So I already filled you in on Nolan’s first concert, but that’s not the only thing we did this year.
After we were finally settled into the new house (HA! We will never be totally settled... that’s not how this works...), we tried to get out and spend some time together as a family.
My employer has a policy that you need to take at least five consecutive days off of work at least once every year. So I found myself with a few extra days off toward the end of August. We decided a day trip to Wisconsin Dells would be in order since we already had plans for an overnight a few days after that.
Now, one thing I absolutely love to do with Nolan is to take him on the Upper Dells Boat Tour. If you live in the Midwest and haven’t gone, DO IT. DO IT NOW. Okay, wait until the river thaws and the tours reopen for the season, but seriously... it’s my favorite thing to do in Wisconsin Dells (and there’s a shit ton of amazing things to do there...)
But Nolan and I had never taken Kirk along with us— it was always something we did on a day where Kirk was working and needed some quiet time alone.
Kirk and I both grew up here, and Wisconsin Dells has been a major attraction for families since well before we were kids... so living only an hour and a half away, we both had fond memories of visits from our childhoods. A lot has changed through the decades, but the Upper Dells Boat tour has changed very little. So I was looking forward to not only sharing my favorite Mom Date activity with Nolan but also with Kirk— maybe reliving some memories and learning about the history and geography of this magical place (seriously— I don’t use that word lightly... Google it if you don’t believe me).
But for whatever reason, Nolan just wasn’t having it that day. The plank onto the dock was extra terrifying, or maybe the waterfowl floating quietly nearby were giving him dirty looks that we weren’t picking up on... I honestly don’t know. So eventually we left the docks in pursuit of something else to do to reclaim the fun of the day.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t crushed. But fortunately I’m too stubborn to have let disappointment dictate the rest of the day... so I dragged my favorite boys to Timbavati Wildlife Park instead.
There, we bought tickets for the Safari Train (which is the same train that used to run at Fort Dells when Kirk was a kid). But again, Nolan was not okay with the train. So Kirk went without us, and I put Nolan in a better mood with my secret weapon: snacks. Because seriously, the right snacks can make the difference between a mediocre day and a phenomenal day. Plus, Nolan tends to get a little hangry when he’s underfed.
By the time Kirk got back, Nolan was much happier. We spent some time in the park and checked out all the animals. We even spent more money than we should have on carrots to feed the ostriches. But if you would’ve seen all the happy on Kirk’s face, you would’ve bought all the carrots you could. Plus I got to feed a giraffe, so I’ve now marked that off of my bucket list.
But the real highlight of that week off (and really the whole summer— maybe even the whole year) came two days later.
For Father’s Day, I bought Kirk tickets to see Daryl Hall and John Oates in Madison. Kirk’s first concert ever was Hall and Oates. He’d thrown around the idea of going to see them before tickets went on sale, but he was on the fence. He’d mentioned it on a previous tour as well, so I knew that it was a concert he’d want to see while he still had the chance. Plus now we knew Nolan could handle a concert, so I ordered tickets and booked a hotel room for the night of the concert. Kirk was now officially out of excuses to not go.
After I’d surprised Kirk with the tickets he shared in a group somewhere on Facebook that he was excited to be taking Nolan since Daryl and John were his first concert in 1983, and that it felt like he was coming full circle.
I honestly have no idea what he wrote or where, but I wish I could see it. Whatever it was, it must have been touching because in mid-June I got a message out of the blue through Facebook. I didn’t recognize the name, but it turned out to be the publicist for Charlie “Mr. Casual” DeChant.
For those of you who may not be familiar with his name, Charlie has been played saxophone and keyboards with Hall and Oates since 1976. You know their song "Maneater?" That sax solo is 100% Charlie DeChant. He’s done loads and loads of other amazing things too, but I figured that might be one you would recognize...
So Michael, Charlie’s publicist, said that Charlie had read Kirk’s post and wanted to try to meet us at the show. I knew Kirk would geek out over that opportunity— he can tell you who sings background vocals on a lot of classic rock tracks and knows most of the work of a lot of his favorite artists’ band members. He’s a guy who takes his music seriously.
So now, it’s mid-June, and I know that Kirk may or may not have the opportunity to go backstage at the upcoming Hall and Oates concert. And I have to keep it quiet for a little over two more months. We were waiting to find out from the venue whether or not we would be able to go backstage, and we weren’t likely to know until the very last minute.
In the meantime, I was trying to learn more about Charlie’s career outside of the band without Kirk finding out. And I was trying to reassure Kirk that Nolan would be just fine with the crowd and noise— he’d done just fine at his first concert and this was an outdoor venue with general admission seating, so I knew we’d have more flexibility with where we sat and how much we wandered.
I kept that secret really well too, until we were about halfway to Madison that afternoon. At that point I got another message from Michael letting us know that we had passes to pick up at the will call window. I don’t know what it was about that particular time that I looked at my phone that made Kirk ask me who had popped me up... but I couldn’t come up with a way to cover it up quickly enough, so I showed him the whole conversation between Michael and myself from the past two months.
Luckily for my car seats, Kirk did not pee his pants. He was definitely shocked though. Plus Nolan wet the car seat already (it’s a long drive), so I guess we had that covered?
Regardless, we got to the venue and through security just as we were supposed to be going back stage to meet Charlie and whoever else might be available to say hi... So of course, in true Bey family style, that’s exactly when Nolan used his iPad to tell me (in no uncertain terms) that he needed to use the bathroom NOW.
Okay. So we potty. And we potty... and pretty soon it felt like we’d been in the bathroom for 17 days (because that’s how time works when you’re running behind). But eventually we got out of the bathroom and moved as quickly as we could through the crowd and toward the stage.
I’ve personally never been backstage at any concert that I wasn’t playing in, so I had no idea what to expect. Most of the musicians and crew were eating dinner at the time, but Charlie, keyboard player Eliot Lewis and a couple other folks were sitting together relaxing before the show when we got there.
Kirk introduced himself and chatted a bit. He asked Eliot how his gig in Madison the night before had gone (he told me about that before we’d even left home... see what I meant before about how he keeps up with what the band members are doing?) and generally chatted a bit. Eventually, Eliot took a photo for us before we said goodbye. We may have been able to hang around a bit longer and meet some more of the folks that make the magic happen, but we weren’t about to overstay our welcome... People had a show to get ready for, and Kirk was beyond elated to have met Charlie and Eliot.
And you know what? Nolan loved the concert as much as Kirk did. Of course, Hall and Oates have been a part of Nolan’s soundtrack for his whole life too, and they put on a great show that night. Plus he had space to dance, so what more could a kid ask for (other than maybe more snacks...)
And it gives me hope that we’ve got a lot more joy to find... There will always be amazing music to see and places to visit... We hope to take Nolan to see the Harlem Globetrotters this year (he’s had them on heavy YouTube rotation for many many weeks now, so I’m going to assume that’s what he would pick if he were buying tickets), and there are always day trips to take. Who knows— maybe we’ll eventually get to Disney World... The thought of that both excites me and terrifies me all at once.
I don’t really have a good way to end this, so I’ll leave you with a short video of Nolan enjoying the show. In case you couldn’t tell, that’s pure joy oozing out of every pore in his body... If Kirk was in this shot, you’d see it in him, too.