Friday, November 08, 2013

Musicals, Chocolate, and Love

Tonight we went to our stake's roadshow: Sing Down the Moon: An Appalachian Wonder Tale. No one from our family was in it, though the dress my mom took in for me to wear in the musical Steamboatin' (back in 1993) made an appearance on one of my friend's daughters. Part of me wanted to try out for it but...I can't drive to the stake center on my own. They found enough talent without us, of course. And it was a good (if not a tad long (over two hours!)) show, putting many unfamiliar spins to the fairy tales I'd grown up hearing (Jack Tales are a thing in Appalachia—he does much more than climb a beanstalk!).

We sat down next to an elderly couple. Benjamin's started to be really friendly to people so he immediately started trying to make eye contact with the woman beside me. He kept leaning across me and into her lap so he could peer right into her face and smile, as if to say, "Ignore me not!" She seemed to enjoy his company.

In the middle of the show, right after Jack earned a bag of money from the king and brought it home to his family, the cast came out and threw chocolate coins to the audience (which I imagine turned out much messier and more dangerous than they'd imagined it would be (but only because I saw how messy and dangerous it was (Andrew got hit in the face by a rogue coin and the coins that fell on the ground shattered so when you opened them up the chocolate inside crumpled all over the place))).

I let Benjamin eat one of the coins (while his sisters greedily devoured the rest) and he was in heaven. He went around begging for chocolate coins for the rest of the intermission, though I don't think anyone really understood what he meant when he came up to people with his hands outstretched, his face pleading for them to begin throwing that chocolatey goodness around again.

That was before he noticed all the bits of broken chocolate on the floor. I suppose he only spent half of intermission begging people for chocolate coins and spent the second half eating the unwanted bits that had fallen to the floor.

When I first spotted him pick something off the floor and pop it in his mouth I quickly went to investigate. Rachel followed me (Daddy and Miriam were in line at the bathrooms).

"What have you got in your mouth?" I asked Benjamin. I then pried his mouth open. He then reluctantly let me peek inside his mouth. "More chocolate! Where did you find that? On the floor, obviously. The floor's pretty gross. You probably don't want to be eating off of it..."

My prattling trailed off because just as I was telling Benjamin to beware the filthy floors that I spotted Rachel nonchalantly eating bits of chocolate off the floor. She was literally crawling on the floor, picking up specks of chocolate, and eating them.

"Rachel!" I said in surprise.

"What?" she shrugged. "I'm hungry."

But believe it or not, this post isn't about how two-thirds of my children were crawling around the cultural hall eating chocolate off the floor. It's about the woman I was sitting beside.

"He sure is a busy baby," she remarked on Benjamin as we watched him toddling around (on the prowl for chocolate).

"He certainly is," I agreed, tired out from a long day of chasing him around.

"Were your girls?"


"Were your girls this busy?"

"The first one was," I said, giving a nod in Rachel's direction (please note: she was also still hunting floor-dropped chocolate). "Our second was pretty calm, which is why we figured we could have another," I laughed (and she laughed too).

"Yes, they're all very different," she said. "Those are my great-grandchildren sitting on that row there," she said, pointing to a row of children sitting (well-behaved, not crawling around on the floor looking for chocolate) a few rows ahead of us. "They certainly keep us entertained, but they're growing up. I've been enjoying watching your little boy tonight. He sure is cute!"

"Oh, thanks," I said. "But, wow—your great-grandchildren! So how long have you lived here?"

"Oh, sweetie," she said, and sighed.

I suppose it was a rather brazen question, considering she'd already admitted to having great-grandchildren older than my own children. Clearly their family is now three-generations deep in North Carolina, though I suspected that she, herself, was a transplant.

I'm not very good with smalltalk anyway, and I'm really not very good at knowing what questions are taboo when speaking to an elder. I was once reprimanded in a nursing home when I asked a woman I was visiting with how many children she had ("That's an impertinent question!" she chided, even though she'd just asked me how many brothers and sisters I had and I figured (since I was thirteen at the time) that asking her how many children she had was the reciprocal question...but I guess not).

I geared up for another scolding but this woman didn't chide me. Instead she got a contemplative look in her eyes, smiled, and announced, with both humility and pride, "We came here fifty-three years ago."

"Where did you move from?" I asked.

"I'm from Provo," she said, with that same faraway expression on her face. "My husband is from Texas. He came up to go to school at the BYU and moved in next door. Everyday I'd leave my house and—boom!—there he'd be. I kept running into him. I just couldn't get away! So then he married me and carted me off."

It was the most romantic love story I've ever heard and it only took thirty seconds for her to tell it. I suppose it wasn't what I heard of their love story that made such an impression, though. It was what I saw of their love story.

I'd watched her wheel her husband through the parking lot and into the church building. She lovingly helped him out of the car and settled him into his wheel chair, then she rushed him to the doors—with a smile on her face and a youthful spring in her step.

Fifty-three years in North Carolina. Fifty-three years after finishing a graduate program in...Michigan (¿I think?). Fifty-three years after finishing a graduate program, after finishing an undergraduate program, after getting married. They've been married a long time.

I'm not sure what it was about their story that touched me so deeply.

Perhaps it was that watching this woman assist her husband with such compassion reminded me of my grandma who, year in and year out, helped my grandfather from the car to the wheelchair to the chapel—an act of service and of perfect love that has been etched into the recesses of my mind.

Perhaps it was that the story was so simply sweet—he was always there, he kept being there, he's still here, and he'll always be mine—that I couldn't help but notice the parallels with mine and Andrew's story. There was never anything complicated about our relationship, no thunderbolt moment when we knew we were in love. It was just that Andrew was there and then he kept being there until we couldn't imagine it any other way "so then he married me and carted me off."

And I really hope that in 50 years one of us will be pushing the other into the stake center to watch a roadshow—where the acting and singing will be both terrible and wonderful but at least we'd still be enjoying spending our lives together. Because that's a love story.

After the show ended I said goodbye and asked for her name, since I hadn't done that when we were talking earlier. (Remember how I mentioned above that I'm terrible at small talk? It makes me so nervous. If I were the prince in Cinderella (or, in today's instance, Catskins), I'd certainly make the same blunders the prince did and not ask Cinderella for her name and end up trying shoes on every maiden in the land. No question about it.) She waved her hand between her husband and herself and said, "We're the..."

And I totally can't remember their last name! Isn't that awful?! I was going to remember all the way home and was repeating it to myself until we got completely lost because Andrew took a wrong turn but decided he could figure it out even though it was pitch black outside and, as Andrew said once he allowed me to program the GPS, "it's not Utah." That only means it's not on a grid (where 200 E leads to 100 E leads to Main (none of this Brookside leads to Emily leads to Franklin business)) so you definitely need a map to find your way in unfamiliar territory. Anyway...

"And what's your family name?" she asked me.

"Oh, we're the Heisses," I said with a grin, knowing full-well what would come next.

"I should have recognized your husband then!" she gushed. "I thought your children looked suspiciously like Heisses. We just love the Heisses! They still send us a Christmas letter every year!"

It was a good evening, even if it ended with Miriam running a fever and warning us from the backseat that "THROW UP IS TRAVELING THROUGH MY BODY!!" She didn't end up throwing up but I know that if she had, Andrew would've volunteered to clean it up (because that man's love runs deep).


  1. "Throw up is traveling through my body!" Oh my. Thank goodness she hadn't been climbing around on the floor eating chocolate :)

  2. That was the sweetest post (and not because of the chocolate) until that awesomely hilarious line of Miriam's! I keep breaking into chuckles!

  3. Oh, how I love the Jacksons! Such great people. We'll make sure to get over and visit them next time we come.

  4. Ah, great love story!

    And I love that Rachel said she was hungry...haha. She makes me laugh.

    Why does everyone know the Heisses? This must be a Utah and/or Mormon story I don't know about. Do they run Provo or something?

    1. Andrew's family lived in Durham when he was younger and the population of Mormons was much smaller. Twenty years ago there were only a couple of "wards" (separate congregations). Andrew's parents know pretty much any Mormon in Durham that has lived here for at least twenty years. :)

  5. Aha! I'd forgotten that they lived in Durham years ago. Makes sense.

    I have enjoyed catching up on your posts this morning. I don't always comment, but I love reading about your family!