We made it to three Firefly Music Festivals starting when my daughter was 15. That sounds ridiculously young now, but somehow seemed perfectly fine at the time. Well, ‘perfectly’ might be a stretch, but it seemed fine(ish)…or at least not illegal.
Here’s what I was grateful for that first year:
The girls being nice enough to let me hang w/ them all day (not that they had a choice) and saying I wasn't too old for one of their flash tattoos (even though I am).My nephew texting us, calling us, watching Saint Motel, and taking a "family photo" with us (I'm a lucky aunt).
A really awesome fresh spinach salad. And a green tea/lemonade.
Shade in the hammock hangout.
Three different girls telling me they liked my necklace, 1 complimenting my shirt & many commenting on Delaney's red hair (it's good hair).
The easiest/fastest most pleasant ticket pick up process EVER at will call.
A security guard who asked "those your daughters?" and then said "you alright", waved me through and didn't confiscate the almonds, apple slices, and carrot sticks hidden in my bag. My hero.
Of Monsters and Men. Last stateside show for a long time.
Someone calling Delaney a badass after asking if she just set up her own ENO (it was a compliment).
Ellie Goulding playing the girls' favorite song as her last song & not being trampled to death while we waited for it.
My Firefly Music Festival 2016 by the numbers:
2 -- Super happy girls when I stopped at a metal sculpture store on the way home so they could take this picture.
5 -- People who asked if we saw an old, overweight Asian guy on acid rolling around on the ground.
0 -- Number of times we saw him.
6 -- Hippie chicks we witnessed on the verge of, or actually, throwing up ("chicks cannot hold their smoke. Dat's what it is")
3 -- Seconds the big guy next to me said he'd be able to oblige when Florence (of Florence & the Machine) asked us to keep jumping as high as we could for as long as we could.
$14.99 -- Amount I paid for the H & M gladiator sandals I wore all festival long (and accidentally slept in Friday night) in absolute comfort.
25.16 -- Total miles walked in 2 days of festival-ing.
60,000 -- People in attendance at the Woodlands where apparently I lost my driver’s license. Whoops.
1 -- Guy in a foam hotdog suit asleep in an Eno hammock.
8 billion -- Times I wished I had a career as a singer/songwriter.
And my favorite part of the show: Florence + The Machine who Absolutely. Brought. It. Especially Florence who asked us all to look up and out instead of down, and to do her a favor for just one song (How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful): put away our phones so we could experience it with our eyes, our ears and each other instead of through a screen. To the girl next to me (NOT one of my girls) who didn't, my God did you miss it.
Thank you Florence for starting the chant "Love is love is love is love is love..." and more importantly for making us believe that love has the power to change the world. It does, and we need to wield it wisely and abundantly.
2016 was a wildly successful 2 day trial, so we signed up for all four days of the next show and experienced all these:
Things that probably only happen to you at a music festival if you’re almost and/or over 50. You might:
Get asked for hand sanitizer, a hair tie, tissues, wipes, sun screen, band aids, mints, a safety pin, Advil, and a pen…and have everything but the pen.
Know exactly where you parked the car and spend zero time or money being carted around in a pedal cab beeping your keys in the air.
Have multiple random strangers tell you what you’re eating looks amazing and ask for a bite. What makes anyone think moms want to share?? Most of us haven’t had a hot or full meal in years. And festival food is expensive…back off hipsters.
Take pictures for 80,000 of the 90,000 people in attendance (they don’t understand middle aged eyesight yet).
Earn a 'good behavior' beer for not causing a raucous standing in the spruce up bathroom line. “See her…standing there nicely? Following the rules? SHE gets a free beer.” Being polite pays people.
Wear a Lilly Pulitzer shift dress like you’re headed to cotillion - this one was NOT done by me.
Watch tons of festivaler’s blankets, bags, stuff and one baby while they go to the rest room. How do they know I’m not a thief? In that parent’s defense, I wouldn’t take a baby into a festival bathroom either. I might have been the best choice in that situation. Not that I didn’t contemplate whether he’d fit in my bag. I totally did. He was too big.
Be the only one in the mosh pit yelling “YES!!!!” when The Weeknd started yelling “Is anybody here ready to go home??”
Cry a little bit when he played 4 more songs.
Hear “is that your daughter?” “I love her red hair. And her freckles!” That NEVER gets old. I love them too, but those compliments carry so much more weight when they come from others.
Use the flashlight on your phone to help someone find their dropped joint. Not be offered any as a thank you.
12. Make your own Firefly Bingo game in case anyone gets bored. No one gets bored, but they love the game anyway.
13. Crush Firefly Bingo by seeing the only man romper and getting your picture taken with members of the band Magic Giant.
14. Actually fill out the post festival survey.
15. Get a lump in your throat driving home listening to “There’s a Last Time for Everything” realizing there will be a last time you’re included at Firefly with your daughter, and knowing that day is rapidly approaching. Sigh.
Year 3, before #15 above happened, I alternated between daily cringeworthy and gratitude lists:
Cringeworthy List 1:
The parking attendant who waved me to turn left & oncoming traffic to go straight at the same time. Repeatedly. I confiscated his flag & put him in the penalty box.
Natural deodorant. It’s just not as good as the chemical-filled-cancer-causing kind. No one is sadder about this than I am.
Girls wearing bras as tops. Tops are tops. Bras go UNDER them. And cameras are everywhere. Also if your bra is going to be a top, it should probably fit you. Just saying.
Shake Shack not actually selling shakes. You’re just a shack. A sad, liar of a shack (and also a terrible book).
Thongs as pants. Again, just no. Pants are pants. Is that really a sunburn risk anyone should take?
The girl who said she loved Delaney’s outfit. Aw. And then said “your but looks SO good! I mean it is AMAZING!” while making grabbing motions w/ her hands. Wait. What?
Me yelling “No!” when security rattled the bathroom door saying “are you alive?” Rompers are not your friend in a port-a-pot. Also I thought she said “are you a guy?” (there was some question about whether we went in the right side or not). We didn’t.
That moment when the band says “jump if this was your high school song” and everyone starts jumping but you and 3 old(er) hippies.
Hearing a lewdish “baby in green!” and not knowing if it was being yelled at me or my daughter (he was old). It was ew either way.
The driver w/ his lights off heading the wrong way and going way too fast in the parking lot exit lane. Uber people, Uber is a verb.
Gratitude list 1: things that made me smile...
My BFF and her daughter joining us for the day.
My dad not cutting our heads off in the picture I made him take.
The girl who danced her way through the metal detector - 3 times, w/ 3 different dances. I heart you.
Having enough phone chargers for 5 girls.
Free cans of Bai.
The security guard who looked downright morose until we gave her one of the free Baes & she put 10 glow sticks in her hair and absolutely slayed dancing to Cheat Codes. Epic.
Tots. As in classic tater.
Every girl getting an unsolicited kind compliment from a stranger.
Seeing lots of gray hair. My people!
Olivia Sebest carrying my daughter’s swell bottle and letting me eat half her noodles.
My pillow post 2 a.m. (pre 2 a.m. would have been killer though).
Firefly day 3 Back to the cringeworthy :
Being mooned by 5 grown ass (no pun intended) men. No thank you.
This conversation standing in the entry line: Random young dude: “You look hot.” Me: steely glare. RYD “I don’t mean you look hot in a ‘how you doin’ kind of way’, I mean you LOOK hot.” Me: steelier glare. RYD “I mean, not that you’re NOT hot, but your face looks hot.” Me: You’re dripping sweat. And this isn’t my I’m hot face, this is my I’m-way-too-close-to-humans-I-don’t-know-(especially you)-face. I’ll be fine as soon as I get out of this line. You’ll still be sweaty. All. Damn. Day.
My feet. Dust for days.
Our blanket. Same.
The Coffee House shop stopping milkshake sales right before taking our order. Who are you Shake Shack?? It’s a milkshake conspiracy. Not cool La Poussiere Beignets, not cool.
Being asked repeatedly if we have a light. If you’re clever enough to smuggle in weed, but can’t remember a lighter you should stick to edibles.
Hearing “watch out there’s poop over there”. *There are no dogs @ Firefly. Ew.
My hair smelling like weed (not mine) even AFTER I’ve showered. Twice.
Nicola Pizza being closed when we rolled into Rehoboth @ 2:00 a.m. I figured they would be, but so hoped I was wrong. It’s not their fault and I still love them, but it did momentarily crush my soul.
The woman twice my size who tripped and went down hard. I broke her fall. And got a shiner (which was hard to explain at work Monday).
Day 4 Final Gratitude list:
We have a strict no complaining on vacation rule. I know, I know, the cringeworthy lists right? But c’mon they were funny, and even with all those, I had a great time. For the third year in a row. I LOVE music festivals. And I love these girls even more. The gratitude list is l- o-n-g, and most attention spans are not, so here are the top 4 things I love about music festivals:
1. They’re outdoors. For four days we’re out in the open…under the sun, sky, trees and stars for more than 12 hours a day. There is no inside. And we walk everywhere - most days we average more than 10 miles. When was the last time you did that? I’m a much happier, calmer, kinder person when nature is the backdrop for whatever it is I’m doing. Like this sign from vendor EWBA (Everything Will Be Amazing”) says:
They’re definitely on to something.
2. The music. My God the music. “Music hath charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” ~William Congreve. And no, that’s not a typo, it’s actually BREAST, not beast. Who knew? But beast works, because when I have beasts in my world…worry, fear, loneliness, anxiety; music slays them. Music baths restore me, and any day I can take a quiet moment and let music wash over my soul is a good day.
A day dedicated to an outdoor music bath is genius. And the Firefly lineup is beyond genius…all time favorites include Florence and the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters and Men, Boy and Bear, O.A.R., Bob Dylan and Banks. 2018 favs were Vance Joy who told a story about every song, The Killers who referenced Evel Knievel AND covered Petty’s American Girl (they had me at Evel Knieval, my childhood crush…it wasn’t a typical childhood). Kamasi Washington (even though I am not a Jazz fan) who brought out his dad “Pops” to play with him and reminded the crowd why we celebrate Father’s Day. Goosebumps.
3. The people. And not just the people watching (though that is SPECTACULAR). I mean the surprisingly nice people we encounter. Kindness abounds. Someone tapped one of the girls on the shoulder (hard) mid-show and my mom radar went off, then I heard “I love your earrings” and I relaxed. “Your outfit is awesome, I love how you put it together.” You look so happy - your hair is gorgeous - I love your freckles - great Birks - cool blanket - you’re so cute - you’re beautiful - you guys look great" - we heard all of those. And not in the far too often way compliments are delivered. There’s typically an edge - that “I love your earrings” is usually followed by a self-serving “where’d you get them?”, and “your hair is gorgeous” frequently ends with “my hair sucks”. Those kinds of compliments aren’t compliments - they’re given with a tone of 'I hate that you look/seem better/prettier/whatever-ier than I am'.
The women in my world will know what I mean. But in this world, in this setting, that’s not how it feels. This is different. Genuine. Simple. And beautiful. Love rules.
4. The girls, who sometimes forget I’m in the car and talk with a raw, open, filterlessness I’m rarely privy to. I try to quietly absorb as much as I can. Like a silent, observant fly on the wall.
Other times they tell me things and seek my input. Being wise on the spot is challenging. Sometimes I have to revisit later with better advice. Being wise later is challenging too.
Parenting is challenging. All the time I wish I could shield them from life’s hurts. I hope I’m arming them with what they need to thrive - hope, optimism, laughter, friendship, music, gratitude and love. They talked to me the entire drive home every night so I wouldn’t get tired, and those drives flew by. I wanted to hit traffic, I wanted to hear everything they had to say. I wish I recorded it all. Especially the night D told all of her “most hilarious childhood memories” and I was laughing so hard I could barely keep the car on the road. That night outweighed every other thing on the gratitude list. For everyone who is struggling with beasts of their own, I hope you have all the music, laughter and love you need to slay them. And I hope you have your own “festival”, whatever that may be to feel it all.
I did buy tickets for Firefly #4 only to be told by my daughter she didn't want to go, and it felt like being fired. That was in June, and every second from then on flew.
Summer 2019 was a blur of heartache, but this trip down memory lane brought me all the feels. Though we didn't make it back, I still love everything on the gratitude lists.
And just FYI parents, Firefly tickets make great graduation gifts or post June SAT reprieves/rewards. And you do know where to go for the best SAT Test Prep to earn that reward, don't you?