I’m very excited to feature a guest blogger today – Elisa from The Crazy Life of a Writing Mom has written a special memoir post that I know my readers will really enjoy…but it’s not just about writing today! Elisa is a musician and a mom, and has managed to write a memoir, too! Be sure to stop by her blog and experience her life as she “…vow(s) … to write one hilarious, embarrassing, or otherwise outrageous moment each day for 365 days straight.” Amazing!
What was the best day of your life? Just think about it. Sure you might consider your wedding day, a birthday, the day your kids were born, the day you joined the circus, or when you got a divorce . . . But if you had to pick one day–a life-changing one that you’d relive forever, what would it be?
My day would be ten years ago, back when I was a homeless street musician in Hawaii.
(Cade and Elisa 2000)
Now don’t go picturing me with missing teeth, holey pants and one of those “will work for food” signs. I was a classy homeless person. On the begger’s scale from one to ten, I . . . was a nine!
Anyway, my husband Cade and I woke up in “Homeless Park,” at least that’s what the inhabitants called it. That was the only area where the cops let us sleep. If they caught locals sleeping on the beach or on the Waikiki strip at night, they’d poke you with their night sticks.
A ton of Vietnam Vets, dreamers and poets slept near us in “Homeless Park.” I used my violin case as a pillow because if I didn’t guard it, I worried it might get stolen like Cade’s guitar had the night before. I woke early with a kink in my neck. It wasn’t cold, Hawaii rarely was, and the scents around always brought life to my eyes.
I saw some native Hawaiians and got scared. They were big and strong. They always seemed to be following us. I imagined their faces turning menacing and that made me worry. The Vets had told us not to mess with the “Hawaiian Gang,” that they hated people like us. I shook Cade, “Wake up. We need to go. How much money do we have left?”
He slowly sat up. Sand and grass fell from his hair. After digging through his pockets he turned to me. “Two dollars. The rest of the money was in my guitar case.”
My head sagged just a bit because I didn’t know how I’d earn enough to buy him another guitar. Sure we were amazing together–but a violin by itself wasn’t even loud.
We went to the Waikiki strip after that. It was early, which was perfect. Street performing is just like fishing, it’s better in the early morning and late night. I set up my case. I’m sure I looked worse than Jonah the day he got thrown up (but still a 9 on the homeless scale). I combed a hand through my hair and swore I’d still play with dignity. My stomach rumbled even though I didn’t want to care. Cade put the two dollars into my ratty case. He kissed me on the cheek and told me to “knock ’em dead.” The scruffy hair on his chin scratched my face and I smiled even though we had nothing except each other.
A few tourists walked past as Cade rested against a store window. He put his big hands into his faded pockets and looked as if he owned the world. My violin fit easily on my shoulder, before I closed my seven-teen-year-old eyes and played.
Anyway, I thought about Cade as I played, how I’d left Utah to be with him; how I wouldn’t change it even for some mashed potatoes and gravy. The sweet notes swam around me. I remembered hot meals then, the kind that warm your heart and belly. I figured if I pretended to be full, I really would be. But that didn’t work, so I played loud and hard. A long, long time passed. I played through breakfast and lunch, but when I put my violin to my side, hardly any money filled the case.
“You wanna get dinner?” Cade asked. “We can split a burger and fries at McDonald’s.”
So, that’s what we did.
At first the food tasted like sawdust. I didn’t know how we’d make enough to buy a guitar. “Cade I hardly made a dime. We had over two-hundred dollars in that guitar case and now we have nothing.”
He squeezed my hand. “We still have each other. Maybe we’re supposed to learn something from this.”
We went back to the strip. I played through the dinner rush. It got dark and just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the “Hawaiian Gang” started walking toward us. They were rough and mean-looking. They had tattoos, piercing and ukuleles! I wanted to run, but I wouldn’t let them take my spot. I played then like my arm was on fire. I moved to the music and danced to the rhythm. I guess I did something to catch their attention and everyone else’s because a crowd came.
As I played, tourists and the “Hawaiian Gang” gawked at me. Cade stepped closer, obviously getting nervous. One Hawaiian leaned next to a tree. One stood to my left. Another guy sat on a bench. That’s when each of them put their instrument at playing position and joined in with my song.
What happened next was a miracle. We jammed. The notes came smooth and quick. I forgot about the money filling my case. I just closed my eyes and thought about how amazing God is. I opened my eyes at one point and Cade smiled so big. I swear tears almost filled his eyes as he motioned toward my feet. When I looked into the violin case, not only money rested there, but food and drinks did too.
I quit playing shortly after that. We met all the Hawaiians and found out they’d been watching over us since the day we came to the strip. “This can be a dangerous island,” one guy said, the biggest angel I’ve ever seen.
I kept trying to give them a good portion of the money, but they wouldn’t take any of it. They said we needed it more than they did. And just before leaving, they told us about a kid who was selling his guitar for $20.
Cade and I took the food from the case (some orange juice and a loaf of banana bread). We ate and walked to a sandbar that had surfaced in the ebbing waves. We stayed there for hours, talking about how amazing life is. The night was ethereal, so unreal I wouldn’t mind repeating it forever.
All we had was about fifty bucks, my violin, God and each other. And that was enough.