I wrote this post when I returned from a trip to Canada in 2007, where I had met Sharon and Bram of Sharon, Lois & Bram's Elephant Show. I was in total awe and still shell-shocked from the entire experience. It was incredible.
I'm sitting in the back of a silver Toyota Camry, and Bram Morrison has just lied to me.
"You know, in French, Avalanche means "vomit"." he had said matter-of-factly, as we passed a midway ride called "The Avalanche" which, by all means, is likely to make you vomit.
"Really?" asks everyone in the car. Even Sharon Hampson, who's toured with him for the past 30 or so years and should know his humor, believes him at first.
I can barely wrap my brain around this weekend. I am in the back seat of Bram's car. Sharon is in the passenger seat. Sitting next to me is Laura DeCesare, whom I've only just met the day before, but without her none of this would have been possible. There's no Lois, and there's no Eric Nagler, and there's no elephant, and although I'd really like for Lois to be there [she was always my favorite as a child], I'm overwhelmed enough as it is.
It started just before 4:00 P.M, as I'm sitting with Laura watching some girls dance on stage at the Winona Peach Festival. Laura taps me on the shoulder and points to my left. I look, and it's Sharon. She's waving. At us. I don't even know what to do. Fortunately my giant dark sunglasses cover up my wide-eyed look, but they couldn't conceal the shock on my face. I managed a meek little wave, as Sharon brought Bram over to wave to us too. Laura gets up and we both walk over to them, the whole time I'm smiling like an idiot. My emotions are very confused: Should I be laughing? Crying? Jumping up and down? How can I treat people I've been watching on television since age 3 as 'normal people'?
I manage to shake Bram's hand. I think I'm trembling. "I'm sorry, I'm completely shell-shocked." I say, staring in disbelief at the scene before me. A man named Al comes up to us, looking just as excited as I feel. "Hi I'm Al!" he says, pumping my hand enthusiastically as if I'm someone special. He thinks I'm with the band. I don't burst his bubble.
Next thing I know I'm sitting on the back of a golf cart with Laura and Sharon. Bram and Al are in the front, and we're driving through the Winona Peach Festival, towards the main entrance, to purchase some [what else?] peaches. Sharon and Laura are catching up, which is fine with me since I'm still in complete shock. We're driving by festival-goers, and in the back of my mind I want to say, "Don't you KNOW who these people are?! I'm on a golf cart with Sharon and Bram!" When we stop the cart, Al goes into a booth and brings the four of us peach sundaes. Sharon and Bram get peaches--two bags each-- and the girl at the counter tells them "I remember you." and continues in a calm voice. All I can think is If Sharon and Bram came through my line at CVS, I'd be hysterical. We return back to the trailer, which is being shared by all the groups but is currently empty. We put our things down and settle in for conversation. They talk a little bit about how Lois is doing, about various friends they all have in common. Sharon shows me photos of her grandchildren and talks briefly about her husbands illness [apparently he passed due to lung cancer not too long ago] before we're instructed to change the subject, or else she'll cry and ruin her 'elaborate makeup'. Laura informs them that I used to have a children's television show, and Sharon asked me if I loved it. I inform her that I did, and am trying to get it going again, but it's much harder to do with a full time job and a full time course load.
Sharon Hampson asks me, "Why are you going to college?" and I laugh. Of course she means what am I going to college FOR, and I explain psychology, but that ideally I'd like to major in Children's Media, if I could only find a school that offered it. Laura suggests I try Emerson, her alma mater, but I express apprehension about my grades not being good enough and my not having enough money.
We start singing not long after that, a nonsense song at first, and then "Fish and Chips and Vinegar". Bram plays the guitar, and our voices eventually bring curious passersby into the trailer-- mainly girls in their early 20s, who are even more star-struck then I am. They ask Sharon and Bram to sing "I am slowly going crazy", a song they inform us they had stopped singing for a number of years due to people complaining about it's political incorrectness. Bram tells a story of when they performed in Pennsylvania, I believe it was, & had sung a song about a hunter, in which they had used their fingers as pistols. After the show, a teacher came up to them and told them that it was a bad idea to mention guns and use finger pistols. They had realized she was right, and after some thought, came up with a lyric change which allowed them to still use the song. [Instead of 'or that hunter will shoot me dead' it became 'or rabbit foo foo will bop me on the head'.]
Outside, the sky, which had been threatening rain all afternoon, and sometimes drizzling-- picked this moment to release it's fury. Safe in the trailer, we continued to talk unbothered by the conditions, while Jam Sandwich, a canadian kids group, warmed up the crowd. They returned to the trailer soon later, soaked clear through to the skin. They also had a problem-- the stage roof was in danger of collapsing-- all of the rain water was collecting in the very middle. They took 20 minutes or so do drain it.
Sharon sings a song she has never sung before. It's beautiful and haunting-- "We'll Pass Them On" by Sally Rogers, which is about sharing the music with generations, and that generation passing on the music. And as Sharon sings I'm struck with this image of myself at age three, watching Sharon sing on television, never knowing that twenty years later she'd be singing to me about the IMPORTANCE of singing to me at age three. I fought back tears and won, only because I convinced myself that it would be completely embarrassing to cry in front of Sharon and Bram.
Al came back into the trailer eventually and asked if they were ready to go on stage. Sharon and Bram had been pretty much convinced that the rain would keep away any audience. I assured them that Laura and I would be loud enough that they wouldn't notice the difference, but if it meant that much to them, we'd gladly drive through the festival on a golf cart yelling at people to go see the show. Al assured Sharon and Bram that folks had actually been waiting THROUGH the downpour, and that they definitely had an audience. Bram got up to do a sound check and left Sharon with us for another 10 minutes or so. When she took the stage, Laura and I ran around to find seats and take pictures.
They sang If All The Raindrops, The Eensy Weensy Spider, Fish And Chips and Vinegar [a three part song-- this was the first time they sang it without Lois], Grandpa's Farm, She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain, A: You're Adorable, Little Rabbit Foo Foo, I Am Slowly Going Crazy, Tingaleyo, Rags, and closed with Skinnamarink.
At the very end, Sharon announced that they had some friends who had driven all the way from Massachusetts to visit with them, and would we stand up so everyone could wave to us? It was incredible. Al was very excited when he found out we were from America-- he said we were strengthening Canadian/American relations, and that we should be ambassadors, or something of the like.
After the concert Sharon and Bram did a short meet and greet, and offered us a ride back to our parking lot. We grabbed our stuff from the trailer and hit the road.. only to be unable to FIND our car. It had been very early when we arrived and the parking lot had been empty-- we were extremely disoriented. Sharon and Bram drove us around for ten minutes before we told them just to go on without us-- they had things to do that they were already running late for. We took some pictures with them, got some autographs, [I gave Sharon my business card, yay!] and then they were on their way.
All in all I came away from this weekend with a renewed sense of what it is I WANT to be doing with my life. I'm not as far away from my goals as I sometimes think. After all-- I just had a jam session with Sharon and Bram.
Present day note: My only regret from this trip was not taking more photos. I have a few of the concert, and some of the four of us together after the show. But I was SO nervous during our little jam session. I didn't want to suddenly turn all paparazzi and ruin the down-to-earthness of the entire moment. But I should have just turned my flash off and snapped a few photos.