Media, PA – “My Brother’s Girlfriend, Brittany Spears” – The Walden School – September 13, 1999

Soucy woke me with coffee in bed. ‘How thoughtful,’ I thought, but when I thanked him and told him he shouldn’t have he said “I did it out of fear, I’m scared of you without coffee.”

I took a shower, the first in three days, since Boston (yes, that’s gross) and my skin felt sore and itchy from the waxy hotel soap. I put on the new red skirt and shirt I got at Urban Outfitters on Newbury Street in Boston and sought out Chris’s approval: “That’s very scholastic,” he beamed.

I could hear him on the phone with the girl he’d “hung out with” (code for snogged) in NYC as I dried my hair in the bathroom. She asked him to go to Cuba with her in November and I delighted in listening in on his signature, Soucy-esque, phrased response. Chris starts sentences fast like someone in a speed reading competition and then, nearing punctuation, he slows w a y d o w n . . . like a bungee jumper. I love it very much.

The kids were assembled on the lawn when we arrived at The Walden school and the sun was bright and warm. The music teacher set us up under a tree with a mini sound system and amplifier. I looked into the crowd as Chris hit the first few chords of “Happy Now,” and felt as though I were playing to a tiny, majestic sea of angels.

After a couple of songs, as on our first visit to The Walden School, I explained that music is like painting with words and melody. I asked the kids to close their eyes and tell me how they’d paint the next song. Looking down to see what was on our set next, I was distressed to discover it was “Red Room,” a song about a night I once spent waiting in a green room, to kiss a bartender. Oops?!?! But I sang it anyway, all the time watching those little people with their eyes clenched shut as though the daylight might distract from their inner artwork. “kissed a boy I hardly knew…left him sitting in the blue….lay me down lay me down lay me down….” I sang, self-consciously, worried I was a corruptive influence on those little souls with my semi-raunchy song.

To my great joy and relief, when I asked them to tell me what they’d envisioned, they said “My cousin, because she was just born and she is little.” And “A girl in a room who is tired.” One little guy came up to the mic and charmed everyone by saying “That song reminds me of my brother’s girlfriend Brittany Spears.” And ran away. I was so delighted and impressed with their creativity. They were reacting not just to the lyrics but to the way the song made them feel.

Kids get music on a whole different level! Their worlds, unrestricted by lines or the need to make sense, are full of unadulterated poetry. How beautiful and freeing it must be, I thought, to see a bird and not just think, “feather” and “wing” and “beak” and “twerp” but instead, the poetry and spirit of that thing which flies and moves by the same restless ghosts that tussle our hair, button our jackets, and fold the ocean over itself again and again.

I asked the kids to describe a Christmas tree for me: “A tree with life on it,” said one boy. “A porcupine,” said another. I wanted to stay all day and ask them to teach me what I’d forgotten—how to see without the borders and cages of the language my eyes have learned to speak fluently.

Sal enveloped in Walden children

I asked anyone who wanted to dance to the next song to come up and stand next to me. I ended up enveloped in little ones. They stood so close that I could barely reach the mic. One tiny boy with black straight hair and green shorts was hugging onto mic stand so that it swayed, making it very difficult to sing and I loved it. I was 1/2 way through “For Kim,” with all those beautiful kids at hip height around me, holding onto my legs and fingers and dancing when Soucy started getting harassed by a yellow jacket.

Chris is allergic to bees. When I started hearing guitar fowls, I looked over to find Soucy doing what we now refer to as “The Bee Dance” which consists of rapid head thrusts, bursting, spastic runs with sudden, stand-still stops, and reverse spins. That bee was on him like white on rice and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the lavender oil Chris insisted I apply to his wrists before the show.

Laughing at “The Bee Dance”

Despite myself, I started laughing at Soucy who refused, or was too distracted, to stop playing but was also incapable of hitting the right chords. I felt badly until I saw Kenny, also in hysterics, chasing him with a video camera. Amid all the hysteria, my mic stopped working, which didn’t really matter because, by that point, I was laughing so hard that drool was leaking out of my mouth and the kids were laughing, pointing, and drooling too.

Sal leading the little angels onto the field

When Soucy finally evaded the bee, we tried to resume but couldn’t get the mic back on. It turns out, the electricity in the school had gone out for some (bee unrelated) reason. Bee-cause I was in such a blissful laughter-induced state, I grabbed Chris, and the kids and led them all out onto the sunny field and sang to them acoustically while twirling them around in a tremendous circle barefoot and laughing. The little boys teased each other as they came up to me pointing at their classmates, “He wants to dance with you,” they’d say and the little girls all fought for the room inside my hand which could only fit about 6.

Brian, Kenny, Delucchi, Sal & Soucy

Bri put tambourines in Delucchi and Kenny’s hands and they joined in the act. The joy and the ecstatic, unconditional love I felt from these light and glorious tiny angels is hard to describe. They surrounded me as though I were a tree limb they wanted to perch upon and they yelled up to me, arms swinging yelling “Group hug, group hug.”

Oh, I can’t explain it without tears it was so beautiful and extraordinary for me to be wrapped up in clouds of them. Sadly, as the song ended I told them, bowing down to them, in all their magnificence, “It’s time for us to leave now.” They screamed “WE DON’T WANT YOU TO LEAVE, WE DON’T WANT YOU TO LEAVE,” and “WE WANT TO STAY WITH YOU. WE WANT TO STAY WITH YOU!” I’ve never felt so happy in my entire life.

After that they swarmed me like Soucy’s bee, asking me to autograph whatever they had on hand: Tomboy Bride CDs their parents had bought, posters, lined school paper, the T-shirts on their backs, a tortilla chip, and a flower petal. Then, all of a sudden, it was the end of the day for these little knee highs. The school bell rang and yellow, chuckling busses came to swallow them up. Up the stairs, they flew, waving from the back windows as the bee-like busses rolled away.

I was on cloud nine.

Reader interactions

2 Replies to “Media, PA – “My Brother’s Girlfriend, Brittany Spears” – The Walden School – September 13, 1999”

  1. It seems the seed for CONSENSES was planted at least that long ago .

  2. Hi Sally,

    What a gift, children and imagination! Only a bee would pull me away.

    Happy 4th!

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