Today would have been my friend Greg’s 38th birthday.   Greg and I met through City Year back in 1996.  Fresh out of high school.  He was always the kid on the team who looked like a “hot mess!” In City Year, we learned that as a team member it was our duty to uphold City Year’s standards, which included shirts tucked in, name badges on, and pants crisply ironed.  I can’t tell you how many times Greg got sent home or written up for showing up with his shirt hanging out, no name tag, clothes all wrinkled, and shoes practically untied.  I can still picture the look on his face when Danielle,  our team leader would reprimand him.  That blank stare like, what did I do? His voice would go up an octave or two as he questioned her.
He was always cracking jokes, making silly faces, imitating Adam Sandler or Jerky Boys stand up, and just being a plain goof ball.  In fact, I remember the time him and Dwayne got kicked out of a meeting for laughing.  The two never said a word to each other! They just looked at each other and got in trouble.
You develop quite a relationship with the people you work with on your City Year team. Even if you don’t keep in touch much after, those are special friendships you don’t forget.  Greg and I kept in touch here and there in the years after City Year.  We would visit or chat on the phone from time to time.  I remember one conversation when I asked him, “Do you ever make up your own skits for Saturday Night Live in your head?” Absolutely he did! As we discussed our dream to be cast members one day.  He always made me laugh.  With Greg I could be my silly self.  When I remember him it always brings a smile or a chuckle.  I can hear his voice vividly.  
Yet, every once in a while I will have dreams of him.  In my dreams he is always quiet and gives me a hug, a kiss on the forehead or holds my hand.  Sometimes I wake up crying but mostly I feel comforted.  It feels nice to have a visit from him.  Makes it seem like he’s not so far away.  Today, on his birthday I would like to keep his memory alive and share this poem I wrote for him.

Sometimes you can ignore it
Sometimes you can forget it exists
But only for a little while
Then it comes back
More overwhelming
The pain
The sadness
The hurt
Some days you go on
Pretending it’s all a dream
Then one day you wake up
It hits you
Not in the face
Not in the stomach
Even worse
In the heart
He’s gone
It’s not a bad dream
Its real
And it hurts
And i cry
And i remember the silly voices
The funny faces
And i laugh
And i smile
And the pain subsides
But only temporarily
And now i look forward to my dreams
Because it is there that i get to see you
It is there that you now visit me
And you hug me
And you kiss my forehead
And for that one moment the pain is gone
And you are here

India Arie’s Christmas with Friends Show in Boston

This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to go to the Christmas with friends songversation in Boston with India Arie.  India does not call it a concert or a performance, it’s simply a songversation.   She recently released a Christmas album and is doing a Christmas tour.  When I first got to the show I was excited and nervous.  With the combination of the holiday season, PMS and my mother’s genes I was feeling very emotional!  When India came onto the stage, she started with her prayer and sang I Am Light, the lyrics were so healing.  It was like therapy. Reassurance.  I am not the things I have done or my past mistakes.  She spoke to my heart, telling me to let the past be the past. It does not define me or who I am.  I could feel the tears rolling down my cheeks.  It was like I had been holding my breath and finally I could release it all.  Let out the old carbon dioxide and take in fresh air!

The room, filled with so many different people.  Every shade and hue from a milky white to a sweet caramel and  a deep dark rich chocolate.  All gathered in one room.  One purpose.  To listen to India’s voice, her message, her WORDS!  As she sang the classic “Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music to The Christmas Song while weaving in many of her hits from over the years.  I thought to myself, she could sing a death metal song right now and make it sound like rainbows and unicorns to my ears.  It was like I could see the music notes dancing throughout the theater.  As I looked around to see the multitude of different people, every color of skin, every shape and size, bald headed, curly hair, short, tall… there was at least one of everyone in the room… It was pure beauty.  It was like the Benetton ads from the 90’s.  Every single person smiling, crying, singing, healing!  It was an overwhelming feeling of PURE LOVE!  With the hate, the fear, the violence going on in the world these days it felt amazing to be a part of this moment.  To be in that room full of love for one night was so healing!!!  Even more comforting  was to know that I could share that moment with my son.

At 17, my “Pooky Bear” ( a name I made up to embarrass him but it never works because he’s too confident) doesn’t like to hang with Mama bear too often.   Somehow over the years of listening and singing (not so great) to India’s music, he too has become a fan.  As a mother, it was my joy and blessing to have the memory of that night with my son.  The show was amazing!  India was and is amazing!  I know, I know, she is a woman like me, but she can sing much better so I gotta give her props for that.  It was a great night.

When we had first arrived and waited for the show to start, we looked around and discussed the fact that there seemed to be such a strange crowd of people and how some didn’t seem to fit in.  We even joked about the fact that the older white lady who had come by herself and was sitting next to us would be me in about 25 years. However, by the end of the night it all made sense.  This group of fans may look like they don’t fit, but over all they had much more in common that one would think.  To limit this crowd, as being brought here because they are India fans barely touches the surface. To be present that night and feel the peace and unity as the audience sang along to One.  To realize everyone in this room had so much more in common.  On the outside we were all so different, but together we all shared a common spirit of humanity, love and peace.  In that moment, in that theater, it was felt.  For that one night  we forgot about all the fear, the pain, the hate and violence going on outside.

As we drove home that night my son and I were talking about the show.  I wish I could describe that overwhelming feeling of love.  It felt as if my heart was pouring over with love.  As if I could no longer contain it.  India has a song called Soulbird Rise and refers to her fans as “soulbirds”.  The best way I can sum up the night is with this poem I wrote.

Let me be your soul bird

Together we will fly among the clouds

Let me be your soul bird

We will rise above the crowds

To speak our truth

Our voices heard

Our message strong and loud

One love that grows

One peace to show

One step to take

Towards Unity

Cause that’s our common ground

Let me be your soulbird

While at the show India mentioned that she had recently written several essays and encouraged the audience to read them and comment.  I found it very interesting that she talked a lot about the power of words and how we use them.  I have started reading her essays and encourage you all to check out her page. (  I’m not saying this just because I am a fan of her music, but I am a fan of her message and her words.

It’s funny that this was a Christmas show, yet reading over my blog, there is no feeling of Christmas.  I don’t talk about sleigh bells or presents or Santa anywhere in here!  For me, no matter what holiday you celebrate, it’s about being together.  It’s about sharing memories, laughter, food, friends, family and love.  The show that night, for me, was about creating memories with my son.  Everyone gets so wrapped up in the spending money, buying gifts, making sure everything is a certain way.  Maybe that is what the show was supposed to do. Remind everyone to take a break from the stress, the chaos in this world and just create a positive memory.  A feeling of love.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas or whatever you may celebrate!  Peace on earth!