Posts Tagged ‘Branson’

On Persistence and honeybees

Two stories from our weekend in Branson, MO.

Saturday Night

Luke and I ate a so-so dinner on Saturday night at the Grand Country Buffet in Branson, MO. We only picked it because: buffet. Luke liked a large selection, and I knew I could find something for me. But unlike Furr’s, which we were used to, the food seemed tired and oily. It was passable. Luke rated it a 6 out of 10. I liked the dinner roll. It was like eating a buttery pillow. But I wanted a better dessert than what they had there (soft serve and old cookies), so I suggested Cakes & Cream on Route 76 for ice cream. I looked up their website on my iPhone while we finished eating dinner, showing Luke that it served sugar free items that he could eat.

The ice cream shop was supposed to resemble a 1950’s diner, with lots of chrome and neon. We both bravely passed up the funnel cakes for plain ice cream. With sugar free butter pecan in a cup for him and a mint chocolate chip cone for me, we left the restaurant and headed up the steep parking lot to the motorcycle. The lot sloped down from Route 76 to the restaurant, forcing everyone’s parked vehicles to look like they were in a glacially slow landslide. The motorcycle was parked at the top, next to a curb and a small grass hill climbing to meet the sidewalk, making a fairly comfy seat. Here we had a view of the restaurant directly below us, a mini golf course to the right that kept playing a tinkly “You’ve Won!” tune, and a Mexican restaurant to the left that for some reason smelled of grilled steak. The sun was still setting so the sky glowed peach. It was warm enough for us to eat ice cream in our sweatshirts without chill.

A red Impala pulled up to the curb next to the restaurant’s patio. I watched a lady climb out of the driver’s seat while a heavyset older woman struggled to exit uphill from the passenger side. As I was paying attention to her plight, the driver’s side lady and a well-dressed young man in his late teens were unloading a large black case from the trunk.

“Wonder what’s going on there?” I said.

We watched for several minutes like an audience watching a mime. The young man put on a tie to go with his button down white dress shirt and black dress pants, fiddling to get it just right and pressing his black hair into place several times. He chatted with the two women from the car as they stood on the outdoor patio. I took them to be his mother and grandmother.

I was curious the longer I watched. Clearly we were watching a performer set up, and Luke and I agreed to stay. I had questions: What would he perform? Would he be any good?

The young man unrolled a long orange extension cord and dragged it around to the outside of the patio area to plug it in, clearly having done this here before. The big black case held an amp, and he removed an electric guitar from a guitar case that had been lying on the ground behind a table. He set up a small folding table and placed his phone on it, hooking up a silver microphone while his mother fussed over the arrangement of a large plastic tip jar.

After a mic check, he pressed play on his phone. He sang the vocals and played guitar himself, while his phone provided the backup music. We heard “Maybe Baby” and “That’ll Be the Day,” by Buddy Holly, “Bye, Bye Love,” by the Everly Brothers, and “Runaway,” by Del Shannon. It made sense, early 50’s rock-n-roll played at a retro 50’s diner.

He was a decent guitar player and he had a fairly good singing voice, but that’s not what impressed me. There are a thousand other kids his age with better singing voices or a more technically perfect style, but I guarantee they are not performing on a Friday night. This kid had to work his butt off to pursue a dream of singing.

How many places had he called that turned him down? How many hours had he practiced those songs? How many performances had he done for friends and family, or just for exposure or experience?

This kid had something many other “better” singers didn’t have: persistence.

It had taken him time, work, and effort to get here on this Friday night. We took a short video of his performance to show our kids and dropped a $20 into his jar, because we admired and respected his commitment to his dream and what it took for him to get up there and sing.

Later, Luke and I agreed that we preferred that small performance more than any of the professional shows we had discussed attending in Branson. The young man wasn’t a paid professional, or well-known, he was just a kid pursuing his dream the old fashioned way. To me, it sounded like success.

Sunday morning.

We just made it to Starvin Marvin’s for the breakfast buffet. I paid our bill after we ate. An older lady, her short auburn hair and glasses on a chain saying more librarian than restaurant manager, inquired about our trip. I told her we had come to Branson from Arkansas for a weekend getaway. She said she noticed our helmets and my tightly braided hair and mentioned that her husband and herself were frequent bikers. My braid reminded her of a funny story about her daughter, who braided her long thick hair when she rode bike with her husband, the lady’s son-in-law. She said her daughter rode with the son-in-law once and got a bee stuck in her braid, which then proceeded to sting her neck.

The lady said, “Now she swore it stung her 3-4 times, and I had to tell her, no you know a bee can only sting once and it loses its stinger.”

The daughter said, “Well it hurt a lot! It felt like 3-4 stings.”

The lady said the kicker here was that the son-in-law was following behind a bee transport truck, which was clearly leaking some of its cargo, but that he was not a confident rider yet and was trapped in the lane, behind the truck, in busy Washington, DC, with his wife repeatedly punching him in the shoulder because she was getting stung.

I laughed at her story and joking agreed to tell Luke to steer clear of suspicious cargo trucks. As Luke and I walked to our own bike, I started telling him the story until the lady emerged from the restaurant with a pair of sunglasses, asking if they were ours. Luke had left them sitting on the table. Luke thanked her for bringing them out, and I joked that he would have been pretty mad if we drove off without them, considering we were about to be riding for 3 hours and he had just bought them yesterday.

Before the lady turned to go back inside, she leaned over to Luke and said, “Be sure you stay away from any bee trucks!”

She then got to retell her story a little for Luke, who jokingly replied, “And how long after this was the divorce?”

“Oh, no, they didn’t divorce. My daughter passed away seven years ago.”


Luke commented that this must have been a favorite story of theirs when she was alive.

“Oh, yes!”

The lady seemed delighted at the chance to talk about her daughter, Celeste. She and her husband had lived in Annapolis, MD, in an old Victorian they were restoring. She worked for the FBI and the son-in-law was a retired Marine who joined the CIA.

Now life was different, but the son-in-law was trying. He’d dated several women since his wife’s death, the lady told us. None of the relationships went anywhere. He even proposed once, but when he mentioned taking his fiancé to see his other mother, she balked and said, “I am not going to visit HER mother.”

He proceeded to politely ask for the ring back and told her to get her things and get out of his house.

When he told her his tale of woe, Celeste’s mother told him, “When you meet the one, none of that will matter. But . . . whatever you do, make sure you let her pick somewhere else to live. A house, a condo, a tent! Don’t move her into that house.”

She paused.

“Don’t do that to the next girl you love, because Celeste’s ghost lives in every room of that house.”

We parted ways after that, agreeing that life is weird, and funny, and heartbreaking. I never learned that lady’s name, but Celeste’s story stuck with me as we rode out of Branson (with no bees in sight).

I thought about the small glimpse into another life, the truth and the heartbreak of it. Sometimes, no matter how you try to move past them, your ghosts do haunt every room. You just have to accept them and keep on living anyway.