Well, 2007 would have been a worthwhile year for the concert experiences alone. I got to see Michelle Tumes in concert twice, which is remarkable, considering how little she tours. The first time was in, I think, August. She played at a church up north from here. Sadie and I did the girls' night thing, and it was a special time. Sadie, surprisingly, really likes Michelle Tumes's music -- I say surprisingly only because it is so complex, and the lyrics are a bit abstract. After that concert, while I was waiting in line to get some CDs signed, Sadie had discovered a little playmate and was busy imagining with her, so she missed meeting Michelle. When I met Ms. Tumes, I said something goofy (like I always seem to when meeting an artist I greatly admire).
"I wish my daughter would come over here to meet you," I clumsily spluttered, "You're her favorite Australian, after Dorothy the Dinosaur."
"Oh, the cartoon," Michelle laughed.
I mentioned how much I loved her music. Michelle then sprang on me this question:
"May I ask what you love about it?" She was in earnest.
"I guess," I mentally flailed about, "That it is because of the beautiful poetry of your lyrics."
"But do they really speak to you meaningfully? I don't want them to be merely pretty words."
"Oh goodness, yes! They really move me. They really mean so much to me." I was grasping at banal phrases and desperately trying to collect my thoughts enough to be coherent. I wished I'd been prepped for this examination. Mercifully, Michelle let me off the hook at this point with a sincere, "Thank you!"
I collected my daughter, and we began the drive home. I told Sadie about my conversation with Michelle and how she said that Dorothy the Dinosaur was a cartoon. That infuriated Sadie.
"Dorothy is not a cartoon! She is a real dinosaur who lives in Australia!"
I replied, "OK. You make sure to let Michelle Tumes know that next time you see her."
I did not expect that we'd be seeing her again any time soon.
Lo and behold, though, a church in Salem, OR booked Michelle Tumes for a Christmas concert on December 15. I couldn't let the chance to see one of my favorite musical artists pass by, so we packed the whole family into the CR-V and headed south.
I want to say a little here about Michelle Tumes's Christmas EP, Christmas is Here, she released last month. There are only five songs, though a full-length album is in the works for 2008. These five songs are magnificent. I have not been so gratified by Christmas music since Carolyn Arends graced the world and made the season merrier by releasing Christmas: An Irrational Season in 2004. These songs are uniformly exquisite, though I think that my favorite (were I forced to choose) would be the imaginative combination of "Ode to Joy/Angels We Have Heard on High." Though, as I type that, I'm thinking how much I also love "Christmas is Here/Carol of the Bells." And who would have thought that an Australian could have penned such a wintry homage to the northern hemisphere's Christmas traditions as "Merry Christmas"? In any event, should we judge by these temptations, the full-length album will be a treasure, indeed.
If I thought that Sadie would have forgotten the slight to Dorothy in the intervening months, I was sorely mistaken. After a glorious concert, Michelle was again out in the foyer, signing CDs and chatting with her fans. (How musical artists can do this after expending so much of themselves on stage is a measure of grace beyond my comprehension. I guess that is why so many of them, once they reach a certain level of fame, no longer make appearances before the hoi polloi.) Again, I had CDs to get signed, so I waited in line. Sadie had no playmate this time, so she waited with me. When my turn came, I thanked Michelle Tumes and asked her to sign my CDs, and Sadie saw her opportunity to school Michelle about the identity of certain dancing green dinosaurs with yellow spots.
A little pipping voice suddenly said, "Um, Michelle Tumes! Michelle Tumes!"
Michelle looked down into my daughter's stern little face. "Yes?"
"I want you to know that Dorothy the Dinosaur is not a cartoon. She is a real person, just like you!"
The hall was noisy and crowded. Michelle looked at me perplexedly. "I'm sorry, but I couldn't hear her."
I did not want to go into the whole story, partially out of respect for those waiting behind me in line, and partially not to burden Ms. Tumes, so I condensed Sadie's sentiments into, "Oh, she's just sharing how much she likes Dorothy the Dinosaur from The Wiggles."
Michelle laughed. "Oh, the cartoon!"
A strangled moan of frustration came from Sadie's throat. I bent down and whispered savagely in her ear, "Just let it go, Sadie."
Surprisingly, she did. She gave Michelle Tumes a big hug. Carolyn Arends is used to getting pounced on by Sadie (and maybe by other children of her fans), but Michelle Tumes was caught off guard. "Your daughter's very friendly," she observed bemusedly.
"Yes," I sighed in acknowledgement.
"Did you raise her to be that way? Or has she always been like that?"
"Oh, she's always been this way . . ." My voice trailed off. It's been a struggle to teach Sadie propriety and personal space issues, and I'm a little embarrassed by her easy way with strangers.
"I think it's wonderful," Michelle said.
And, maybe it is. For a fundamentally shy person like myself, it certainly is a wonder how I could have produced such an open-hearted child. But, I once heard a quote that the opposite of love is self-consciousness. So, Sadie is really living a special kind of love, because she is the least self-conscious person I know.
Anyway, the two concerts were incredibly special times. I hope that Michelle Tumes finds more and more opportunities to tour, because her music is a rare blessing. If she ever comes within a few hours of where you live, dear reader, please seek her out. You will not be disappointed. Just don't bring up Dorothy the Dinosaur. Trust me on that.