We thoroughly enjoyed the Las Cruces Symphony's “Pops under the Stars.”
Beforehand, I visited with several elected officials, with people I've fought beside or against over various issues, and with folks I've known nearly five decades. So many are damned decent people!
Then the music starts. Capturing us. Lonnie Klein is an animated conductor, and seems a skillful one. Visiting vocalist Diane Penning sounds even better than last year.
The evening is more than great music on a mild evening and the discovery that our new downtown plaza is made for this. There's a true feeling of community. Enjoying the music, surrounded by familiar faces, I reflect on lives and time.
Our host and hostess are friends who work tirelessly for the community, with a deep appreciation of its political needs and artistic promise.
Across our table sits a younger couple. I've seen them arguing legal points and passionately advocating for our environment. Tonight, entranced by the music, they're relaxed in each other's arms. All around, couples of all ages are holding hands, or leaning back against one another.
I see three gay couples, good friends. They seem happy. But not touching. I want a world where they feel free to demonstrate their affection publicly.
I see a woman whose husband died this year. Both were beloved in the community. As Ms. Penning sings “It's time to say good-bye,” our hostess goes to the widow and hugs her. We're glad. I cannot imagine her grief, her strength. When a quail died flying into our living-room window, the bereaved mate wailed for days. Humans have words, but no answers. Friends' sincere and loving support is a pale substitute.
During intermission, I speak with a young man whose father I've battled in court. We express appreciation for the evening and introduce our wives. “Watching Lonnie is half the show,” he marvels. I think again how great it is that at his father's law office, where he is a paralegal who will soon be a skilled lawyer, his grandfather is the receptionist. That's “family” – an endangered species these days.
I see two people I've known for nearly 50 years, since before they found each other. Married since the early 1970's. She stands behind him, hands on his shoulders. Still lovely. Still loving. They're proud of their daughter, an important player in the evening's events.
Several generals sit at a nearby table. When the Symphony plays a medley of songs of the five branches of U.S. military service, veterans stand when their songs play, and Lonnie salutes them. The vets clearly appreciate this respect. Each, if s/he served on a battlefield, also looks into a deep well of comradeship, shared dangers, and joys and tragedies far beyond our ken.
One general graduated from NMSU. Hispanic. Married a gal from Mesilla. Joined the Army. Decades of hard work and skill made him a brigadier general. Then he got to come home to command at White Sands.
Dimly I recall concerts in parks I attended as a small child. The people were happy and all knew each other. Later, for years, I'd have thought pops under the stars a bit corny, preferring symphony halls and clubs with edgy modern jazz.
Tonight, the fine music, a gentle breeze with a hint of rain, our restful postures, and a couple of glasses of wine fill me with love not only for my wife but for everyone around us. People's love for each other, their shared pleasure, and the sometimes twisted paths that brought us all here . . . seem almost tangible.
Under the stars, I'm home.