Some Artist Dates are easy alone. Museums. Lectures. Dance performances. Opera. Theatre. Some, like movies, I even prefer that way.
Live music, however, is far more difficult. Even when the audience is children. Perhaps even more so.
And yet, this is the set up for Artist Date 46.
I am parked outside of Schubas. My friend Matt’s band – Future Hits, self-proclaimed Fun (Yet Secretly Educational) Music for Kids, Families and Teachers – is playing this afternoon. It is a Halloween performance and party for children, hosted in collaboration with Whole Foods, The Kite Collective and Adventure Sandwich.
I stand in awe of how Matt puts himself out there. Performing. Recording. Last year, Future Hits cut its first CD, Songs for Learning, funded by KickStarter. This past summer he spent a month in South America, improving his Spanish. An ESL teacher for Chicago Public Schools, he requested, and received, a grant that paid for everything.
But right now I am standing in fear. Rather sitting, in my 13-year-old Honda Civic. I feel anxious about going inside. I don’t have children.
I sometimes feel this way walking into synagogue by myself – which I began doing several years ago.
As fresh meat, I was quickly swarmed and warmly greeted. Peppered with questions. Top on the list: Do you have children?
Pause. Uncomfortable silence. I often feel I have to fill that space. Say something clever or pithy to put us both at ease. I am getting better at just letting that dead air “hang.” Like summer in Charleston. Heavy. Still.
I wonder what they are wondering. If I cannot have children. If I am childless by choice. If I am waiting for the perfect sperm to swim into my life. I am told that this is none of my business.
Mostly, I imagine they wonder what brought me there. It’s a reasonable enough question. And the assumption that I have children is equally reasonable.
Many, perhaps most, join a congregation when their children are of school age. They recognize it as time to do what their parents had done – provide their children with a Jewish education. Sometimes for no other reason than, “this is what we do.”
Perhaps the second most popular reason for joining is the gift of a complimentary one-year membership, given when the Rabbi or Cantor of that congregation marries a couple. (I will have to query my Rabbi to see if I am correct in my speculation.)
I walked into synagogue for my own reasons. Neither recently married nor considering a Jewish education, I am the Jew who converted to Judaism. It’s a long story. One that doesn’t fit neatly into conversation over coffee and pastry after services. But it is mine. And I am assured that I have a place in the congregation.
Nonetheless, it is often still daunting walking through those sacred doors alone.
It is too at Schubas. Even after seeing my friend Joe, smoking outside. He doesn’t have kids either.
I walk in, pay $10, get my hand stamped and say to the bouncer, “Am I the only one here without kids?” “Nah,” he replies. Looking in, I’m not so sure.
The lights are dim and a bunch of little people in costumes are making kites and eating granola. Matt and his band mates are dressed in caveman attire. Think Flintstones.
Our friend Lily is selling CDs. Gene is on the floor with his son, Oscar, making a kite. Jenny is helping her son Seth into his costume.
Matt’s mom, Rhonda, is here. His dad too. I love Rhonda. Our conversations meander from fashion to Transcendental Meditation (which we both practice) – seamlessly. I feel like the universe has conspired for us to meet. We pick up where we left off last time.
Matt is delighted to see me. Grateful for the support. He always is.
I remember the first time I heard him play, at the Beat Kitchen. I arrived early and was standing on the corner outside. When he saw me, he dropped to his knees – on the sidewalk – his hands in prayer. Total gratitude.
This is why I am here – to support my friend. But I forget, falling into a swirling pit of “me.” Self-conscious about my childless-ness. Even though I (mostly) chose not to have any.
And then the music starts and I forget all of that. I forget myself. I have seen Matt perform many times, but this my first time hearing Future Hits. Even though I was a KickStarter supporter, which earned me a button and a CD.
I’m surprised. The music doesn’t feel like kids music. It is pleasing to my ear. It’s not sing-song-y like Barney. Something to be endured. I am delighted watching Emma go from bass to flute to tambourine.
The kids are invited to dance. They do, with joyous abandon. Oblivious to the concept of rhythm. I would like to shake a tail feather myself…but I’m suddenly self-conscious again. So I watch instead. Although I do raise my hand when the band asks if anyone’s birthday is in October.
There is a kite parade for the kids to show off their creations. More music and a dance contest. The winner – dressed as a werewolf – leaves with a Halloween-decorated bag of schwag.
And soon after, I leave too. Holding tightly to the light I see in Oscar’s face. In Seth’s. And the lesson they teach me. Beaming over the simplest things. Costumes. Music. Paper kites. They do not concern themselves with why they are here. Just that they are.