That's what my late Aunt Lynda would have said on an occasion such as this.
It's something she said at moments that were of a special nature--like hearing about me getting a big gig or finding a fifty dollar bill lying in the street.
It would start out high in pitch and then slope low, almost like a cartoon character falling out of a skyscraper might.
I always thought it was a Fall River thing (Fall River, Massachusetts being where I grew up), but after asking several of my friends from the area and getting quizzical looks I realized it was unique only to them.
But the two of them had a lot of adorable quirks. They had many interesting ways of expressing themselves. This was just one more, but it was a joyful, engaging one.
It was a natural reaction to something good.
On the evening of Tuesday, December 14th, I found myself on a bus in New Zealand. I was with Jodi. I was also with thirty or so other friends and colleagues making our way back to our hotel in Wellington after a successful show that night. This group, of course, is the Young at Heart Chorus and I play guitar in their band.
Now, just the mere fact of me playing a gig in New Zealand, of all places, would have elicited the aforementioned exclamation from Aunty. But she missed out on being around for me touring Japan and Brooklyn and Canada and . . . well, all over this great big world by now.
That's not to say that my folks (I called my mom and aunt my "folks." Always have, always will) didn't get to see me travel to more than a few exciting places in their lifetime. Because, thankfully, I've been doing this kind of thing for six years this month.
I remember having the two of them come up for lunch back in November 2004 when I was just starting out with these guys. We hadn't played any gigs further than Springfield up to that point, though I had toured and seen plenty of the U.S. with The Stuntmen. We went to a nice little place in Amherst and found a quiet table in the back and toasted to something nice. We ordered sandwiches. Then I told them with feigned resignation that I was finally going to have to get a passport.
They both looked at me incredulously and asked what I meant by that. Was I leaving the country for good? For bad? What the . . . ?
And then, I got to tell them with a big smile how I--F. Alex "Freddy Freedom" Johnson--was being given the opportunity to travel to Holland and Belgium for three weeks for a real gig--a paying gig. And they both, in almost unison, exclaimed, "Eeeeeeeee!" before welling up with tears and grabbing my hands and smiling from ear to ear.
I'll never forget that.
Flash forward six years to me and Jodi sitting in the back of a bus rolling down the other side of the highway in a country in the Southern Hemisphere, about as many time zones removed from home as . . . well, as time will allow.
December 14th changed to December 15th on my iPhone and I turned to Jodi and smiled. And then we wished my Aunt Lynda a happy 63rd birthday. We quietly sang "Sto lat" (the Polish Birthday Song) and hugged each other.
That was my aunt's first birthday of the day, as there would be two December 15ths this year.
We spent the morning shopping and packing. We had lunch at the airport. And then we boarded the plane that would take us to Los Angeles. We got up in the air around 7 pm, New Zealand time, for the 12 hour flight--the 12 hour flight that would take us back to . . . yesterday.
With a mighty roar we took off out of the land of the kiwis and headed home. As the landing gear pulled itself up into the underside I pulled out my phone and reset the time to from 7 pm to 1 am--18 hours back--and settled into the flight.
We touched down in Los Angeles at 10 am and rocketed to our rooms at a hotel near the airport.
And that is where I am writing this, as I once again celebrate my dear aunt's 63rd birthday.
It's legal. It's legit. It's indisputable. And it's also something that my aunt loved with a passion:
It's two for one!
And that, dear readers, you just know would always be followed by a . . . yep, you guessed it.
Happy Birthday, Aunty. Sto lat! I so wish you were here today. I wish you could have met Jodi. Oh the schemes you and she, i'm sure, would have concocted involving me and, somehow, an inappropriate mens thong or a monkey mask, a pooper scooper, or . . . well, you always did have a strange sense of humor. I took you in stride but I always knew you were different.
Somehow I feel I'll see you again and we can catch up.
Until then I'll just say I love you.
Thanks for reading. It's good to be home.
Now I need a shower, a nap, and a few days to catch up to the winter as I left the summer behind me a day from now.
My, how time flies.