It Was a Summer Night Oh Yes It Was
- Christopher and Shannon
Around our house, we’re still under the spell of the wonderful evening we spent last night, when children’s musician Justin Roberts—singer and songwriter of some of the catchiest, cleverest, most non-adult-annoying kids’ music you’ll ever hear, and, in our particular social demographic, wildly popular among tots and their happy parents alike—played an outdoor family concert on our sweet little town square. (Yes, our new hometown actually has a town square. And it is adorable.) I don’t know how our tiny little college town got so lucky, but apparently Justin has played this outdoor concert in Northfield for four summers straight.
All day long yesterday, Julia talked excitedly about how we were going to hear Justin sing songs to us downtown, and how we would clap our hands at the end of each song, and then “give him hugs.” (We would have if we could.) Though barely two, Julia adores Justin Roberts—more than Dan Zanes, more (thankfully) than “The Best of Elmo,” more than her CD of Winnie-the-Pooh lullabies (an album with substantially more charms than its description would suggest). We have all his CDs, we listen to them daily, and although no doubt some parents would shudder and roll their eyes at our willingness to subject ourselves to kids’ music all day long rather than forcibly expose Julia to, say, U2 or Wilco (you know, OUR favorite music), I don’t mind even one bit: Justin keeps my hard-to-entertain baby happy and entertained, and his songs are full of the kind of sneaky-smart lyrics that just can’t compare with anyone’s version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
So anyway, we headed downtown last evening to meet two other families for sandwiches at suppertime, then went across the street to the square for the concert. It was a perfect evening: sunny, warm but not uncomfortably hot, low humidity, no mosquitoes, and even the winds had calmed down.
I don’t think words can accurately depict the idyllic scene before us for the next hour, but picture something out of Norman Rockwell, only with J. Crew shorts and Baby Bjorn front carriers. Picture the town square packed with families, the preschoolers and coltish older kids jamming in a spontaneous kiddie mosh pit in front of the stage, the chubby-legged droolers hanging out in onesies and sunhats in their parents’ arms, everyone laughing and dancing and singing and jumping up and down. Picture the sun sinking through the trees beyond the river, throwing everyone into golden relief that turned the children’s hair coppery, like caramel. Picture a bubbling fountain at the center of the square, an old-fashioned popcorn cart, a stand selling watermelon ices. Picture the kids sing-shouting, “And you say, oh my gosh, it’s a great big sun, it’s a great big sun,” all by themselves when Justin told them to carry the chorus, and the peachy-cheeked toddlers stumbling around in a kind of baby interpretive dance contest.
Then picture me, surveying the scene and marveling at its wondrous simplicity: at how something like this would never have been this easy, this quick, this free of parking hassles, this truly family-friendly, in either of the two major cities I once called home. Picture me, my big baby on my hip with the breeze in her white-blonde hair and my almost-born baby keeping up her own groove from the inside out, thinking that next year at this time we’ll be here with both girls, one of them newly three, the other nursing to sleep under the trees. Picture me looking at all the moms in linen capris and tank tops, at the dads with their digital cameras and complicated strollers, knowing full well that to all my childless friends, this would seem like the dorkiest, most tedious way to spend an evening imaginable, but thinking now, Little, little, little do you know.
And what about Julia in all this? Well, she was amazed and enthralled, clapping her hands and shouting, “More songs!” at the end of every tune, her lips stained red from the thrilling treat of a shared sno-cone. She was jumping and grooving to the beat in her little red-striped sundress, not sure what to make of the mayhem, but loving it. She was on her daddy’s shoulders at the front of the action, eyes glazing over as it grew increasingly past her bedtime, humming and watching, saying her own private goodnights. And when the grade-schoolers were hyped-up and the babies were dazed and tired, Justin bid everyone goodbye and we all walked up from the river with our families in hand, and Christopher and I talked to Julia about how even Justin had to go home to go nighty-night, with HIS babies, and that we’d all have sweet dreams now, about music and sno-cones. Don’t you think she did, too? I do.