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  • Writer's pictureSam Payne

Hatching Plans

Every week, Sam posts in "The Radio Family Journal," a collection of tiny little personal stories broadcast on The Apple Seed. Here's the latest entry, about Sam's mom:

My mother was always hatching plans. I’d come into the kitchen of our tiny house, and I’d see her at the kitchen table, sketching on a piece of paper what looked like a floor plan. And I’d ask her to tell me about what she was drawing, and she’d explain that it was an idea for the house – she’d point with the tip of her pencil to the place where she planned to add bedrooms for each of us boys (we all shared a room the way the house was currently arranged), or the second bathroom off the main bedroom, or the picture window that would look out on the mountains. Those drawings were always very magical to look at, wonderful to dream about. And I’d ask her when we were going to make the things she drew on these papers filled with plans. Her answer was always the same: When our ship comes in. When our ship comes in we’ll build these things.

My mom was a planner. And the truth is, when I left home for college, the little house was pretty much the same as it had been all the time I was growing up. No extra bedrooms, no second bathroom, no picture window.

But some of my mom’s plans were different. They flew off the planning pages and into the lives of everyone in town. I’ll explain. My mom had this dream of a citywide music camp. For a week in the summer, families would carve out a week together, and each morning of that week they’d gather at the city park to have breakfast together – mostly donuts and juice. Then, every member of every family would go to their morning music class – some music experience held in someone’s home or backyard in town.

You might go sing in a youth choir, or you might sign up to be in a short musical theater production, or you might go and hear a recital from a world-renowned pianist in the living room of one of your neighbors. There were a dozen experiences to choose from. Then, everyone would get back together for a musical lunch: say, grilled hot dogs by a swimming pool, with Handel’s Water Music playing in the background, or maybe a short hike to a waiting picnic lunch and a bluegrass band. Then, in the afternoon, everyone would go to their afternoon music classes, and finally, in the evening, everyone would gather for a concert.

This would happen every day for a week, and then, at the end of the week, there would be a festival, all afternoon, in which everyone performed what they’d been learning during the week. The children’s folkdance class would perform, and the adult baroque choir, and the teen musical theater troupe, and the town orchestra, and the hayride band, and then, after a week’s worth of music, everyone would go home and look forward to doing it again next summer.

It was an enormous plan. But it happened. It happened, and it was called Musicfusion – the musical summer camp of all musical summer camps. One Musicfusion year, I acted and sang in an abbreviated version of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Another Musicfusion year, my brother and I sang “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from “Kiss Me, Kate.” My dad directed the baroque choir for grownups. My brother’s pal Jared Crapo wrote a theme song for the whole music camp. Strong hikers climbed the local mountain peaks with international piano competitors, in from China, guided by the local piano teacher. Lesser hikers hiked the gentle trail to Schoolhouse Springs, where we had sandwiches, and a cowboy crooner sang “Hey Good Lookin’, What you got cookin’, how’s about Cookin’ something up with me” to my mom. It happened, this plan of my mother’s, and the whole town was filled with Musicfusion for a week in the summer for a couple of summers running. None of us will ever forget it.

Many years have passed since then. My mother walks every day, with Cosmo, the old, black labrador that she and my stepdad rescued from the shelter a dozen years ago. But her life has generally mellowed into a state of gentle rest, a state of reflection. And I imagine –I have to imagine, that she may sometimes think of her life in terms of those drawings she made at the kitchen table all the time I was a child – those drawings that never got turned into bedrooms or bathrooms or picture windows. I know I’d tend that way. I know there would be days when I could only see what I had wanted to do but hadn’t. It’s awfully tempting sometimes to measure our lives in terms of the plans we made that were not realized. In those moments, I hope she, and that all of us, can have the sensitivity to hear the chorus of voices telling the story of the plans that did come into being, springing from the page to fill the world around us with the kind of life and magic that only we possess, leading the people we love on the adventure to which only we know the way – helping the people around us to find and sing the song the song that only we can inspire.

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