The Yellow Brick Road to Fargo

When I was about 11 years old our family went on a holiday.  Everyone but my brother Bob was on the trip, he was older and working a summer job so stayed home.  One of the very memorable things about Bob was his great stereo and big album collection, he loved music.  It was not a surprise then that as we walked in the door after being away for a couple weeks there was music blaring from the basement.  I remember hearing it from the front door, noting the lyrics and feeling very amused.  Bob was playing one of his Elton John albums and the song blaring was “The Bitch is Back”.   No one ever referred to my Mom as a bitch, nor can I imagine that any of us ever seemed to think it.  Mom was never mean.  So these lyrics didn’t have any accuracy but to my 11 year old brain the fact that these lyrics were belting as we returned home was hilarious.   These moments are my first crisp memory of Elton John.

The 1974 album that released the song I found so hilarious.

On Saturday night I was 53 years old, 1200 km from that front door that opened onto Bob’s awesome stereo, and one of thousands at the Fargodome in North Dakota. I was in the same room as Elton John, this man whose music has colored so much of my life.   I was thrilled. 

I like the story of how we ended up being there, singing along to Crocodile Rock with a very happy crowd.

Late last November I was scrambling for what Christmas gift to get for Jill.  She just didn’t need or seem to want much stuff.  I began to wonder what experience we could gift her with.  I let my mind wander.  I remembered that when Elton John performed in Saskatoon, (my hometown), almost 3 years ago Jill was very disappointed that we could could just not get there.   At the time we thought that was our last chance to see him and it was a serious disappointment for Jill to reckon with.  I can’t remember why she liked Elton John so much, but she did.   I knew that Covid had changed his schedule so I googled concert options, you can probably imagine my joy to discover that he was scheduled to be in Fargo, about a six hour drive from our home.  Russ and I talked.  He thought everyone would want to go, not just Jill and I.  So, 4 tickets were purchased, one for a Christmas present and 3 for upcoming birthday presents.   

Then Omicron hit.


How was this going to work?

Christmas morning dawned.  I had taped Jill’s ticket to one of my brothers old Elton albums, wrapped it and put it under the tree.   She was happy when she discovered the contents of that gift, but she was not thrilled it seemed.  I wondered if the years that had passed had changed her interests a bit.  We put the date on the calendar and held our breath to see what would happen with Covid.

In January Elton himself got Covid.   However his symptoms were mild, he had to change his Dallas concerts and that was it.   Full steam ahead.

I am happy to report that nothing hindered our plans.  So Saturday night was alright for a concert and at 6:40pm we were part of a long line snaking our way off the interstate, past the airport in Fargo, towards the Fargodome.   It was very fun to be part of a happy caravan.

While the kids waited in line for t-shirts we grabbed a pre-concert selfie.
The view from our seats.

The concert was great.  How long would a 74 year old man sing for?  That question left me with a sense of trepidation every time he got off the piano bench.  Is he done?  No.  No he was far from done.  This is his farewell tour and he treated his fans to the full meal deal.  Over two hours of singing before an encore.  It was almost 2.5 hours before we were among the many waiting to climb the stairs to get to the exit.    His voice was strong, not perfect but when he hit those characteristic mellow sounds it just made you say, “oh yeah!”. 

I stole this and the next image from a review article about the concert.

The stage show part of it was memorable for a few reasons.  There was a huge screen behind the stage that allowed us to see close ups of Elton at work. 

It allowed me a greater appreciation of his musicality than I have ever had before.  I found it hilarious that many times his tongue could be seen slipping out, as if he was concentrating.  Last week I did a video challenge with our extended family, as I concentrated on getting my fingers to move to the pattern of the challenge I was seen sticking my tongue out, I didn’t know I did that.  So when Elton stuck out his tongue while he worked away at the piano I was amused by what we had in common. 

My concentrating moment. Elton’s was not this extreme.

The screen was used to project videos.  Some of them were deeply meaningful backgrounds to his songs.  Border Song was my favorite of these.   The lyric from that song flaming to life so easily in the mind is, “Holy Moses, can we live in peace?”.  It was beautifully done.

There were a few songs where the screen hosted a compilation of images and video clips from his lifework, and from the movie “Rocketman” a recent re-telling of his life.  Elton really did not chat much from the stage, he didn’t let us in like we might have hoped, but these visuals made up for it.    One of our favorites was a quick glimpse of Elton singing on the Muppets, our dvd with those same moments was probably Jill’s first vivid exposure to Elton John. 

When the concert was over we were very emotionally satisfied.  We had been with Elton John.  As we made our way out Jill turned to me and said, “when you gave me my ticket Mom I thought it was really nice, but I thought, ‘it will never happen,’ but it did, thank you so much.”    We are slowly claiming back a bit of normal. 

I tried for a picture but got a short video after the concert. Jill has a great smile here.

In those same moments I was processing how deeply touched I had been by the music and I said to her, “when we get to the parking lot I am going to need a hug.”  That was a super satisfying hug, sealing the emotional impact of the night we had shared. 

Morgan loved the concert and so did Russell.  But it was because of Jill and I that we were there so my storytelling has focused on us.

Elton’s story is full of suffering amid the victories.  He persevered, claimed his own unique way, found sobriety and has kept going to reach his goal of love and family.   Perhaps our recent story has similar elements.  Pandemic realities have been a big deal.   Looking back after two years it feels clear that cancelled plans have taken their toll. Does Jill’s memory of Christmas morning illumine something bigger, that we have become a people that don’t get our hopes up because it hurts too much to have plans dashed?   We suffer when we live without hope.  Being super corny I find myself wanting to add here…… I guess that’s why they call it the blues.

But………Saturday night reflected the fight.  Elton’s fight to be whole and well and our decision to keep fighting the blues and risk getting our hopes up. 

Perhaps our big hug was also a celebration, that after all the emotional realities stirring within each of us in those hours and in these two years…. grief, worry, joy, despair and so much more we could sing along with Elton, “I’m still Standing.”

This gift is not for everyone!

When Jill gave me a list of things she would appreciate for Christmas it included a bag of garlic.

I think she was just being zesty, (literally), she didn’t expect such a thing but Jill has a very lively sense of humor, it crept into her list making. The truth is Jill loves garlic and cooks with it whenever she can.

Last Monday I took one of our people into Regina for an appointment. That meant a quick as possible visit to a crazy busy Costco. There I happened upon a bulk bag of garlic for around 5 dollars. That seemed a small price to pay to indulge Jill’s sense of humor. I didn’t think very long before putting it in the cart.

It was a part of Jill’s stocking. On Christmas morning when she pulled off the tissue Russ wrapped it in, there was alot of amusement, some laughter and a good photo to be had.

The bag of garlic sat on the counter as boxing day unfolded, then Jill and I decided to tackle it. It would not become that mushy sprouting kind of garlic if we could help it.

We split the heads up into their individual cloves, and started to peel them. I abandoned Jill partway through to tackle a different job that was pressing on me. Jill stayed the course and created an amazing supply of garlic to be frozen. I asked her, “how long do you think this will last you?” She said, “probably til I am 24!”

A different kind of wrapping paper!

I can’t imagine the garlic will last that long, but this is a gift that will keep on giving for at least several months. I am curious how it will fold into family lore. Will I now think of Jill whenever I see those bulk garlic packages? Will we refer back to this gift through the year and in future years? Maybe. Every Christmas seems to have some standout feature. The Kyle family talk about the Christmas the tree fell over during breakfast. We talk about the Christmas we danced on the street to a Barbie cassette tape. We talk about the Christmas I lost my mind from excitement over satin pyjamas. Around home here we talk about last year as the Christmas when Grandma Shirley was here (Covid kept her from her own daughter). We talk about the Christmas it was so warm that Russ took toddler Gina for a pony ride. We are happy to be reminded of the year Morgan got the wisemen from the nativity in a hide and seek match with John Wayne type Playmobil figures. So many memories. Maybe Christmas 2021 will be known more for the garlic than the snow, cold, wind and grief in the midst of a pandemic. Maybe. Maybe this blog will help that transformation. Long live the healing power of garlic!

Day 7 – Postcards from the Heart

October 4, 2020

“Dick” the mule, you first met him around this time in 1999. Dad was pulled by “Dick” and I am so glad we have a picture of that wagon ride. He is special to me, a tangible connection to Dad at our ranch. The reason I am featuring him in these shared pictures is that the connection to you and Dick, in our minds is laugher. That little moment at our wedding. Yeah for laughter. I admire how readily you appreciate humour, even when things are hard. I don’t hesitate to let the jokes flow, you are not easily moved to judge if a joke isn’t right timing or a bit off point. You care about what really matters and are easy to laugh with about stuff less urgent, like light switches and cupboard doors. I treasure our laughs.


The moment of wedding laughter referred to in this card happened during Mom’s speech at our wedding reception where she welcomed Russell to the family. She made reference to the wagon ride she enjoyed on the day she had met Russell and his Dick. She said it so innocently but of course it landed with some shock for some, lots of giggles, and a story we referred to again and again over the years.

This post is the 7th of 22 blogs in a series of postcard images arising from circumstances detailed in the blog post called Postcards from the Heart – Day 1.

This picture was taken December 4, 2020 by Liz Griffin Photography. Gina rode Dick to round up the cow herd in preparation for weaning and trucking calves to the Auction Mart.