I'm a very happy kaffyr right now.
We have a lovely neighbor, a sweet woman with a smile that lights up her face, and an open-hearted approach to life that makes her a bit of a treasure. We've gradually been getting to know her better, taking that journey from neighbor to friend, and that's great all by itself.
Today she talked to BB, (who walks her blind dog for her when she's at work as a teacher) and said she'd gotten a couple of extra tickets to a Janis Ian show at one of our local small - and very good - venues. Would we like to go?
Yes we would.
When I was a young woman of, oh, about 23 or 24, Janis Ian's songs were definitely a part of my life. "At Seventeen" had the importance for me that it had for a lot of young women who knew very well what the words meant. It was an outsider's hymn for, as she sang, those of us with ravaged faces, lacking in the social graces.*
I don't recall thinking this back then, but I know now that I loved that song because it spoke to my other outsider status. I was a science fiction lover. Those of you who are the same, you know what I mean when I say that.
I've loved science fiction and fantasy since at least the age of four, even before I could read, when the best stories I could hear were of magic, and rockets, fairies and aliens, the future and the impossible. I have no idea why; it's simply the case. And as soon as I could read by myself, I knew what I wanted to read.
My mother bought me the books, because she knew I loved them, and she loved me - but she didn't understand why I was so passionate about them. My brother made fun of me. Other adults were bemused at best, uncomprehending in the main and disapproving upon many disheartening occasions. My contemporaries? Don't ask. Even my closest friends, all of whom shared my outsider geekdom to some extent, looked at me with a touch of pity.
I found my home in science fiction fandom when I was just shy of my 22nd birthday, and I walked into the Fountainbleu Hotel to attend my first science fiction convention; Suncon, the 1977 world science fiction convention in Miami.
I mean it. I found my home, and my people, my family.
And the world has turned a lot since then. Science fiction brought me to fandom, and fandom brought me to the United States, and to Chicago, and to BB. BB brought me to rock and roll, and then we headed to Minicon and discovered music there and then we grew a family of our own and raised our own musical fan so the road has been both circuitous and circular. And there have been lots more stops along the way, and they all began with science fiction. And the road's continued, of course; for me, that's meant DW fandom and TWoP and then LJ and reading fanfic and then writing it. Quite the ongoing journey.
Amid all of this, I sort of forgot Janis Ian and how much her music meant to me, how much "At Seventeen" meant to me, until last year, when gerisullivan sent BB and I a link to this song by Janis Ian; "Welcome Home," ** which she had written to the music of "At Seventeen."
I listened to it. I started to cry before it reached the half way point.
Janis Ian was a science fiction fan.
She had written the song (also known as The Nebulas Song) and performed it in her role as toastmistress for the 2009 Nebula Awards. I learned that; I learned she'd written science fiction. I learned, through the song, that she read and loved many of the same authors that had helped me get through life.
I learned, most of all, that she was part of my family.
Tonight I stood at the back of a lovely little hall, and didn't mind that I had no place to sit, even when my two-inch-heeled boots were giving me hell. I didn't mind that my mascara started running half-way through the first song she sang, that I leaked like a faucet regularly for the rest of the show.
Because her voice is still beautiful. Her guitar playing is stellar. Her wit is brilliantly friendly. Her smile is another one that lights up the room. Her words are still aimed straight at my heart. She spoke to me when I was young, and I remember that. But she speaks to me now, and I know she's family.
After the show I got the chance to thank her for "Welcome Home" and she smiled when I thanked her for putting Cordwainer Smith into the lyrics. And I was very proud of myself for not breaking down in tears again, while I spoke to her.
And I came home with a smile on my face and two outsider's hymns in my head and in my heart. And they had the same tune, and they reminded me that I have family. That I'm home.
* I didn't know it at the time, but it was an outsider's hymn for a lot of guys, as BB reminded me.
** Oh, and you should definitely visit Janis Ian's website, because it's cool, and has things you might be interested in. Also, you can access "Welcome Home" from the site, if the link above doesn't work right.