Thanksgiving Monday at the Church of Jigs and Reels

Some of us have new haircuts now (ahem, Steve and Ted).
"We don't take this for granted." That's all I could think, over and over, as I looked out and played music for our Monday night friends at Dillons. We are so very, very grateful for those who come to share musical communion with us every week. Here's a celebration of those who stopped in this week. We are so happy to know you!* 

Joe is almost 90. He is lanky and was over 6 feet tall in his prime, a leader-type who was the president of the local Ancient Order of Hibernians when we first met him 15 years ago. Today he sits in my Dad's old spot next to the band. He is here with his wife and youngest son, both of whom are just as tall and just as airy. Joe is stooped a bit. He is not as clean shaven as he used to be, he is rail-thin, and he has a bit of dementia now. His eyes sometimes seem hollow. When he hears songs he knows, he closes his eyes and sings along to every word. Joe and Nora lost their 50-year-old daughter/sister to a sad disease this year, and they don't get out enough anymore. Tears fell from Joe eyes when Steve sang "The Bold Fenian Men." Mine too.

Mary is a recently retired school teacher. The first day she happened upon us four years ago, her husband of 30 years had just inexplicably left her. She was feeling broken, and met a friend for a drink. She did not expect Irish music that night. It brought her right back to her college days, when every week she would go with friends to the Black Rose pub in downtown Boston, sing songs with the Irish bands, and stay for chat and banter with the band til the wee hours. She hasn't missed a Monday since. She has mostly healed in that time. When Steve sings the line, "Nothing matters, Mary, when you're free" from the Fields of Athenrye, he never forgets to shout "You're free now, Mary." Mary whoops from the bar. We couldn't love her more.

Dave the Organic Farmer drinks a good IPA and loves the saxophone. He's worked his ass off all year in sometimes 12-hour days, often seven days a week. He asked us to learn Richard Thompson's "Vincent Black Lightning." We did and now it's one of our favorites. Sometimes he slips fresh heads of lettuce under the table when he comes to hear us. But now it's November. He has reaped the harvest, grown and slaughtered his pigs and turkeys, and as Thanksgiving is almost here, he's probably thinking about how music will help fill his winter nights ahead until the seed catalogs come in. I hope he practices his horn.

The waitress is a trained butcher. Her enthusiasm lifts her six inches off the ground as she helps her customers. Her brother is behind the bar. He tends only once a week, and he just had a baby. His wife is the PR person for a nonprofit. He hasn't missed many Mondays in four years, either, because he said it's as busy as working a weekend, but with a little less crazy. 

Verna and Carl stopped in. She's from Malaysia; she's also our doctor. He's a documentary filmmaker and a huge music fan, and as far as I can tell, one of the driest, funniest, smartest humans on the planet. Their two daughters are grown now, and they love to get out for a bite and take in some music. 

Patricia is here with her grandson Tyler, visiting from Texas. He's here to help her with her eye surgery. She's a recently retired marine biologist. Tyler has bright orange hair cropped short at the back with long bangs swept across his brow in front, just barely hiding his bright black eyes. His service dog sits calmly under the table. The giant grey poodle lifts his head every now and then when the jigs and reels get exciting. After one lively reel, Tyler rushed over to our table to thank us. "Me and my dog have been on the edge of our seats all night. We love you guys." We just met them, but we love them too. 

Gert is missing. She just turned 80, and got a diagnosis of cancer in many places in her body. She hadn't missed a Monday in three years, but now her daughter says she can barely stand up and she's self conscious about her hair loss. We miss our spunky Gert, who was skydiving in her 70s. She is lost without her Irish music, her daughter tells us. We're lost without our Gert.

Karl is at the bar. He has shock-white tousled hair and a heavy white moustache nearly as broad and thick as his shoulders. He wears a white button-down shirt untucked over jeans. Always. He's from Germany, and he comes in every week for a couple of pints and a meal at the bar.  Oona sits near him at the bar. She's been in America since the 1990s, just like Steve, but it's like she never left Ireland. Her accent is strong and her quips are like music. She's irreverent to the point of raunchy, and she sings along with all the songs. She spends her days caring for people who can't take care of themselves. Lord, she needs her release. We are happy to share it with her.

Robert the dentist is here to sing a few songs and play a tune or two on his accordion. He recently retired and sold his business, and now spends his days learning tunes with a panoramic view of the entire harbor from his house on the bluff. He flies back and forth to Ireland nearly every month. He's talking to Bill, whose wife died a year or so ago. Bill is probably somewhere in his 80s, and he is tall and steps lively. He comes in on his own every week with his Red Sox cap and drinks his glass of red wine. He smiles as he watches our musical shenanigans in the corner. Bill and Robert often sit with Brendan and Kathy, who like to get out almost every night, when they're not occupied with their grandchildren.

Bill sometimes sits next to the young tattooed couple who station themselves at the end of the bar for a good long chat every Monday. Now that Gert is away, Mary sits next to them tonight and chats too, until Oona comes in and lights up the place with her sultry innuendo.

Steven and Anne are there celebrating their anniversary. Anne cries when our Steve sings "The Four Green Fields." I heard that Anne makes quilts. About six months ago, I wrote to her to ask if we could commission a dino quilt for our budding five-year-old paleontologist. Yes, she said she would. She made Soul Boy a bright batik, dinosaur-covered handmade quilt. Hours in the making, no doubt, and she would barely take a penny for it. Because she loves to do it.

Anne wrote to me after our Monday gig to tell me how much this music fills her. It was her best anniversary ever, she said. "Just wanted to again tell you both how much you give to others...your music lightens hearts, makes us rise above all of the negativity and sadness in the world and transports us into that 'happy place.' Your gift of music is overwhelming. It is impossible not to smile and be absorbed into its goodness. Thank you. It truly was the best anniversary ever...had not heard any live Irish music for a while and I just hadn't realized how much I needed my fix. I'm back to my old unbelievably optimistic self!"

Thank you so much, Anne and Steven. That is why we do this. And that's why I hope we will be doing it forever. 

Happy Thanksgiving and hugs to you all.

*There were many others there, too—but this was starting to turn into a novel. We love you, too. You know who you are. xxoo  And yes, many of these names have been changed.