I think I’m a very good fan. Musicians, authors, sports teams: all would be very blessed to have me as a devotee. I know how to strike a nice balance between undying love and crazy stalker tendencies. You do know the line between the two is wafer thin, right? Rest assured, I’m a fan, not a creep.
And yet….I have to tell you, I felt little baby butterflies flying around in my stomach when I read BooMama’s post about her big Amy Grant giveaway. See, Amy Grant is my lifelong best friend. We are so close that not even the fact that she has no idea who in the world I am could get in the way of our beautiful, 30-plus-year friendship. Actually, we have met IRL (That’s how the kids say “in real life” these days, Mom.) but I’m going out on a limb to guess that she probably has absolutely no recollection of that time. I’m in no way insinuating that she doesn’t have a good memory; I’m sure she remembers all sorts of things. I’m just saying it was a less than memorable encounter. I’ll tell you about it later. First, I need to Maria Von Trapp this story. (You know, like in the song: “Let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start. When you read you begin with….” Bet you’ll be trying to get that song out of your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.)
One night in the late 70s/early 80s, my parents came home from a B.J. Thomas (yes, as in “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”) concert. My dad was telling me about some young girl who had opened for B.J. that he thought I might like. They bought me an album (Those were like great big CDs back in the day, children.) and I played it until I knew every single note and could take a breath at the precise moment Amy would breathe in every song. I just knew that if we ever had the chance to meet, we would be kindred spirits and she would know the significance of Anne of Green Gables “kindred spirits” because, hello? She was an English major who I’m sure is well-versed in all my favorite literature. We are both altos and this was back in the day of the super sopranos like Sandi Patty. The Amy Grants and Karen Carpenters were hard to come by in the day of “We Shall Behold Him,” people. Besides, we share the same first name, for crying out loud! (Little known fact: Amy Grant’s birth name is actually Whimzie. That is such a well-kept secret that if I were you I wouldn’t mention it to anyone and if you do, I certainly wouldn’t say that I heard it here on this blog.) Also, our maiden names have the exact same number of letters. That doesn’t mean as much to me now, but back in the day, I found that connection uncanny. Amy and I were so much alike that it was almost eerie. Certainly we were destined to be BFFs. Almost daily I practiced singing “Father’s Eyes” and “Giggle” into one of the finials from the top of my canopy bed. When I got the call to join her team, I was going to be ready.
Amy (along with Barry Manilow, the aforementioned Karen Carpenter, and just a splash of Bee Gees) definitely helped me navigate through the hormonal junior high years. Any time she was close enough, I went to see her in concert. It was at a concert at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina that Amy and I actually met. This was the perfect place for our meeting (Amy attended Furman for awhile, as I’m sure you already knew). I went to the concert with my student pastor Eddie and his wife. My student pastor had formerly been a member of Truth (a popular Christian singing group) and he knew lots of people in the “business.” (When you’re in the “business,” you don’t have to specify which business it is; hip people just automatically know.)
On the way to the concert, Eddie told me he had a surprise for me. The concert was open seating and Eddie said a few magic words to the people at the head of the line (Or maybe he flashed his “I’m in the business” card; I never saw exactly what transpired.) and we skipped the lines of people and walked right into the auditorium. We had first choice of seats and we were seated at least fifteen minutes before the doors opened! I thought that was the surprise and I was thrilled! A few of Amy’s backup singers were warming up on stage and the musicians were tuning and the stage crew was…crewing or whatever it is that they need to do before a concert. This was like a behind-the-scenes look at Amy’s world. I could scarcely absorb it all at once!
All of a sudden, this beautiful lady who looked exactly like Amy Grant walked from behind the curtains and down to the edge of the stage. I mean, she could have easily been Amy’s stunt double (The “business” is dangerous people; Don’t think your favorite artists don’t have stunt doubles.). Maybe Amy had a cousin who worked on her staff. Or maybe that was Amy’s sister. Wait…No way! It couldn’t be…Good grief, Charlie Brown, that was no look-alike; Amy Grant was walking onstage. And she kept walking to the end of the stage where she addressed my student pastor by his name, I tell you, and then he introduced me to Amy Grant. And she sat down on the edge of the stage with her legs dangling over the edge and she talked to us.
I was able to tell her how much her music meant to me and the spiritual truths I had gleaned from her lyrics and we laughed at all the things we had in common and we cried over the years we’d missed not knowing each other and we promised to make up for the lost time by staying in touch daily from now until we lived next door to each other in our mansions on the golden streets of heaven. Except that nothing in the previous sentence happened. I may have thought all of those things, but at that moment, I was struck dumb (in both meanings of the word) and I lost all command of English, which is odd considering it is my first and only language. I think I was able to find enough words to make a sentence that had the words “nice,” “meet,” and “you” in it, though not necessarily in that order. This is why as I mentioned, I’m pretty sure she has no recollection of that meeting. At first I was embarrassed for being socially inept and I felt like a dummy for blowing my one chance to become best friends with Amy, but the concert that followed erased my ill well towards myself and I will always be grateful to Eddie for making that opportunity happen for me.
Over the years, I continued to attend Amy’s concerts when I could and I graduated from buying her albums to tapes and CDs and now digital pieces of goodness on iTunes. I bought her book and watched her on TV when she made appearances from time to time. I’m still moved by her honest and transparent lyrics and the beauty of her vocal gift. Her music has been part of the soundtrack of my life. My holidays have been enhanced by her Christmas CDs. Whenever I hear a song from “Heart in Motion” I’m transported to Arkadelphia, Arkansas, in 1991, and I’m caught up in the emotions and memories of my graduation from college. Her album “Behind the Eyes” spoke to my heart during a very difficult time in my marriage. Her songs call out some of my most precious memories and remind me of some of my most hard-earned spiritual truths. I guess in some way, they’ve become part of who I am today.
So, yes, I’m a fan. I’m a lot older and a little wiser so I don’t have any unreal expectations about hanging out with Amy, Vince, and the kids on the farm. I don’t want an Amy Grant tattoo or to send her care packages of homemade crafts or to sift through her garbage. I am, however, very sincere in my gratefulness for the gift of her music through the years and appreciate the significance that her career has made in my life. I will continue to buy her music and books (if she writes another); in fact, I downloaded her new EP She Colors My Day from iTunes the day it was released. That’s what fans do, you know. I love it, by the way!
The grand prize winner of BooMama’s contest will receive a Philosophy Makeup collection (love Philosophy!), seventeen different Amy Grant CDs (I’m pretty sure I have them all but if I win, maybe I’ll give them to you all!) and…..a live phone call from Amy Grant. The twelve-year-old who still lives inside me has dreams of renewing our BFF status if I win. The thirty-nine-year old that I actually am knows me well enough to know that I probably wouldn’t be able to squeak out any more conversational gems than I did the first time I had a chance, and wonders what in the world I’m doing entering this contest in the first place. I mean, grow up and be somebody already, Whimzie! Today I’m listening to the twelve-year-old. Twelve-year-olds really need to catch a break and get a win from time to time. So, twelve-year-old Whimzie, today’s post was for you. I hope you win.