need is Love to All You Need is Pancakes. As we drove, my father and my son both belly-laughed their way through the trombone-laden chorus which now seemed to be announcing … breakfast. Wyatt requested pop’s tune every time we got in the car that trip.
But back to Buffett. I saw Jimmy Buffett in concert exactly once, and totally on a whim. That weekend, I had traveled to Texas with my parents and one of my sisters to attend a Saturday morning wedding for an old family friend. We arrived at the hotel Friday night, checked in and headed to downtown Frisco for dinner.
At the restaurant, we noticed a poster for a concert the next night; Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band would be playing at Toyota Stadium, just a few blocks from where we were dining. Out of curiosity, we googled ticket prices and were surprised to find that not only were they still available, but they were available for $20 each on Groupon. In a moment of spontaneity, we cleared our respective schedules and bought the tickets.
When Saturday evening rolled around, my parents, sister and I headed toward the stadium amid a sea of Parrotheads. Buffett’s fans were out en masse, many of them having camped overnight to enjoy a parking lot party dotted by RVs and charcoal grills.
We didn’t come in costume, but everyone else seemed to know the dress code. We were surrounded by coconut bras and grass skirts, and when the crowd moved their fins to the left and then to the right, we did too. Always a sucker for a theme, I stood in line at the concession to get cheeseburgers in paradise, and we all sipped on cold beers in the late-May Texas sun.
I remember thinking how rare it had become – to get time away with just my parents and sister. We danced and sang and went home on Sunday morning, still buzzing from the night’s energy. It is one of my favorite memories, made even more special by the fact that just two weeks later, my father had a stroke that would forever change his voice.
I smile, even now, as I think of our impromptu adventure. I can smell the stadium and see my dad’s smiling eyes behind the sunglasses he was wearing. I can hear his laugh, the surest reminder that some of life’s best moments are unplanned – and that we must all leave space for those moments to unfold.
A little slice of paradise, indeed.