Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dad's day at the Ryman

There's this picture I know which will mean nothing to many folks. Most pictures don't I'd imagine. They're someone else doing something else, and that's that. Most pictures are innocuous that way I suppose.

Some are captures of moments which mean little but for the excitement of that moment for those involved. Some are public and capture the peculiar importance of what it is the photographer was shooting. The VJ Day sailor and nurse, his great embrace and her great acceptance, reflect that sentiment. A birthday party or wedding are more the embalmed history of those being partied to or being married show that as well. They are important to all involved or at least, to those photographed.

And then some pictures tell a story which we would all embrace should the tale behind the picture be known by all. I know one of those.

My father loved country music, especially the twangy bluegrass genre which found its way into northern cities such as Detroit as the great northern flight fed them during the hungry days of industry after the Second World War. He met his wife that way, as he had become friends with her brother, my uncle, who himself had fled an impoverished North Carolina in the days after the war seeking a better life for his family. His extended family had, being among them my mother, came north as well. So my parents met. So is my personal history at its' start written.

Years pass, and time yields towards itself. Dad never lost his love of country music, and never lost his love of its history both personal and in its music. He became a salesman for a company, a national company of which he was merely its local rep. And that took him beyond his proscribed territory. It took him to cities which were beforehand out of his range.

He once found himself in Nashville, Tennessee, for a trade show, where he had a few moments to himself. So he took some of those moments and he went to downtown Nashville, to see the Ryman Auditorium where many of his country music heroes had performed. He took a tour and stumbled into an opportunity to envisage himself among country music's elite. He could have his own picture made at center stage as though he were performing among the country music elite.

They gave him a cowboy hat and a guitar. They told him to take a certain spot on the stage, strum the guitar, look one way, and smile, and they would take a picture. He did it all. And he came out looking, as if in an analogy he had used often himself about others, as a kid in a candy store. He looked like a country music singer in his own right.

He was smiling as though it was meant for him to be there. As though he should be there. And as though he was comfortable, right where he should be.

He was a kid smiling like a kid living his wildest dreams. No doubt he was. I see it in that picture I know.

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