Tonight I’ll sing my songs again

By Andrew Mason

“Do you have the freckliest face in Murrayville?”

I spent my summer in Champaign again doing predictable things like working three jobs and worrying about my future. With my senior year (or semester, as it may be) upon me and Quad Day this weekend, I’m in a contemplatin’ kind of mood.

It’s never been quite clear what I’ve learned in my three years here. But that changed when I took a recent trip home.

While the University has Quad Day every year, Murrayville only gets to celebrate its sesquicentennial once. A 150th birthday is nothing to sneeze at, especially when I discovered that my 600-person town is nine years older than this school.

Then I found out that the organizers wanted me to serve as Master of Ceremonies. I’m the fourth generation to work in the family grocery store (yes, it’s called Mason’s Market) and seeing as how I’m going to college in the “big city,” people believe I’m more important than I really am. Still, I couldn’t turn down the invitation.

There was no speech or fancy suit required. In fact, the job was mostly microphone work. I was up on stage announcing the weekend’s events which included a parade, musical acts and plenty of contests like hula-hooping, cake baking and best costume (take notes Quad Day organizers).

I learned that weekend that the great grandmother who won best adult costume this year got the same prize 50 years ago wearing the same dress she made herself. Standing with the children’s group was her great granddaughter, who was wearing the same dress her grandmother had won as a child in 1958.

Gosh. The only thing that amazed me more was when I learned that my father actually won the prize for cutest baby way back when.

The main act the town booked was an over-the-hill country star. I didn’t know who he was until during his unremarkable 70-minute set, he revealed that he was the guy behind that Folger’s coffee jingle. The best part of wakin’ up for him was that the project paid for two of his divorces.

No, the real entertainment began with Tapestry. These guys were authentic. So authentic in fact that this cover group filled with baby-boomers has been touring the area for over 30 years. They even headlined my parents’ senior prom. And darn it if their first song didn’t get the crowd going more than they’d been all night.

I had discovered Piano Man at the Canopy Club a few weeks prior so I was pumped when they started playing “Sweet Caroline.” But nobody at home sang the “Ba, ba, ba” part or the “So good! So good! So good!” refrain. They’re obviously doing it wrong. They don’t know what they’re missing.

But after watching tons of sober people (the village still doesn’t allow alcohol sales) having a great time for two sun-baked days, it hit me.

Three years living in Champaign should’ve instilled this “too-cool-for-the-room” mentality in me. I’m a young college kid; I should find all this small farm town stuff lame and corny. But that weekend made me realize that I don’t.

Sure, this degree will be nice, but it doesn’t make me better than anybody else. And it certainly doesn’t give me the right to claim my “Sweet Caroline” is better, especially since my parents were alive when it was popular the first time around.

That weekend showed me people don’t appreciate phonies. And everyone venturing out to Quad Day looking to plan out their lives should keep that in mind, especially the freshmen. No matter how many new things you sign up for, do yourself a favor and embrace your roots once in awhile, even if you think you’ve outgrown them.

It also helps to be like that 7-year-old who I asked if she thought she had the freckliest face in Murrayville. She giggled, then she said no.

Andrew is in his fourth semester as opinions editor. He can be reached at [email protected]