It was in the midst of this back-to-school-preparation/bad-weather-perseveration that two packages arrived at our house.
The first package was addressed to Bud, a boy who likes nothing better than getting a package in the mail addressed to him. He ripped it open and found two things inside: a Dierks Bentley concert T-shirt that was just his size and a page-long hand-written letter that said just the right things in just the right words with just the right tone:
Dear Bud,Bud was shaking as we read the letter out loud together.
Hey buddy... I heard that you are a fan of my music! Thanks... I'm glad you enjoy listening to the records and watching the videos. You may notice that I look a little different in some of my earlier videos. That's because I use to have longer hair and it was pretty curly! But I got a haircut about a year ago. So I wanted to send you a picture and a T-shirt that shows what I look like now.
Keep listening to the music... Thanks, my friend.
"Wow, Bud," I said, as I read the final line. "He says 'thanks, my friend.' Dierks says that you're his friend!"
"No," said Bud. "He's just pretend."
I quickly realized that Bud was giving me the same response I give to him when he asks if he can visit Teletubbyland, play with Zoboomafoo, or interact with some other fictional character he's seen on television: "That's just pretend."
"No, Bud," I said. "Dierks is on TV, but he isn't pretend. He's real. He really wrote you this letter and he really said you're his friend."
"Yeah," Bud answered, his eyes still glued to the letter and registering a hint of disbelief, but his mouth curving into a shy smile.
I opened the second package, which was addressed to me, and found a concert DVD and a note from Cassidy Bentley explaining that she wanted to sneak it in just in case Bud comes around to the long hair.
They are good people, those Bentleys.
Real good people.