On May 30th I wrote a posting titled Vignette- The Young Fan. There was another story to write about another young fan which I almost included in that previous posting. But then I realized that it needed its own space.
So as well as the young boy who sat beside my husband, there was a young girl in the seat in front of him. I don’t know whether Rich noticed her or not and I haven’t spoken to him about her since. She was a little older than the boy in our row, perhaps in her mid to late teens – fifteen to seventeen years old.
She was dressed very ordinarily – jeans and a t-shirt. She had just-below-shoulder length dark hair in a non descript style. She was neither “pretty” or “ugly” – whatever those labels mean. Just a very ordinary girl at a concert getting ready to enjoy herself. But within a few minutes of noticing her I realized that she was far from ordinary.
She sat next to an older woman who I initially guessed to be her mother or perhaps an aunt, and they were with two other women who sat on the other side of the girl. As I said, I noticed she was different and after watching her for a while I realized that she was probably somewhat mentally challenged. I have volunteered with the mentally and physically challenged in the past so I have a soft spot in my heart for them.
Her jaw hung a little slack which left her mouth always slightly open and the corners of her mouth were always wet as though she were about to dribble. When she turned to speak to or listen to the woman next to her she didn’t just turn her head, she purposely choreographed her whole upper body in a complete physical turn toward the woman. Her eyes seemed extra bright, as though they were on the verge of tears, and they were more wide open than the average person’s.
There was a moment, just before the concert began, when one of the women said something and the girl obviously found it very comical. She began laughing and shaking her body up and down, almost in a jumping motion, as she brought her hands together, as though to clap, but then just rubbed them together very quickly. She was very excited and her eyes became even more brilliant than before.
Once the first act started and the audience began to warm up, people began to clap to the music. The girl’s mother (she may also have been a caregiver), began to clap and the girl first scrutinized her to check out exactly what she was doing, and then began to clap also. It was a very careful and purposeful putting the hands together movement, as though she had studied how to do it and was now practicing.
Not long after that the audience began to really warm up and many chose to stand up and raise their hands to God. The mother/aunt/caregiver rose to her feet, continuing to clap, and began swaying to the music. Again, the young girl studied her movements and only once she was sure of the sequence did she then get to her feet and, keeping an eye on the older woman, began to clap and sway side to side.
Throughout the whole concert this scene played out in front of me. The older woman would laugh, so the girl would laugh. The older woman would make a specific movement, so the girl would do the same. Just as a toddler learns his or her behaviors from watching and imitating, so this young girl was learning how to function in the big wide world.
It made me think how vulnerable these special people are. They are filled with such an innocence and trust totally on the adults in their lives to show them the way, to show them how to behave and act around others and in specific situations. I prayed that the people who took care of her were good people who loved her and would protect her. I also said a prayer of gratitude for my own children and asked God to keep a special eye out for all the more vulnerable people in our world today.
Back in the day when I used to watch American Idol, I saw this little country girl come out of nowhere and dominate the show from start to finish. No matter how many people cannot stand Simon Cowell, many of his predictions about talented people in show business are uncannily right on target. From the very start he said she would be one of the favorites to win, and after her performance during the top eleven finalist’s show he predicted that she would not only win but that she would go on to outsell all previous Idol winners.
I think one of the things that impressed me most about Carrie Underwood as I watched her rise to fame during and after Idol is her “sweetness”. To me she came across as this sweet girl with no false pretenses or airs. And then there was that voice! An amazing voice that allows her to cover a range of styles with no apparent effort.
Well, last week I was given the opportunity to see Carrie live in concert here in Jacksonville (Jax), Florida. What an unexpected treat that was. My friend Carol had secured two tickets way back in the spring of this year so that she and her daughter could go and see the show together. At the last minute Carol’s daughter could not attend and so she offered me the ticket – as long as I did the night driving in downtown Jax. Now that’s what I call a bargain!
So off we headed to grab a bite to eat and then on to the Jacksonville Memorial Arena. I have seen a couple of shows at this venue in the past few years and they were good but nothing spectacular. Little did I know that was about to change. There were two opening acts before Carrie: Sons of Sylvia (watch out for them in the future, they are three extremely talented young brothers who I believe will go BIG on the country scene), and Billy Currington (already well known in country circles). The stage setting for both was pretty simple and pretty standard for a basic opening act.
That all changed when Carrie took the stage. I was expecting a good show from her because I know she is talented and has made a real name for herself since winning Idol. However, I was totally unprepared for the next two hours. The stage settings were fabulous to say the least. Carrie literally exploded onto the stage with both her voice and her presence. She is such a class act. I was completely amazed by the show that she put on. The word “professional” just does not cover it. “Consummate professional” comes a little closer.
Her warmth and genuineness as she interacted with the audience was tangible. She puts her whole heart and soul into her singing and it’s obvious she is also having a lot of fun. Her style in both the clothes she wore and her comportment and attitudes was just top notch. It was very obvious that her band adores her and loves working with her. She is still the sweet country girl she always was but now she has a lot of polish with it. She carries no fancy airs and even openly yet appropriately talked about her faith and God. I came away from the evening somehow feeling a little better about myself.
If you ever get the opportunity to go see her live, please do so. I do not think you will be disappointed. I am not exactly a big fan of country music but my experience with Carrie last week may just have changed that.