Friday, April 24, 2015

At Last....My Blog Has Come Along

I can finally check singing with a swing band off my bucket list. I mean, I could not have picked a more perfect gig as my self-appointed "coming out" party. My re-introduction, my toe-dipping, my wading back into the waters of Atlanta's vibrant arts scene. It was like something out of dream, or a really good romantic comedy. The Metro Jazz Club's bi-monthly swing nights are everything a die-hard DWTS fan like me could have wanted on a cool, damp Thursday night and I was going to be a guest vocalist. JOY!

The Metro Jazz club is a sharp, crisp 17-piece big band, 550 trackside is beautifully lit, open and airy renovated 100 year old building, and I was about to spend over 2 hours of watching couples dance like no one was watching. The sheer joy on these people's faces as they rocked, rhumba'd, fox-trotted, and galumped across the floor made me forget, that my shoes AND my pony-tail were too tight. It also made me forget that I wasn't so sure about my two solos.

Did I mention that the dress I wore was a vintage, steal that I paid less then $20 for? Not that I'm bragging....okay I'm bragging a little.  So at this point you're probably saying...."Big whoop Drama Mama. You've got a gig, and you're in your pretty dress and it's past 9pm and there is wine and dancing, yada yada yada". Except it's been 2 years. 2 years since I set foot on a stage. That sublimely swishy vintage dress? I bought it a few short weeks before I found out I was pregnant and it immediately went to the back of the closet along with everything else that had zippers or buttoned up the back. Now, I'm just able to fit into the thing without major surgery and I actually have somewhere to wear it to that doesn't require packing sippy cups and organic cheerios.

I think the only thing that would have made the night better is if I didn't have to sing "At Last". It was definitely not my first choice, it wasn't even my 4th choice but, sing it, I did. Even during the rehearsals I gave the music director that look that said "are you SURE, like really, really sure you want me to sing this song?" No one wants to have their vocals compared to anyone else, least of all the great Etta James but of course people can't help it because the song is so iconic. At Last is one of those songs on the permanent list of do not sing songs for auditions. Partly because it's overdone, and partly because most people will butcher it trying to imitate the great lady. I didn't want to be in the last category, but it was a last minute addition and it was too late for the band to learn anything new. They had just polished to perfection 20 or so numbers in their already incredibly deep repertoire.

As of late i've begun to adopt several mantras:  just have fun, just show up, it doesn't have to be fancy just make it clean, fake it till you make it, and my new favorite leave me alone dang-it, I have a toddler. Well I had showed up to the gig (check), I wasn't extra fancy, but I was clean (read: no banana or cheerio goo stuck to my clothes or hair), I was just going to fake it till I made it....I mean how hard could it be, just like riding a bicycle, who cares if I hadn't sung in public in 4-5 years? (swallow lump in throat, squeeze stomach tightly, crush butterflies).

In the first set I took a deep breath and gave the nat king cole classic "straighten up, and fly right" a little sass. No, it was not like riding a bicycle, maybe a little more like riding a motorcycle. It was fast and freeing, I didn't crash and burn, so, SCORE! Drama Mama: 1, Nervous Butterflies: 0. It was a nice warm up, a relief even, and I was able to spend intermission chatting with the two fun and stylish teachers from my ballroom dance club who had been lovingly steering some of their students around
the floor all night. But as good of a time as I was having I sat through most of the next set nervously trying not to shake in my stilettos at the thought of the upcoming number.

Note to self: wearing stilettos when you haven't sung in years and your bound to be nervous and you haven't put them on since your pre-baby days....NOT A GOOD IDEA.

At last my song came along. I took to the mic, dry throat, wobbly knees, the intro to the song swelled and then I opened my mouth and wouldn't you know it, music came out. 'At last, my love has come along'... I'm not quite sure what I was so worried about. The fearless dancers, who had pounded the concrete floor all night with their cha-cha's and waltz's now swayed softly on feet that would be swollen by morning. The content spectators actually took to the floor, floating on memories of other times and younger bones. There were so many people dancing, until no-one could actually see my face for the crowds and finally, finally...I let go. I stayed present in the moment, embracing every note, right or wrong, high or low. Listening intently to that magic made when horns and percussion speak in harmony. The fear of failure, the joy of doing what I loved, the pain from my stilettos and that sweet feeling of wearing chiffon, I ate all of it up with a spoon.

But, in just a moment I blinked, and I was hitting the last phrase... 'for you are mine at last'. Hobbling back to my car in a wet drizzle I started to wish for a do-over, or maybe push the play button on my smart phone's recording app (because of course I recorded myself...and no, i'm not going to post it here). But I didn't want to critique myself and I had no regrets. Except for those damn stilettos. Even my song choices were just another lesson in letting go.

Letting go (no, this is not another Frozen reference) is something that this Drama Mama has had to do a lot of lately. Letting go of those skinny jeans and embracing maternity jeans, in all of their elastic glory. Letting go on the delivery table, letting go of all that (I don't have any kids) extra time, your sleeping till 10, your watching a tv show all the way though, your inhibitions around a plate of fried fish and hushpuppies. Even letting go of your identity as a working actress, in fact letting go of the notion that you would ever set foot on the stage again. And the crazy thing is...I was okay with all of it... most of it....okay maybe not the skinny jeans part. I have a great kid, with gorgeous eyes and the sweetest hugs. Certain professions just don't make sense in your child-bearing years. Like gun-fighter pilot, or bungee cord tester, or actress. Remembering to embrace all seasons of your life, whatever they are, and just enjoy the ride are two of the ways I maintain my sanity. Do I remember to do this all the time...heck no!

So how did I end up here, morphing into this awesome, kick-butt, monster-mommy-actress-teacher thing. Juggling photo shoots and library books, conquering my fear of singing and poopy diapers all in a days work? Well that is a post for another time. So, stick's about to get interesting.