She would practice, when no one else was around. When she was driving, or at home alone, in the rare moments when her children and husband had scattered to pursue their own interests.
She would sing the National Anthem, and dream of the day when the Red Sox would call her up and ask her to open a game.
Years passed, and she stopped singing with her band. She stopped singing professionally, though she was good enough to stand behind Michael Bolton and Celine Dion on the big stage. She went back to school, became a wife and mother and therapist all within a short span, and accepted the new direction her life was taking.
But she still practiced.
Her life became more and more stressful and difficult. Each of her children has a big, intense personality, and broke and healed her heart over and over again, the way children do. Her husband was changed by parenthood and the weight of responsibility, the way we are. Her father-in-law died, and her own father became undiagnosably ill. Her sister called, devastatedly hit with breast cancer and possible colon cancer. The stress built, and life grew more difficult, and it became harder and harder to find things to smile about.
And then, in August, that call came through.
Her brother-in-law works for the Jimmy Fund, a cancer research and fundraising organization, and they were looking for someone to sing the National Anthem at a Red Sox game. Someone who was local, and who had a relevant story, and most importantly someone who would sing well.
She fit all of those criteria. And so, sight unseen, song unheard, they invited her to sing.
The first game was rained out, creating a bitter last-minute disappointment. But they rescheduled the game, and invited the same people back to perform. And this time, her two friends, with whom she had been escaping for a monthly girls-only lunch for the past many years, started to plan. They neither of them could have attended the August game, but husbands could be placed in charge of children and tickets could be obtained, to allow them to attend the September rescheduled game. And, more importantly, to be there, in person, when their friend sang her dream.
Waiting for the song to start, her friends were impressed with how relaxed and happy she seemed. They remarked that they would sooner face a firing squad than sing in front of so many people, and that at the very least they would be pacing and nauseous and nervous. But she just waited, and smiled.
Then the time came, and the announcer explained that she was singing this song for her sister. The crowd went quiet.
She was amazing.*
Her friends were so proud, so thrilled, so grateful to be able to be there and share that day with her, albeit from arm's length away. It's a pride without a sense of ownership, a vicarious wonder at watching someone else experience a lifelong dream. It's safe to consider the day as being on par with the births of her children, in terms of important, shining, successes in her life.
It was a very good day. Bigger than words. An honor to observe.**
*Note: The sound quality is good but the video... not so much. You may want to watch with your eyes closed. Her brother-in-law was sneaky with a video camera in a sports facility, and bless his heart for doing it. There are clearer still photos, here.
**And another note, while we're at it: Carolyn and Jenny, I don't know how often you stop by here, but I wanted you both to know just how grateful I am for our friendship. You are both so special and wonderful, and I'm thrilled to be able to share in your lives. Thank you.