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I Happen to Love You Even Though You Make Me Crazy

February 23, 2004

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I sat in the car with the radio on, waiting for the kids to finish their violin lessons. The sky was gray, and it wasn't snowing or sleeting but it seemed like it might and the car was warm and I reclined my seat closed my eyes. Mr. Keillor was commenting on the lobby at the Wang Theater and how ornate it was and my head was filled with marble statues and gold leaf and wine-colored draperies and things you would find in a Turkish bath or Grandma Ruby's jewelry drawer.

I must have dozed off because I heard a squeal and opened my eyes and there were the kids with their faces pressed against the driver's side window. I pointed to the back seat and they piled in -- violins and all. After a few minutes of everyone talking at once, the car got quiet except for Susan Graham singing "'Til There Was You." I sang along in a low quiet voice and one of the kids asked how I knew the words and I told them about drama class in high school and how we did a production of The Music Man. Since I had to be at every rehearsal and performance, I listened to Johnny Clayburne sing "'Til There Was You" over a hundred times.

I pulled up to the drive-thru at Dairy Queen and ordered three chocolate-dipped vanilla cones and one medium Heath Bar Blizzard. The kids asked why I bought them ice cream and I said because I happen to love you even though you make me crazy. They giggled and instead of driving straight home I took the back roads and drove east around frozen lakes and past stands of birch and aspen and fields with old red barns. We listened to Annie play her harmonica and we ate our ice cream and when I turned north instead of south the kids didn't complain at all.

What I didn't tell them was how I used to meet Johnny offstage behind the dark blue curtains and he'd whisper how he thought I was pretty and I'd just laugh and we'd hold hands and sometimes kiss. He was tall with sandy hair and green eyes and lived on a farm with his sister and three brothers and enough cows to fill a barn. He could throw me over his shoulder without much effort, and he could sing like all getout and when he did something in my chest leaped like a frog on a trampoline. Now when I hear that song I think about Johnny and wonder where he is. Shortly after the play ended we were out on the porch swing one night and Johnny told me how he wanted to build silos and raise sheep when he got out of school. That's about when the frog in my chest collapsed and died. Several frogs died in later years that very same way, and then I found Mr. Sundberg, who sings to me over the phone some nights and I like his voice just fine.

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