By Paul Lane
The Tonawanda News
— The last thing I ever expected from a celebrity interview was to swap parenting stories.
Yet there I was a few weeks ago, laughing as country singer Gretchen Wilson described her trials raising her teenage daughter and asking me about Penny and Rigby.
My other work with this paper occasionally requires me to talk to musicians, comedians and other celebrities who, for one reason or another, are relevant to Western New Yorkers. Most of those interviews revolve around what these people have done professionally and why they're (in most cases) visiting the area.
Rarely do these talks delve into personal matters. Rather, I usually get a few anecdotes, updates and previews of what's new in their careers. So I was surprised when Wilson — about whom I admittedly knew little prior to her recent visit to Seneca Niagara Casino — spent about half our 40-minute conversation talking parenting.
I have to say, the surprise was quite pleasant.
Not only did I get to delve into the personal world of someone who's in the public eye, but I also got a sneak preview of what's to come as the parent of a young girl. And since I am usually the one doling out advice rather than receiving, it was nice to hear.
"When your daughter gets to be 11 or 12 years old, it just gets hairy," she said. "Personalities clash, and they just don't get along with you. It can be scary."
Oh, well maybe it wasn't so nice — at least in terms of the content.
I know, of course, there will come a period of time — likely a decade or so — where Penny and Rigby won't be able to stand the sight, sound, thought or mention of their mother and me. Wilson warned me the kids might even get to hate my past, as if hating my present won't be enough.
"I would have given anything to have been born in Tennessee," Wilson told me by phone from her Nashville home, "and she constantly tells me she wants to move to New York. Because I'm such a country girl, she's bound and determined to do the opposite."
Having a daughter has drastically altered Wilson's career, just as parenthood does to most of us. That's part of the reason Wilson has spent so much time the past few years at home getting her label off the ground. It's also why Wilson has become a weekend warrior-type of performer, at least until peak summer concert season.
"I'm one of those moms who gets up at 6 and drives my daughter to school every day," she said. "I'm a mom, so I'm not one of those (performers) who likes to get out and be gone for two months. I prefer to leave on a Friday and come back by Monday."
That's pretty much what Wilson did for her recent visit to Niagara Falls. While it could be argued mainstream musical acts don't need the money as badly, it was still refreshing to hear a person like Wilson is willing to leave so much money on the table for the sake of her child. Goodness knows I could easily work eight jobs and still be looking for another revenue source, but for the sake of seeing Penny and Rigby and actually being a part of their lives we get by with a little bit less.
They are also why we don't actively pursue so many career opportunities elsewhere, so they can be closer to family members who remain in the area (although that number, like the population tally in general, continues to dwindle). Could something better career-wise be had elsewhere? Perhaps. But only the perfect storm would even pique our interest at this point.
One never stops making sacrifices for their children from the moment of conception. Having that reinforced by a platinum-selling singer/songwriter never hurts.
Nor does having one knowingly laugh at your poop and puke stories. All parents have those, of course, but I don't always get the feedback I might like from this column (hint hint) so just sharing an anecdote or two with someone you specifically know is listening is, well, cool.
So, too, is hearing that the monotony of a child's favorite album is motivation for a musician to record her own record of Christmas songs (for me, it's Rigby's love of Shrek singing "What I Like About You" and for Wilson, it's "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire"). If only we all could be in a position to do more about such a scenario than "lose" the CD.
For Wilson, having our conversation was just part of her job, at least in large part. But it was still something unexpected for this humble scribe, and for that I thank her.
And wish her a whole heap of luck for the next five years with her daughter.
Contact Paul Lane at email@example.com.