This afternoon the crew and I were over at Leroy’s and Mess Cat’s house for a bit. My littles were playing with Shaker, running through playing some game that kept them entertained and getting along.
At one point, our Princess came running through carrying something and the boys were chasing her. She stopped next to me, poised the bundle she was carrying just so and said in this special little voice, “It’s not easy being me.”
I looked over and laughed.
She had taken the Kermit the Frog that Shaker got for Christmas and wrapped his arms and legs all around him until he looked like what she deemed “Baby Kermit.” She has played with this little critter every single time we’ve been at their house since Christmas. It made me smile that she has such a fascination with him. I think maybe it’s because of the movie trailers for the new Muppet movie “Muppets Most Wanted” coming out on March 21. My crew wants to see it because “Daddy loves the Muppets.”
As I was thinking about Kermit and all of the Muppets this evening, my mind wandered to John Denver.
Yes, Rocky Mountain High. That guy.
He was a guest star on The Muppets and then had two television specials with them. He developed a lifelong friendship with Jim Henson, you know, the Muppets guy. I think John Denver’s version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” with the Muppets is the best one ever. Hands down. (I heard that song referred to as the “100 Bottles” song of Christmas, and I nearly laughed myself silly. True.)
I started thinking of John Denver and his music and his untimely death at age 53 in 1997. He was born the same year as my Daddy. I grew up with his music. When we had the awesome backyard Barbie Wedding about thirty-something years ago, my Aunt had a tape of “Annie’s Song” that we played during the wedding (or maybe as the Wedding March? the brain’s a bit foggy). That was a great day, as evidenced by the ease with which my mind and heart travelled back to it, with just the mention of John Denver’s name and legacy.
As I played through his other songs in my mind, I thought about Japan. Yes, Japan. When we were preparing to leave after our two and half year wonderful, awesome tour there at Yokota and Fuchu Air Bases outside of Tokyo, the Fella’s cohorts from the Japanese Base–Fuchu–threw a Hawaiian themed get-together for us and the other family moving away. It was at the home of one of the Japanese officers. All of our friends were decked out in their Hawaiian finest–shirts, leis, and the like. Our greatest surprise, however, was when they gathered around and our dear friend began to sing, in his best, only slightly broken English, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” which, bless him, came out something like, “I’m reabing on a jet prane, don’t know when I be bock again, oh babe I hate to goooo.” Bless. Him. That’s another great memory. I will never hear that song and not think of our good friends and great times in Japan. And the gift they gave us by singing that song and making the night and our whole time there so very special.
And then, as I thought a little longer about John Denver, I naturally started thinking about my Mama.
Oh take me home, country roads.
My Mama loved that boy.
As I write this, I have “Take Me Home, Country Roads” playing. Only it’s not John Denver’s voice I hear singing it.
It’s my Mama’s.
She LOVED. That. Song.
It was maybe about twenty years ago that she got a CD of his. Maybe his greatest hits? She loved to play it. When she was mopping, when she was cooking, when she was doing whatever, she loved his music. But when she loved most to play it was when she was rocking her first grandbaby to sleep in her chair in the living room.
The CD player sat (and still does) on the corner of her big desk in the den. Around the corner was the door to the living room, where she and Daddy each had a rocker/recliner chair. Mama would carry our baby girl in there and if she’d forgotten to press play, she’d call out for me or Daddy to do so. And she’d start singing. Right along with Mr. John Denver. Sometimes she’d sing louder to drown out the cries of a tired baby who never wanted to go to sleep for fear of missing out on something. I might be wrong but I think that “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was the first song on the CD. I remember Mama would measure how long it took her to get Aub down for a nap by how many songs it would take. “She was out before ‘Take Me Home’ was all the way through!” That was a triumph indeed. I think my baby girl loved her some John Denver too. John Denver a la her Maemae.
And that’s where my thoughts landed and stayed. With my Mama. Not that a day goes by that I don’t think about her. It’s just interesting the twists and turns my brain takes each day to travel back to be with her again.
So today I’m thankful for Kermit and my Princess’ fascination with him. I’m especially thankful for Mr. John Denver who has been on this journey with me most of my life. I’m thankful for friends who used his song to remind us we were loved and appreciated. Most of all, I’m thankful for his song that let me hear my Mama’s voice once more. How I miss her and her…..well, every single thing about her. Even the way she’d call me on stuff I’d rather not be called on. Yes, every single thing.
Tonight as I was reminiscing and listening to his old songs I love, I came across a new one I’d never heard before by “JD” as Daddy sometimes called him. (He also called him by his real name Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.) In it I heard words that touched my heart and helped me feel Mama’s hug, to hold her hand, one more time.
From “The Wings That Fly Us Home” by Joe Henry and John Denver:
The vision of your goodness will sustain me through the cold.
Take my hand now to remember when you find yourself alone: you are never alone.