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WOSTER: Chasing dreams, not buses

Terry Woster

I think I mentioned not so long ago that one of my granddaughters is spending a couple of weeks in Europe this summer, traveling with a group of other South Dakota singers and instrumentalists.

I remember mentioning what an adventure I thought it was going to be, how well worth her time and money to visit six or seven countries in 16 days as a 17-year-old highschool student. Well, the group headed off on the first leg of the journey last Thursday. As I stood in the parking lot at the Performing Arts Center on campus in Brookings and watched a big, lumbering bus carry one of my granddaughters toward Minneapolis, the Atlantic Ocean and eventually London for the first stop on the tour, I'll admit I had a few seconds of doubt, not to say panic.

Not to play "Ask the Geography Expert,'' or anything, but this suddenly occurred to me as the bus made the turn toward the north that would take it to the highway into Minnesota: Europe is an awfully long way from South Dakota.

You can't even get there from here without a lot of help from a lot of people, and the people you need to ask for help in a situation like that aren't the same kind of people you ask to run next door to the neighbor's to ask if you can borrow the lawnmower.

Plus, she's just a kid. What were we all thinking that we allowed her to carry this dream of wandering the streets of London and Paris into an actual trip to Europe? Those are the kinds of dreams that have to be crushed when they first appear, or they'll never go away. And, heaven help me, I encouraged this whole thing. I was all for it.

This is one of my granddaughters. How can she be on her way to Europe? What if it's cold in Switzerland? What if it rains every day? I don't even know if she has an umbrella or a heavy sweater.

Oh, sure, she's been mature, composed and almost always rational from the time she was old enough to speak her first words.

Yes, she'll be a senior in high school next year and almost ready to pick a college that could be far from home. And, of course, there are adult chaperones and a couple hundred other high-school boys and girls on the same trip, traveling in the same buses and airplanes, visiting the same sites, staying at the same hotels.

In fact, the roster of students on this European concert tour of America's Midwest Ambassadors of Music reads like the back of an Atlas where it lists all of the cities and towns in a state. Mitchell is represented, and Sioux Falls, Brookings, Rapid City, Aberdeen, Brandon, Watertown and Pierre. So are Kimball, Reliance, Oacoma, Presho, Holabird, Warner, Glenham, Roscoe, Bowdle, Bath, Goodwin and Smithwick. A whole group of students signed on from Chamberlain -- kids I've watched perform for the last several years.

The folks who put the group together had a few days to practice with those kids from all those communities. Wednesday evening, the group performed, both choir and band. My word, that was a performance. We seem to raise singers and instrumentalists in the towns of South Dakota. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

As the last notes faded, I imagined all the crowned heads of Europe sharing that enjoyment.

Thursday morning, as the bus disappeared over the horizon, I realized that through all the planning and dreaming, I'd been picturing my granddaughter returning home after the tour was over.

What a happy scene, the young woman back from Germany and Italy and the rest of an experience the Lyman County kids of my generation wouldn't have dreamed possible. How can a grandfather not thrill to that image?

But the bus left the curb, and it struck me that the kid can't return home without going away first -- in this case, far away.

"Well, these folks know what they're doing. They've done it before,'' I told Nancy.

"I know that,'' she said. "Try to convince yourself.''

Then she said we couldn't get in the car and chase down the bus.