Memorial Day Memories, Forever Friends Gone Forever

Memorial Day. What should be, and still is somehow, a solemn day has always been a start of summer thing for me. As a kid we would be going to Granny's for the summer. Upstate, by the lake, in the forest, we spent all our summers there. Later in life, after kids and BBQs in the backyard and some of the best first-wife potato salad ever, the beginning of summer evolved. It became a musical thing and a way to celebrate the memories of our fallen forefathers as well as the start of summer with our family of musical friends at The Magic House.

This year I will add to the memorial list of soldiers, the friends who graced our stage. We lost a few of them to Covid last year. Several of our people, sadly, are no longer with us. Their voices and their magic captured on video from the big stage. I watched them all today. I can't describe the sorrow.

JAM at the CAM we called it and every summer holiday weekend was an event at our house. 20 years of 4th of Julys, Labor days and Memorial days. 3 day weekends of music, food, laughter and really good friends. Our family of mutually musical and crazy people, where I could count on some chaos.

They all started out the same, me in shorts, barefoot in the sunshine doing yard work and setting up the stage. Mostly by myself. I enjoyed it. That is really how this all started. A good excuse to get the yard cleaned up, the music equipment all out of the trailer so we could organize and put it away ready for summer when the weekend was over. Usually after a gig the stuff just gets loaded up, thrown in, in a hurry at two in the morning or whatever. Getting it organized early in the summer meant the best outcome at the end of the summer.

Once the lawn was mowed and the edges weed whipped it was time to set up the stage. Hundreds of trips up and down that hill. Hauling gear and setting up the stage, the big screen, all the speakers, the generator, firing it all up for the first time and putting preholiday rock on for the neighbors who were also out mowing the lawn and whatnot getting ready for their families and friends to arrive. That whole neighborhood listened to really good music, whether they liked it or not.

We had traditions, things we did every year, otter pops, a communal bottle of jack, toasts to the fallen, things like that. Bands would debut new songs for the summer and I'd get to pick out odd band members who maybe didn't know each other or have ever played together and put them up on the stage. They would all get up there and play a set of whatever they could muster together. Real Life Jams, in the moment, for the fun of it, for hours. It was awesome. Mostly really great music and great energy, the crowd seemed to like it every time. There were a few other things I could count on: friends from out of town, an odd assortment of lost and found items, folks sleeping in odd places, lots of warm beer and great leftovers. 

Most of those traditions are over now and we'll make new ones. I have a few holdovers, otter pops and leg cramps from three days of jogging up and down that hill. I ran my old tractor today and that clutch is so stiff I have calf cramps now. Like old times. That isn't what prompted this post though.
If you know me at all you know I never wear shoes and part of the reason why I can tough it out out there is that the old place had a pea gravel driveway. Walking barefoot there for nearly 30 years has given me leather feet. Then we moved and now my new place has provided a tradition I did not expect. The new place has gravel too, but it snows here and it is one inch or better riprap for traction up the steep driveway. A totally new walking barefoot experience. When we first moved in I was pussy footin' it around here like a normie. Now, years later, I am running around barefoot on the riprap as if it was gravel.

Wouldn't you know it though, one more holiday tradition that happened nearly every year at nearly every event happened today. I broke a toe. In an odd way, sitting here with the frozen peas and a pillow, it is a fond memory of broken toes and cramps gone by. Weekends full of memories and friends, some of whom are no longer with us. Though this is Memorial Day and I remember our Veterans, today I'll remember my musical family and our missing members. They're singing with the choir now and I will miss their smiles and purple otter pop tongues.

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