We got VIP tickets to the Blake Shelton concert for Maria for Christmas. It is all she wanted – she made it very clear that she could care less if she got any other present from any other family member other than these tickets. She wanted everyone to chip in so that we could buy the “VIP experience” with the singer she has adored for over a year. Jon and I are still at a loss as to how she enjoys country music so much. Neither one of us listen to it. It must be our two former babysitters from years ago. They both listened to country music as they drove Maria around town and that genre must have seeped deep down in her blood.
Maria counted down the days remaining before she got to see Blake in Pittsburgh. I could hav really cared less about seeing Blake but was excited to spend some quality mother/daughter time. We had to drive three hours to Pittsburgh, and another three hours back home to Columbus (I knew we wouldn’t get much alone time while in Pittsburgh because we were watching my sweet niece when we weren’t at the concert).
I kept reminding myself not to place any expectations on the mother/daughter time with Ri. I repeated the mantra “just enjoy her presence.”. I knew better than to expect her to give me insight into her friendships or boys or thoughts about her changing body. Any conversation like that would have made her recoil and clam up. So, we talked about random, and fairly insubstantial things such as what we would do with Elena, what Mario and dad were probably doing on a Saturday afternoon, when our cousin would have her baby….. We also found a good car trivia site and answered questions about countries, polar animals and presidents (she knows I love to get some education in on car trips).
Sarah and Elena dropped us off at PPG Arena at 4 PM. The line was already 30 people deep when we got there. We stood out in the chilly weather for about 25 minutes before they let us enter. We had a slight scare with me not being able to find our tickets on my phone right away but I came through. We retrieved our VIP lanyards and travel mug, andstood in line waiting to be escorted back to the lounge.
Maria stood twirling her lanyard anxious to head back. After what seemed like forever, they began to escort us through the hallways to the lounge. When we arrived at the lounge, there were escalators to the left. The guides were escorting fans down the escalator to get merchandise. However, when we got to the bottom, people were going back up to the lounge. I knew we had to be one of the first to enter the lounge or we would not get close to the stage. So, Ri and I left the merchandise counter (the next day I realized we got one free item with the VIP package that we lost out on) and squeezed in the line to enter the lounge. We saw the Voice chair as we walked in, and a small stage over to the right with a wood fence in front of it. There was already a group of older women and men who had placed seats against the fence to create a front row. Maria and I darted directly in back of the seats. People were starting to move over towards the area and we knew that if we left our position somebody would grab it. Maria and I quickly realized that we would be standing in the same spot for the next 2 1/2 hours.
I allowed her to go back to the Voice chair to get her picture taken. I also had her scour for any food. She returned with a huge chocolate chip cookie. There was nothing more. The time moved slow as we glanced around at the crowd and watched for any movement behind the curtain on the stage.
Maria’s phone was almost ready to die and mine was only at 60% so we did not want to play Crossy Road in order to pass the time away (we played this game while waiting for flights to Oaxaca and during down time with Elena – it’s our go-to). We played a couple of rounds of 20 questions and then the ABC game but we were both struggling to concentrate – Ri because she was so excited to see Blake and me because I was so excited for Maria to see Blake. She had been waiting for months for this moment. My favorite part of the wait was when Ri’s legs got tired and she leaned into me to hold her. The side of her face laid on my shoulder and I rubbed her back as I listened to the rhythm of her breath. I held the same person who, 13 years ago, used to ride in a snuggli on my chest up and down the streets of Grandview. The same girl who had me carry her in the backpack until the age of five, and would rest that same face on my shoulder when she tired of walking the hills.
7 PM arrived and fans were antsy. People started chanting Blake’s name. Maria continuously darted her eyes back-and-forth to each side of the stage to determine whether Blake was behind the curtain or not. Each time a song would end, the crowd silenced with the hope that his stage manager would be introducing him. But then a new song would start up. Finally, at 7:15, the stage manager bounced onto the stage and without much fanfare, introduced Blake Shelton. Maria immediately bawled when she saw him first come out.
He greeted the crowd and immediately went into his first song. Maria stood there with her phone in video mode and tears slowly trickling from her eyes. She was standing right in front of him! I was so happy for her. He finished his song and informed the crowd that he was going to read a couple of questions. He scrolled through the iPad in front of him and picked a question. It was from a random woman in the back of the lounge. He asked her to wave and thanked for her question. This made me want him to pick Maria’s question even more because he would then make eye contact with her to thank for the question. He moved onto another question – it was not Maria.
“Come on” I kept thinking to myself. How could he resist a 13-year-old’s question? Maria was one of two teens in the entire crowd. He finished answering the second question and pronounced he would read one more. He scrolled through and then stated:
“This next question is from Maria in Grandview Heights, Ohio, age 13″…. My stomach dropped. I looked over at Maria. She was sobbing as Blake Shelton stared at her. I guess without knowing it I had begun pointing at her when Blake Shelton started reading her question so he fixed his eyes on her. He noticed her sobbing and asked her why she was crying. She could not respond because her mouth would not open. She was paralyzed with awe. He proceeded to read her question, and expressed to the crowd how confused he was by it. It was hilarious. As she tried to talk through her sobs to explain it, he noticed that there was more to her question so he continued reading it. By the time he got done answering it, she was smiling and he was relieved. It was the sweetest interaction. He then grabbed his guitar and told the crowd that he was going to play another song. What came next was magical for her. He dedicated the next song to Maria. He made a joke about the song being a drinking song and that it was a little odd to dedicate it to a 13-year-old but he was doing it anyway. She stood there trying to videotape him while her shoulders and body shook with pure joy.
He wrapped up his time with a few more questions from the audience and then thanked everybody for coming to see him. As he stood up, he looked right at Maria, smiled, and threw his guitar pic to her. I just could not believe it. She was in complete shock. The crowd beside us all congratulated her when he left the stage. Her eyes were as big as a doe’s eyes in the headlights. She was trembling.
We walked to the back of the room to breathe. Two of his stage hands, two women, approached us with the blue plastic cup we had seen him drinking from earlier. They offered it to Maria. They told her that it was endearing to see her so excited to see Blake Shelton, and they thanked her for being a great fan (I am convinced those two women were the ones that picked Maria’s question for Blake Shelton to read).
Maria remained in a state of shock as we rode the elevators down to the show. She bought a Blake Shelton longsleeve shirt in order to wear it to school on Monday. She snap-chatted with all of her friends to tell them the news. I don’t think she came to her right mind until long after the concert started.
How many times had I dreamt of Andy Gibb or Prince or Michael Jackson looking straight at me from the stage and saying hello?! Her first concert as a teenager and she gets that treatment. It’s all downhill from here, baby doll….:)
There is no doubt that the memory of Blake Shelton looking at her and speaking to her will be seared in her mind. It is definitely seared in my mind. But also seared in my mind is the absolute joy on her face when she saw him walk on stage. I am so grateful for having been in her presence to witness.