Byrdhood: Thanksgiving Lilyana Style

The guessing games are over and I don’t have to wonder what it feels like to be one any more. I can stop looking at babies in grocery carts pushed by women who look a bit too old to be their moms and stop feeling jealous. I also can look on Face Book at all the pictures of everyone else’s grand children, and now feel the camaraderie: I’m a Grandma.

As of 7:33 PM, November 22, 2012 (which, by the way was Thanksgiving Day, my favorite holiday), I joined the ranks of millions and possibly billions of women who have gone on before me: Eve, Grandma Moses, the old woman who lived in a shoe, Mother Goose (I know, she’s a bird, but then again, so am I), my lovely grandmothers, Edna and Annis, Sarah Palin, my mother-in-law, Patricia and my mother, Virginia, who is my hero, weighing in with eighteen grandchildren and plenty of bragging rights.

Arriving a couple days ahead of the blessed event, to ensure that I wouldn’t miss one jot or tittle of the labor and delivery of John’s and Mesha’s baby, I found myself staying at Peter and Isaaca’s house in Nashville, Tennessee.  All of my children live there and we were hoping to kill two birds with one stone; celebrate Thanksgiving together and have a baby while Bill and I were visiting everyone.  It always helps to have a plan, right?

With plans in mind for Thanksgiving Eve, I put together a hearty stew and invited all the kids over, setting the trap, luring them to help me prepare for the next day’s feast by plying them with good food and wine. It worked!  Cody was the DJ, playing his favorites- Merle Haggard and George Jones.  We alternately ate, danced, chopped vegetables, made cakes and watched the oven while we also kept watch on another oven…our radiant, gloriously pregnant, Mesha.

She was fascinating to watch in her pregnant splendor, her dark hair spilling over her shoulders, her belly stretching to seemingly unnatural limits and her legs and feet a bit swollen from carrying the extra weight.  She sat as a queen upon the couch, all of us anxious to jump at her requests, bringing her more bread, propping up her feet, pouring her more water, all the while wondering when her body timer would go off and make a buzzing sound, alerting us all that the baby was done and needed to come out of the oven. I supposed she fascinated me so much because she carried my first grandchild, my own flesh and blood besides my own children and the next cycle of life in our family.

We got the call at 3:15 AM, Thanksgiving morning.  “Momma Byrd…my water’s broken and I’m having trouble waking up John”. I don’t know why men want to turn back over go back to their dreaming when they hear news like that in the dead middle of the night, but he did, believing that she had to be joking.  Mesha cried, “I was dreaming that my water broke and I woke up and jumped out of bed and it broke…right there on the floor”. There was no time to spare, I thought. “Bill and I will be over in about twenty minutes.  Girl, this means you are, for sure, having a baby…Today”!  I clicked “end” on my cell phone and went to wake up Bill.

She labored all day and early on it became obvious that we would miss the Thanksgiving feast.  I called Natalie, Stacey and Isaaca and said, “Looks like we’re having the baby today.  You girls are going to have to cook everything we didn’t cook last night”, which was really a lot of food because we were too fascinated with Mesha to do much cooking. “I know we had big plans, but you guys just cook the turkey, ham, dressing and make all of the side dishes.  I know you can do it.” And just like that, I shirked all of my normal Thanksgiving duties as “the mom” and handed them off to the second generation so that the third generation could be born.

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At about 6:00 PM, the kids began to wander up to the second floor of the hospital to wait out the birth.  All of the men stayed in the waiting room and my daughters and I watched Mesha and John have the baby.  Even though I had birthed six of my own, I had never actually watched a baby being born. Mesha wowed us all as she let her body take over and push out another human being, another little girl, our Lilyana Espen Byrd.

With my eyes full of tears and my heart filled to the brim with wonderment and joy at the sight of my Thanksgiving bundle of love, I looked around the room, busy with women cleaning up an exhausted but relieved and beautiful Mesha, nurses clamoring to make sure the baby was normal, all  eight pounds, eleven ounces of her royal highness, Princess Lilyana!  My daughters were punch drunk with “aunthood” and my son, beaming with pride looked good in his new role of fatherhood, as he gazed lovingly into the face of his perfect daughter.  One by one, the men in my family, the new grandpa, Bill and uncles, Jeremy, Cody and Peter, trickled into the hospital room, peeking around the curtain, anxious to see a child they had months ago decided was their baby too, to love, defend and protect.

I felt like it was a scene from “Parenthood” as we stood in a circle around the bed and it was, but only our own version.  Our own episode. The Byrd family at it’s finest. I was getting my feast. A love feast.  Quite a perfect Thanksgiving Day, my favorite holiday.  I have to smile and say, “Thank you Lord”.  ‘Cause God always did love me best.

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Here’s your song. Enjoy!

Ode to the House on Sneed Road

The house in Alabama on Allendale Road had dreams all over the place.  They were piled up in corners, stored under beds, shoved behind the piano, stuffed into dresser drawers and stacked up where no one could see them behind the couch. They sat atop the dining room table like lazy cats claiming their territory and we had to learn to share the space and eat with them as their tails swished across our plates. At night, we had to push them off of our beds to have room to sleep. They would only crawl back up and spoon with us after we had fallen asleep, whispering their plans and suggesting crazy things into our comatose brains while we were most vulnerable. There was no room at all left in the band room.  The dreams were squished into drum bowls and guitar bodies.  They crouched behind the sound board and hid in the amplifiers.  And the microphones; they didn’t fool us a bit.  They were long, skinny dreams with a shiny magnet for a head that screamed phrases all the time, like, “I just wanna be heard,” pulling at the iron wills of my children and becoming inseparable.  On one side of the room, they were stacked like a cord of dry, fire wood, just waiting their turn to be pulled out from the pile and put in the fire place upstairs, just wanting to burn like nobody’s business.  Oh,  the laundry room!  I could hardly get in there to do a load of dirty clothes because dreams were all over the place.  I had to push them out of the way to wash the towels and make room for the mounds of clothes that magically appeared daily before my very eyes.  The garage was a mess of dreams.  They were hanging from the tool racks and shelves attached to the walls and hung over old bicycles and lawn mowers.  There was an old patio table and junk lawn chairs that sat on the top of an old rug and the dreams would sit there and spawn more of themselves and multiply.  We didn’t have room to park a car in there!  Dreams were constantly knocking on our doors and peeking into our windows, just trying to figure out if they could come in. Our house was bursting at the seams with dreams and there was not room for one more.

One day, the dreams decided they were being stifled at our house.  The house had become too small for them and they needed a place to stretch out real big and be allowed to grow if they wanted to. They began to consider a place where they could go that would be home to them, a place that they could turn into more than just a thought and a hope.  Dreams are like that.  They get tired of just being illusive happy thoughts. They have to develop and have substance. With that in their minds,   they crawled into my children’s beds as they slept and began whispering their big, fancy plans to my babies.  “We need a place to go ,” they sang in their heartbreakingly beautiful Siren voices. “Dreams need more room to roam.  Let’s go and find a bigger home.” Who could resist the Siren’s song?

And that was that.  “Mom, we’ve decided that we are going to move to Nashville.  We’ve done all we can do here musically and we need to move to a place where we can network with a music scene that can move us forward.  Plus, we’ve found a house we can rent on Sneed Road.  We can all live there together.” I was looking at their hopeful faces but all I could see were the dreams talking. They were manifesting and acting just like my children, but I know a dream when I see one.  And their voices had the Siren song thing going on.  How could I resist?

It’s strange when dreams pack up and move out of your house.  Sure, the kids left and moved to Nashville, but the absence of living with their dreams was the hardest to get over.  All of the hope and  promises that cluttered my house left with the kids in the U-Haul truck.  Bill and I would have to dedicate the next few years to making our own cluttered mess.

While in Nashville over the holidays, I rode by the house on Sneed Road.  The kids had moved out of it after Thanksgiving and it was empty, almost dilapidated looking.  The owner had bought it to tear it down and build a Nashville mansion on it for someone whose dreams had propelled them to stardom and success.  He was having a hard time selling it in this economy and instead could only rent it to a bunch of hopefuls, my children.

I pulled the car over to park in front of the house and just sat there for a while and stared.  I gazed at it, my thoughts spilling all over Sneed Road like a bucket of water turned over. I couldn’t collect them and put them back in their holding tank.  They were running all over the place.  It had been two and a half years since the big dreams had moved to Nashville.  At one time or another, the house on Sneed Road had been a home for all of my children. It was the place their dreams chose to live and I could understand why.

It was shabby compared to the houses surrounding it.  John Prine, a Country Music Hall of Fame singer/songwriter lived on one side of home and a lawyer lived next door on the other side.  Kelly Pickler lived four doors down and one of the Kings of Leon lived several blocks over.  Daily tour buses rode down Sneed Road pointing out the houses of the famous.  I always cringed at the possibility that the tour guide was telling those on the bus…”And on the left you have the beautiful home of John Prine, a country music legend.  And next to it, you have the home of The Bridges, those who are trying to make it in this industry and are too busy chasing their dreams to cut their grass.”  

I wondered how the house felt now that the dreams had moved out.  It took only a few years for the dreams to take over the house, cluttering up the place like a dream junk yard, the neighborhood eye sore.  I suppose at some point, the dreams crawled up into bed with each of the kids and whispered dream visions into their deep sleep realms, telling them things like, “This house is too small for all of us.  We need to keep the same dream but move into several houses.  That way we will have even more room to multiply and divide.” The dreams had become like big, tall, yellow daffodils, growing together on the same small plot of land, rising up thick and strong side by side with not a finger of room left between them.  The only way they could continue to bloom and grow was to dig up the plants, tear the roots in half and replant them in different places.  Same flower, same dream, just able to grow bigger in many places.

The house looked cold and dark.  I saw no shadowy flickers of life within. No hope and dreams smiling at me from the old, loose windows in the living room facing the road. I felt like I was the tour guide on the bus and I wanted to say: “To your left there is the former home of The Bridges, which was the largest house of dreams on Sneed Road.  Don’t let its shabbiness fool you for a minute.  Dreams have put a lot of wear and tear on this house, but when it’s all said and done, this house was the richest house on the street.  The dreams in this house were some of the most extravagant ones in Nashville.  They were elegant and lush, so grandiose that they were almost too embarrassing  to speak of out loud.  Yes, this is Nashville’s famous, House of Dreams.”  I could imagine the folks on the buss sucking in their breaths as they looked upon the house at 4014 Sneed Road, their eyes shining with dancing stars and adoration. “Stop the bus,” they cried out, “so that we can take a picture of the dream house!”

I took out my camera, pointed it at my noble but lonely, old friend and took one last picture. After all, these dreams had become mine too. But, I had taken my cluster of daffodils and planted them in the sandy soil of SNEADS Ferry, North Carolina and they were beginning to take root and grow.   I know…weird, right?

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