the girls

The Girls, as I like to call them, played at PPAC last Thursday with the RI Philharmonic Orchestra.

I’ve seen them in concert with an orchestra three times, and it never disappoints. The orchestra manages to put music to the way my heart has always felt listening to Indigo Girls, and it is perfect.

I know that sounds corny but I don’t mind getting a little corny when it comes to my favorite musical group of all time. I started listening to the Indigo Girls when I was 12 – and in fact the first time I ever heard their music it was live at the Folk Festival in Newport. I was hooked from there, and remember riding my bike with their cassette tape in my walkman, searing every word of Closer to Fine into my brain just as every other fan of theirs has ever done. Their music and lyrics have been with me through every major transition in my life, anchoring me and helping me to not lose sight of who I am when everything around me starts to shift. I learned most of what I know about harmony by listening to their voices blend and sitting with my sisters while we tried to match their tone.

My love affair with the Indigo Girls had started prior to my arriving at ECC as a teenager, so I was ecstatic to learn that at the hippie summer camp I was attending I was suddenly one with the cool kids because I knew Michael Stipe’s part in Kid Fears. I soaked up every minute of numerous talent show acts where people sang the familiar songs, and as soon as my sister Kate was old enough to be at teen camp with me I pulled her up on stage with me to sing. Perhaps the greatest heartache of my young (and older!) life is that no one in my family played guitar, so all of our Indigo Girls songs had to be sung a capella… oh, the agony.

Now that I’m back in Rhode Island anytime The Girls come to town I have at least 3 friends who reach out to me to see if I plan to attend the concert. This time around we miraculously managed to get a big group of tickets, and 11 of us planned an evening out together: dinner and the show. I can tell you as a working mom with two small children this kind of social event happens approximately never, and it was so exciting to walk into a restaurant and sit at a table with 10 friends. Here we are:

It should be noted that those of us from Gen X did not grow up taking selfies.
We did our best here.

As soon as we gathered and started to catch up I started to laugh to myself a little as we realized just how deep into this particular stage of life we all are. We all marveled at being out on a Thursday with so many people. We joked about how at the dinner part of the night it always seems like a fun idea to go out after the show, but we knew we’d all go home and straight to bed because….who are we kidding. We talked about work and home and what foods we are allergic to and how hard it is to keep appropriately-sized clothing on our children as they grow. Riveting stuff.

When it was time for the show we blazed over to PPAC in time for everyone to use the bathroom before settling in, and we remarked how great it is to be at a show that you can mostly sit down the whole time and you know it’s going to be over in an hour and a half.

When The Girls took the stage we applauded and hollered just like every other Gen X woman in the room (there were a handful of men and Boomers in there, but they were definitely the outliers) and when the music started we simultaneously started wiping tears from our faces.

The thing is, with music that has brought me through my entire young adult years, I can’t hear it without replaying so many pivotal moments from life. The shows that I have attended with so many different friends start to carousel through my mind, and I remember what was happening in my life at each one. Their music is balm for my soul but it is also the soundtrack of my life, each song a different chapter.

After the first couple of songs I was able to leave memory lane and bring myself back into the room. As I settled into the show I couldn’t help but feel a new wave of gratitude that after all these years I was surrounded by my camp friends – singing and laughing and wiping tears away together. The group of eleven of us were not all at camp at the same time, and we don’t even socialize together as one group – in fact we swapped out many ticket holders with new people when others had to bail. But we all have this shared camp experience, and a shared love for the music we sang at talent shows, and it didn’t matter one bit if it was the first time we all got together socially or the 100th time. We sang those songs like we were swaying in front of the Little Theater together at a Talent Show.

Before the night was over we saw at least a dozen other camp friends – waving to the ones with the good seats down by the stage, texting others in various parts of the theater, and jumping up and down and hugging one another in the bathroom during intermission.

They say change is the one constant in life, and that has certainly been true for me. But this past Thursday I was profoundly grateful for two other constants in my life: the beautiful music of the Indigo Girls and the deep and abiding friendships I have with my camp friends. And with that combo? Well – closer I am to fine.