It’s Spring, 1893…I mean, 1983. I was standing in front of a camera in Turner Falls, Oklahoma with four other friends who had helped me survive my freshman year in college. Four other friends who, together, had walked with me through one of the best years of my life, and one of the most stressful years in my life. The camera flashed, we took off our costumes, and somehow the photograph made its way across 27.5 years of moves, still intact although a bit faded. Last night while digging through a box on a quest to find something else, I found this photo and began to reflect.
I began my freshman year as a music major at Midwest Christian College in Oklahoma City during the fall of 1982. I had not previously met any of the others in the photo except in passing during audition days. As anyone who is a music major will tell you, the time investment in terms of studio hours outside of your regular studies is astronomical. Four of the five of us were in applied lessons such as piano and voice, as well as ensemble for the school choir AND for our school recruitment singing group, “Image;” the name had been taken from the Christian phrase of being made “…in His image.”
Any one of us could write a book of tales from that year. Indeed, life was sometimes stranger than fiction:
1) A man in Western Oklahoma felt led during one of our concerts to pay for us to record an album. Later, the money wasn’t quite enough for a bare bones project so the only way we could make it happen was to record all the tracks during the cheapest studio time, midnight to six in the morning over a period of only two or three days. We did this during finals week of our fall semester…two weeks after our part-time drummer and bass player had been hit by a car and had died.
2) During a bizarre twist of fate, we found that our faculty sponsor wasn’t able to continue his appointment as the coordinator, music arranger, and director of our rehearsals for the second semester of the year. His leadership and mentorship had been extremely important to me during that transitional freshman year and he had managed the entire recording process for all of us. However (and I still don’t know how those making the decision decided to support the request), we ended up basically sponsoring ourselves the second semester. We went it alone: three freshman/sophomore women, and two senior men. Our regional traveling load didn’t lighten just because we had lost our sponsor, so most every weekend we loaded the trailer, found the scheduled church (in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma or Arkansas), stayed in homes of the church members and led musical worship…or gave concerts. Students, on the road, getting along on their own. We did it, but sometimes when I think about it I really am quite stricken with thoughts of “what were they thinking?”
3) I spent my birthday on a dairy farm in McPherson, Kansas. We became connoisseurs of roadside Pizza Huts. One time we had to load out of a concert site over the “slain in the spirit” bodies of some Pentecostals who took longer to worship than our schedule could allow. I know at least once our sponsor had to stop the van so I could run up to a deserted farm house, go around to the back side and pee. I still wonder if anyone was on that property and witnessed my bathroom break. We rehearsed, arranged music, made jokes, created an alternate universe with a language to accompany it…we got each other through.
The year ended, however, and the five of us began to go our separate ways. Regan headed to an appointment as a youth minister in New Mexico. Marlon and Anita got married. I must have had enough because I enrolled into a college just up the road and changed my major. Beth stayed for another year to sing; she had a really beautiful voice. But shortly after that the college merged with Ozark Christian College and was eventually sold to the Army Reserve as a training ground.
When you find yourself in a closet and you look at a life that existed, but has certainly faded in your memory, sometimes you’re left with only big themes or thoughts. When I look at this photo my big thoughts are: gratitude, friendship love, stress, talent and fulfillment. I’m so incredibly grateful to my four other comrades for getting me through that “best of times and worst of times” year. And, when I look at my children now – who are the same age as those in the photograph, I know their capacity to manage life will always be bigger than I can imagine.
Thanks, friends, for being part of one of the most special times in my life. I love you guys.