(Today is the closest I've come in the 316 days of posting blogs to almost missing one. Between personal drama, work, and my computer dying --wish me luck at the Genius Bar tomorrow--it just felt like insurmountable odds were mounting. But, luckily, my friend Cathy had filed this guest blog a few days ago and it saved the streak of never missing a day. What Cathy did not include here is that the below caper all occurred with her on crutches, three days after tearing her Achilles tendon. It seems like it's destined to end up as a great sitcom episode. I keep waiting for her daughters' (and Cathy's) obsession with One Direction to be over as it's lasted much longer than the usual teen idol crush, but I admire that her daughters, whom I love very much, are so loyal. There will come a day when they no longer adore One Direction and it will be a sad one for all of us because, in part, this is probably their last innocent crush. But this adventure will be a special memory that they will carry with them always. Thanks to Cathy for, once again, coming to my rescue, and to my sister for letting me use her computer --Melinda)
If you know the Olson family, you know of our 13- and 15-year-old daughters’ obsession with One Direction. Judge the boys how you will, but the delight they bring my kids crushes any cynicism. This summer, the morning after the girls went to the 1D concert in DC, they got word the band was taking a rare next day off in Baltimore, just an hour’s drive from home.
And so it was I found myself hastily in the car with Olivia and Jacqueline, my perfect friend to co-pilot this adventure, and her three giddy kids. Fortified with a jumbo bag of peanut M&Ms, a few granola bars and enough adrenaline to fill the tank, we hit the Beltway for territories unknown.
Little did I know that by 2 a.m. the next morning we’d have lobby-loitered, then officially checked in and out of the Four Seasons, eschewed hotel and band security, harbored a small army of frenetic girls in our room, and snapped the only known photo of the band in Baltimore—a distant shot of Niall Horan lounging by the pool-- which went viral seconds after our kids posted it to Twitter. I also didn’t know my girls would not, in fact, get to meet their teen idols. I’m equal parts optimist and rule-bender.
Thanks to social media, our tech-savvy young crew zeroed in on the hotel of choice and began a reconnaissance operation I’m pretty sure would land them an entry spot with homeland security. Once we had the necessary photographic evidence and it became clear you don’t just hang at the Four Seasons without a room, we moms decided to go for it. Never mind we had no luggage. No assurance we’d actually ever come in contact with the band. Surely this pricey gamble was better than, well, anything we could buy our children. Ever. It was summer and the possibilities were endless.
What ensued were 13 hours of highs and lows for the girls and their friends, all aided and abetted by yours truly. In no particular order: Determining what floor the entourage was staying on; casing out all staircases and elevators; waiting; sweet-talking sundry hotel staff; bonding with fans outside the front entrance; following a security team out into the streets for a few miles; sneaking down to the private garage under the hotel; falling for a decoy black SUV; eating on the cheap; sneaking onto the verboten tenth floor - twice; standing outside Harry Styles’ room and hearing him laughing and singing; being escorted back on the elevator; chatting up security hired by the city of Baltimore stationed three blocks out on all sides of hotel property to “deter stalkers.” It was a wild ride.
By the time the clock ticked up to 1 a.m., we were all spent. Close as we’d come, they’d somehow managed to evade us every time. The coming day’s deadlines and commitments were beckoning. Time to pack it in and hit the road. Did the band ever know their biggest fans were so close and yet so far? Probably not. That afternoon photos of other groupies gathered outside—or maybe they’d just gotten to the scene?-- with the boys, refreshed from an undisturbed night’s sleep, began circulating. That still stings.
But for me, it was never really about getting the photo, awesome as that would’ve been for the girls. It was about being spontaneous and supporting my daughters’ crazy dream as they dance their way between little girl- and young woman-hood. And about being with them when they learned lesson No. 1 of superfandom: Sometimes it doesn’t work out exactly as planned. We indisputably spent the day with One Direction. They just didn’t spend it with us.
Today’s donation goes to U.K. organization Comic Relief, which among other outreach provides fresh water and vaccines to citizens of Ghana and other African countries. I’m paying it forward because it’s a cause dear to One Direction. Because my daughters are growing up too fast. And because days like these are precious and fleeting. To quote another groupie extraordinaire, Penny Lane’s live-in-the-moment mantra in Almost Famous, “It’s all happening.”
-Cathy Applefeld Olson
-Cathy Applefeld Olson
Nov. 12: Comic Relief