Drenched by a nostalgia trip

When it comes to staying young, a mind-lift beats a face-lift any day. —Marty Bucella

The timing couldn’t have been worse. As a Kansas native, I like to think I’m weather-savvy. But lately it seems that hot and dry begets hot and dry around here. I settled into the dry 100 degree days. Exactly how do torrential downpours sneak up on people who are so experienced with weather shifts?

A couple of old—they won’t take offense, I’m the same age—friends and I made plans to drive our happy music-loving selves to an annual outdoor concert in the park. We are cut from the same cloth, the lot of us—a bright primary-color-based bolt—manufactured in the ’70s, crafted in the ’80s.

And so, in reverence of our decade of honor, we had tickets in hand for Rick Springfield. Yes, that’s the one. Noah Drake, MD. The guy in love with his best friend’s girl. The one who warned us all, “Don’t talk to strangers, baby, dont’cha talk.”

As we headed down the road, someone in the car mentioned in passing about the patchy dark sky ahead of us. “It isn’t going to rain, is it?” she asked. We brushed it off with a no, probably not.

And it didn’t. Not a drop. Until we got within 10 miles of the park. A few teasing drips, just enough to make us groan and search harder for a splinter of blue sky somewhere above the billowing gray clumps hovering over the highway.

It was not to be. Instead, this would lead us down a dirt road behind the park to a grass lot. We lined up along a tree line with more hopefuls like us, trapped in our cars as a miniature Niagara Falls force rain washed away our hopes of a night of music under the stars. Woe was us.

Watching the radar became more depressing, so we threw our chances to fate and during a brief let-up, hauled our blankets and chairs across the wet grass lots, down wet winding sidewalks, through a wet entry gate and into the wet and muddy park area.

Did I mention mud?

Have you seen the images of Woodstock in the rain and sludge? It was kind of like that without the half-million people, drugs, trampling and naked people. OK, it was nothing like Woodstock, but my shoes got ruined and I felt mud squishing between my toes for three hours.

Now the good news. In spite of an hour or so delay, the music did start. When the Romantics played “What I Like About You,” the rain had stopped. When Night Ranger played “Sister Christian,” the clouds had disappeared. And by the time Rick Springfield played “Human Touch,” a perfect bright moon had been hung right on top of us.

Fireworks lit our way back to the car and we headed back down the even dirtier road until we found the highway again.

All was well, I thought. A fun show with some fun people. A quick ride home, slightly later than my normal Saturday bedtime, but still… a night for the memory book.

If I had intended to travel back in time, it wasn’t going to end when we pulled into the driveway at 1:25 a.m. My ride dropped me off and there I stood at my back door, hair flat, feet bare, holding my ruined muddy sandals, a purse strapped around my neck and a folding chair as long as I am slung over my shoulder. And a locked door.

I knew what I was going to have to do. But not a single part of me wanted to do it. In that moment, a surreal feeling of being 16 washed over me. I had broken curfew and been locked out of my house.

I slowly pulled out my phone and texted my daughter with a time stamp of 1:29 a.m. “I’m locked out. Sorry.” I shut the phone down as a slight irrational fear of being reprimanded came over me. Two more texts and two phone calls brought no response.

Then reality hit me. She’s not going to wake up. I am a 40-something mother of two who, after a night of partying with her friends, is seriously considering sleeping in her car because she’s locked out of her own house. I had enough time to open my car door, sit down and sigh. Then the phone lit up.

“Coming.”

I felt so guilty. And relieved. Maybe part of me felt like a teenager again. Until my own teenager opened the door, silently turned back around and went back to bed. I felt a little older then.

Still, I wonder who’s playing next year.

Shelley Plett is a graphic designer for the Free Press and Kansas Publishing Ventures. She can be reached at shelley@hillsborofree­press.com.

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