I love to hit my alarm clock snooze button on Fridays. Even though I don’t fall back into a deep sleep for those eight or nine minutes, I spend the time listening to the quiet of the house and thinking back over the past week. Sometimes I start writing a blog post in my head, tossing words and ideas around.
Today’s pre-dawn reverie was particularly lovely because yesterday was an important day.
It was the monthly “La Rencontre” at the Franco Center in Lewiston. It’s hard to believe it’s been over two years since my mother and I attended our first one together. Remember? A lot has happened since then.
I’m still not fluent in French, but I can recite a number of prayers in the language as well as a few traditional songs, like “Les Cloches du Hameau.” I’ve learned these songs from singing with Les Troubadours, a local French singing group. I was so flattered when these ladies asked me to join them. We meet once a month at L/A College and we lead a “sing a long.” In French. We’ve sung on a local radio station, given performances at the Maine Statehouse, and entertained at local nursing homes.
This month, we were asked to perform at the Franco Center as the “entertainment” for the monthly “La Rencontre.” No big deal, right? But it was a big deal. We couldn’t just “show up” and belt out a few choruses of “La Vie En Rose” and leave. We had a program of songs. We had some props to coordinate. We had to practice. When Franco Center Director Mitch Thomas introduced us yesterday, he said “they’ve practiced something like 49 times this month.”
He was exaggerating, but we did practice a lot. We practiced our repertoire of songs and we practiced our positions on the stage. There was a little jig I had to learn as well as a marching routine choreographed to the song “La Cantinière.” We had to remember to smile and move slightly so we didn’t look like mannequins while we were singing. We had to coordinate our outfits. We even had a dress rehearsal which was video recorded.
(And “Dieu merci” for that because by studying pictures and video, I ended up changing my outfit and my coiffure; I looked 5 pounds thinner when we took the stage for Thursday’s performance.)
During one of our rehearsals, I had a déjà vu moment. I remembered all those afternoons practicing my tap dance routine in the basement as a little girl and how my mother would push me to keep going. And maybe when I was five, I complained and pouted, but that as an adult, this was not an option. So press on I did, studying my lines as much as I could and going over the routine in my head in the days leading up to the performance.
I invited my parents and Handy to attend and they were good sports about showing up, even though Herman and Handy couldn’t speak much more French than “oui” and “voyons!” I think they had a good time at the dinner (it was meatloaf and mashed potatoes, perfect for a cold winter’s day) and Herman bought Handy a beer, which was cute. Before the performance, I peeked out from behind the stage curtain and could see they were right in the middle of the audience; prime seats. Handy texted me a funny selfie of the three of them.
I danced and sang my heart out, smiling through it all and making sure to keep my hands in motion. And in the blink of an eye, it was over and I was driving back home to jump on a 2:00 p.m. conference call at work.
Later in the evening, I got an e-mail from Gail Lawrence, one of my fellow Troubadours. The performance had really been Gail’s vision; she’d put a lot of time and thought into perfecting the many details involved. She was such an inspiration to all of us. Her note really warmed my heart:
You were all WONDERFUL!!!! I was told by many audience members how much they loved the song choices, and by many more people how professional we looked on stage. One lady told me she loved ‘how you all sparkled up there!’ and I also heard the words ‘lively performance’ and ‘that was a nice show.’
Thank you all for attending all those ’49 practices.’ See! Practice Makes Perfect!
I’m wiping a little tear from the corner of my eye right now. We may not make it to Hollywood, but we gave a perfectly beautiful performance and proudly represented our shared Franco-American heritage. Practice does make perfect.
C’est si bon!