Something happened when I was ten that I will never forget. This image has stuck with me for thirty years.
I had a brief encounter with fame if you want to call it that. I was one of three singers who recorded a local Nashville television show’s opening.
Auditions were conducted at my friend Karen’s house after a big wig heard her singing in the living room at dinner there one evening. He thought she would be perfect to accompany the intro to “Thursday’s Child,” a magazine type show highlighting the very organization helping endangered children. They asked if she had any friends who could sing.
My brother and I went to her 70’s style split-level house with the creepy animated clown head in the kitchen and sang for a couple old guys in suits and ties.
We made the cut.
Two weeks later we were excused from school and recording into a real microphone on the highest floor of a prestigious downtown Nashville building. For a one minute song we were there all day. They changed the lead adult guy twice. I liked the first one best but for whatever reason he got the shaft and they brought in a guy whose voice was more boring than 4th grade math class.
But by day’s end they had what they wanted and three weeks after that I got a real check in the mail FOR SINGING A TELEVISION THEME SONG.
Funny how I don’t tell a lot of people about this. It is one of my favorite and best accomplishments of all time. But let me tell you what happened after we finished recording and were starving.
Our parents took us to McDonald’s. That was our nutritional reward. Now if you catch me at McDonald’s I am either severely low on cash, time, or oxygen. But to us in the early 80’s it was a major reward.
While eating my skinny, salty fries I noticed a man sitting alone across from us. He looked homeless and was drinking coffee out of the quintessential McD’s coffee cup. He wasn’t so much as staring at me, my brother, my parents, Karen, and her dad, but rather glancing from time to time just enough to make me uncomfortable. At some point in our recording after-glow conversation and fast food binge-fest I noticed the homeless guy crying. Crying. There was this look on his face of regret. And even though I was only ten I knew exactly why he was crying.
Thirty years later I can still see the remorse on his tear-stained, weathered face. He had a family somewhere. And somewhere along the way he screwed up. He saw all of us laughing together and we reminded him of what he could have had. Or perhaps did have for a time and for whatever reason did not anymore. He was regretful. I know in that moment he was sorry for whatever it was he did.
I have never forgotten that man. I have never forgotten that overflow of emotion he felt just being a bystander at a fast food restaurant.
I think I understand him now even more than I did when he was right in front of me.
We have all done things which have made us hang in the web of regret. But somewhere along the way we have to find out how to break free and ultimately forgive ourselves. I hope that man eventually found his closure, his peace.
I know through his tears he was truly sorry. I didn’t know what to do back then but now I would at least give him a nod to let him know he is not alone.