Greetings from Nashville where I’m deep in the woods of recording an album. I’ve been here since early Sunday morning (like 4:30 in the morning) where I blew in on the back of a major thunderstorm and will be working out these songs until the end of the week.
I’ll share more about this experience, but for now I’m focused on the project and will be tracking vocals all day for the next few days.
In other music news, it has been a busy couple weeks of performances where I’ve had the honor of speaking to rooms full of women across the state as they celebrate Mother’s Day and spring and just good ‘ol fashioned fellowship at a variety of brunches, all so sweetly planned and executed.
So that’s what this week’s column is about, specifically about my hometown event where I was overcome with emotion and gratitude looking out at the room full of women who have had such special impacts on our community.
No podcast for this week as I’m not sure I’ll be able to fit it in, but I’ll sure have lots to talk about when I get back. Also, I heard Edie wrote me a note to read when I get back home and it says something like “Never ever ever ever leave me again!” so now you know how she feels about this situation. Rosie? Well, she’s had some really great days and mostly just wants to know what I had for supper and also if i am going to get her a treat while I’m here.
To which I say “of course!”
Honoring the women who made me who I am
Recently, I had the honor of sharing stories and singing for the Lutheran Ladies in my hometown at their annual Sunday brunch. They were celebrating this sunny spring afternoon with tiny cucumber and egg salad sandwiches, homemade mints, and a tea bar. Each table was decorated and set by different women who stood up to introduce their guests and explain the stories behind the centerpieces and dishes, silverware and place settings.
I had come off a week that sent me back and forth across the state to speak and sing in front of rooms full of people I had yet to meet, and I was, if I’m being honest, exhausted. I got ready that morning with a little apprehension. Truthfully, performing to a room full of people you know is sometimes the most nerve-wracking. I wondered if I had anything to say that they hadn’t already heard.
My mom, little sister and I were invited to sit at our neighbor Jan’s table decorated with her childhood cowboy boots, a vintage lunchbox, and themed around her grandmother’s colorful old ceramic pitcher.
This woman was raised right alongside my dad. Her mother, who was at the table as well, was my grandma Edie’s best friend. Sitting next to her was the grandmother of one of my best friends. Next to me was Jan’s daughter, who used to come to play at the ranch in her beautiful pink boots of which I was so envious.
I’m setting this scene here for a purpose, and I’ll take a moment to explain, as it took a moment for me to realize the significance as I stood up in front of those women that afternoon, behind my guitar talking about the crocuses blooming on the hilltops and holding my grandmother’s hand on a hunt to pick a perfect bouquet.
I told them a story about my great-grandmother Cornelia’s yellow roses that still bloom in the barnyard. Then I moved on to a bit about community and how our role is to help build it, like my great-grandma Gudrun — an immigrant from Norway, just 16 years old on her way across the ocean to raise crops and cattle and 12 children on this unforgiving landscape — did.
It was then that I realized, looking into those familiar faces looking back at me smiling and laughing, or closing their eyes and nodding along, rooting for me, quietly encouraging me, that the lessons I was offering that afternoon were lessons I learned from them.
As is my motto, I felt like I had to say something then. It sort of washed over me, and out of my mouth came an effort to thank them, not just for their collective spirit, but for what their perseverance and individuality has meant to this community and to girls like me trying to figure out what it means to grow up here.
I got home that evening and had a chance to reflect a bit on the fact that there was more I wished I could have articulated, so I want to say it now.
These women, they are leaders and caretakers. They show up, they bring food, they stay to put away the chairs and wipe the counters and offer a laugh or advice on the way out the door. They have vision, they’re loyal, they’re feisty, they’re elegant and artistic, just like the event they put on that afternoon. They’re teachers, coaches, handywomen and true friends who will say what needs to be said and who hold secret recipes to casseroles and bars and that boozy slush she serves every Easter.
When I tell stories and sing songs about strong women in North Dakota, I am singing about them. And their mothers. And the daughters they’re raising. I grew up in this small town under their gaze, under their care, under their expectations, or I was raised alongside them, or I am getting to know them, happy they’re here.
Some of them wash and put away the dishes, some of them stop at Jack and Jill for the doughnuts, and some of them make tiny sandwiches and homemade mints and bring the good dishes. You would think those things are small things, but I will tell you now that they are not.
They are big things, rooted in the unspoken rule that you show up the best possible way that you can. And if you can’t, they’ll wrap a plate up for you. If you forget for a moment what you’re made of, if you let them, if you listen, they will remind you.