I tricked my mom into going to Gospel Fest last night. We’d been planning a night out and I wanted to set up an evening picnic at Pritzker, a lingering affair under the twinkle of my favorite city, is what I had in mind.
But ma was not having it. She was convinced it was going to pour rain, and insisted she could not picnic at her age, couldn’t sit on grass, couldn’t be so far from a bathroom - a litany of ‘nos’. I protested, but you know how that goes. So I tricked her.
I arranged an early dinner at the Park Grill, a restaurant tucked under ‘The Bean’ at Millennium Park, just a few steps from the pavilion. As we were leaving, she heard a rumble and said, “You see? It’s going to rain.”
I looked up at the cloudless sky and smiled.
“That’s not thunder, ma.”
We led her around the ramp just south of the restaurant and while she toddled along, cane in one hand, my hand in the other she kept looking up, trying to find the source of the bass.
“That’s music!” she discovered.
“From over there!” she looked back at Michigan Avenue.
“No, ma. From over here,” and I pointed toward the picnic area just south of the Pritzker stage.
Slowly we made our way closer, and as we did, a sway of people drew us in. Arms outstretched, eyes closed, all ages, a poster for the case against all divides, compelled by the man on stage exhorting everyone to ‘BE GRATEFUL!’
We couldn’t help but sing along.
At one point, we were all encouraged to turn to a person near us and say, “I have a reason to be grateful to God.”
We did. Everyone did.
A few moments later we sat on a ledge nearer to the stage to rest, but ma stayed on her feet, dancing, electrified.
A tall, handsome older man approached her and smiled, saying something I couldn’t hear. She answered and they both laughed.
He came over to where I was and asked, “This is your mother?”
“Yes,” I smiled.
“I’m having a very hard day,” he intimated. “But your mother’s spirit. I could see it. It’s so bright. I just had to come over. She’s beautiful. Her spirit.”
“Yes, I know,” I thanked him.
We chatted for a bit. He is Sioux-American, and had spent the day attending a funeral service for a young friend. He’d come downtown for a walk to clear his thoughts and had been drawn into the park by the music, and drawn to my mother by her glow. He was warm, and kind, and taught my children a few words in his language, among them the term for ‘until I see you again’ before he left. There is no word for ‘goodbye’ in his tongue.
As the music ended, the song that carried us out reminded us that God makes all things better, better, better. Indeed.
We made our way to the car accompanied by a parade of concert goers in bright colors, laughing, chatting.
My mom beamed, “I danced under the shadow of the Bean!”
“I know,” I squeezed her hand.
“That was grand,” she said softly.
I suppose she’ll forgive me for tricking her this time.