I've got just a couple of hours to put my stamp on history. Later this evening, America will be given the chance to vote in the second most important contest of 2012. Forget Ron Paul and his adorable eyebrows, Mitt and his curiously Ken-like hair, Rick and his glorious sleevelessness, Newt and--well, I think most have already forgotten Newt. Nope, kiddos, it's time for our nation to come together, dialing fingers poised to go...and vote. Because THIS is American Idol.
So--my prediction. I'm not foolish enough to project a winner, but I do, really, honestly, firmly believe that--based on what we've seen so far--we are in for the best season yet. I know, I know...they say that every year. But this year, something's different. Maybe the producers are feelig the heat from The Voice and have decided it's not nice to waste our time with Sanjayas who clearly have no shot at winning. Maybe they've fallen under the spell of Adele and recognize that singers worthy of Grammys are singers who sing. Whatever the reason, I am really jazzed about this new season, and here's why.
1. The Vegas round. It's no secret (for those who care anything about me...) that the American Idol California group round is my favorite night of the season. But, Group Round Redux in Las Vegas let us see what these singers can do with a little real rehearsal time. Just watch this!Or...THIS!! I mean, sweet dancin' Moses!! Performances like this show true talent, in singers who can function in harmony with other singers, no just trying to over-run each other.
2. The "final elimination" show--you know, that long, long walk, was stretched over 3 hours. Now, for people who don't "get" Idol, well, they might have a hard time with that, thinking of it as a waste of TV time. (I mean, it's not as riveting as watching unlucky-in-lovers hand each other a rose, but...whatever). The deal is, taking their sweet time with that show gave us enough time to really look at the performance history of all of the top 24, so maybe those first viewer votes will be a little more meaningful.
So, really, really--with a heart full of hope--I'm predicting a deeper, gentler, overall more entertaining Idol season. And, in response, I'm going to try really, really hard to hold back on the snark unless absolutely necessary. (unless America votes through that terrible little cowboy.........)
Every year for Valentine's day, my Mikey finds some quirky way to present me with my box of chocolates. Years ago, I opened my eyes to find myself staring right at it as it nestled on his pillow. I went straight from dream-land to treat-land, popping two or three before I even crawled out of bed. What a yummy, decadent way to start the day, even though it would soon dissolve into the normal chaos of trying to get two grown-ups and three little boys ready for a day of school and work. That's how I lost track of my chocolates, leaving the open box sitting right on the foot of the bed, which wouldn't have been that big of a deal if it weren't for ... the dog.
This was long before Stella, when we had a faithful old man named Neumann to fill our canine needs. Neumann was perfect--in any other situation, you could leave him in front of an open bag of chicken nuggets and he'd sit patiently by, the thought never entering his mind to do anything but sit and wait for an opportunity to obey. But, for some reason, on this day, I came home to find a mysterious trail of little brown papers, leading to the empty heart-shaped box. The only pieces left were two half-eaten coconuts. Not even my dog liked coconut.
Now, animal lovers everywhere, take a collective breath. Yes, I know chocolate is bad for dogs, and a phone call to my vet said to just sit and wait and watch...which, we did. We watched my Valentine's chocolates reappear all over our house. In the hallway, in the kitchen, the living room, the entry way, the bathroom. From both ends and possibley places in-between, my gived was oozed and splurted and plopped. And there was my Mikey, with a scrub brush and carpet cleaner, paper towels and Febreeze, taking care of every bit of mess.
I call this my favorite Valentine, because I love the lesson here. (And when I was a teacher, I told it to my students every year...). Love is a messy, messy thing. It's not enough to wallow in the romance of a pretty box of chocolate--you've got to be able to laugh and forgive and work together when it's in danger of going to the dog!
When I was 9 years old, I wrote a formal letter of protest to my elementary school librarian because the Little House on the Prairie books were shelved under fiction, rather than biography where I rightfully thought they should be. Mrs. Watson (I remember her still--an ancient woman who had those really skinny fingers and big knuckles so that her rings slid all around) gently explained that Laura had changed some of the facts of her up-bringing in order to make her stories more...well, story-like.
And so, as I grew up, and my Laura obsession grew with me, I had more opportunities to read more historical accounts of my hero's life. I learned that Pa was, really, kind of a loser. Never satisfied, never successful, and maybe just a little shady if that Kansas deal were to be looked at a little more closely. I realized that Laura spent much of her life hungry--physically undernourished. Looking at the generations that followed...wait, there were no generations that followed. Laura's only daughter remained childless. Mary never married. Neither Carrie, nor Grace had children of their own. This is what our family calls: Bummer Theater.
So, now, I applaud Laura more than ever for being able to infuse what was really an ordinary, and rather difficult existence, and turn it into timeless story. Her books embody a certain grace and mercy--a willingness to forgive what was denied to her, and an eagerness to hi-light the blessings. Warmth, food, shelter, music--these luxuries crowd the pages, making it impossible to imagine there were any times of trepidation. Even The Long Winter, easily the darkest book in the series (and, my favorite), comes forth as a triumph of the family, rather than the tragedy it played in the on-going health of her younger sisters. The picture here was taken just after the end of that winter. Look how tiny these girls are--but then, look at that balled-up fist at Laura's side. This is a girl determined to fight, destined to live well beyond her years.
Do yourself a favor. If you don't already have a copy of the books stashed somewhere in your house, go to your local library and spend an hour in Laura's world.