52 years ago I was a high school freshman amazed by The Beatles, thunderstruck by The Rolling Stones, and unlike anyone else in north Louisiana I considered The Beachboys the best of them all. Yeah, “Satisfaction” was the true story of almost all high school lives, and “Michelle” expressed the secret hope within so many of us. But “Be True to Your School”, “When I Grow Up to Be A Man”, and “Don’t Worry, Baby” were about the life I craved, and holy moly, could The Beachboys rock four-part harmony! I never once thought any of these recordings would be played in grocery stores decades later. But here we are, and “Isn’t it great!”
Today, while at Wally World prospecting for dinner (I found a deal on spinach and ricotta ravioli!) the muzak broke into the Christmas mode. They played The Beachboys doing “Little Saint Nick”, as cheerful a carol as one can imagine. I’ve always enjoyed that song and I know the lyrics. So I began to sing along. This is one of Mike Love’s leads, and although in younger days I could also cover Brian Wilson’s high falsetto, today I’m a middle and lower register singer. And unlike my Kat, I feel no compunction about making an ass of myself in public, especially where nobody knows me. So I sang out, mezzo-forte, and in my ear, right on key:
“Well way up north where the air gets cold
There’s a tale about Christmas
That you’ve all been told
And a real famous cat all dressed up in red
And he spends all year workin’ out on his sled.
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)
It’s the little Saint Nick (little Saint Nick)”
At that point in the song I found something I wanted and stopped singing to put it in the cart. A lady, of my age give or take five, was doing her shopping in one of those electric motored carts, and she was grinning at my music, or lack thereof. I asked her “Do you know the words? We can sing a duet!” “I’m no singer, and I don’t know the words. But you’re having a good time, and that makes me feel good.”
What I said next was too much information for any stranger, but I hit her with it anyway. “A few years back, when I was on radiation and chemo, I swore that if my doctors managed to cure me, I would find joy in every single day I have left on this earth. Not every minute; that’s impossible, but every day I’ll smell a rose, see a sunset, laugh at a dumb pet trick, or sing a happy song. And you caught me in mine today.”
She started crying. I’d gone too far. I tried to apologize but she wouldn’t have it. “I’m crying for joy, because you’re right. You made me feel good and thankful for what I have. Will you finish the song?” It was still playing, so I did, through my own tears.
Life is good. Don’t you forget to live it.