Beth Dolinar

Column Beth Dolinar

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries for public television, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

Element of surprise

December 27, 2012

The setup was perfect, and she fell for it all.

“We tried, but it sold out in two minutes,” we told her.

“I know,” she said. “Two minutes and 15 seconds.”

And then our Grace would stomp her foot a little, or roll her eyes. All she wanted for Christmas was a ticket for a seat in the crowd when the band One Direction comes to town this summer. She would forgo all other gifts; she just wanted to be at the concert.

In case you don’t have daughter or nieces or students who are 13 or a radio, One Direction is the hot boy band of the moment. It feels like there are about a dozen of them – mop tops with British names like Niall and Liam – but there are really just five.

And they are so dreamy.

They have taken over my house. Posters of them adorn two rooms on the second floor, and a life-size cardboard cutout of one of them (is it Ringo? George?) stands guard in the bedroom. When I am driving Grace somewhere and one of their songs comes on the radio, there is a shriek and the volume gets cranked and the world stops for about three minutes. When I finally get my ears back, we talk about how One Direction is the best band that ever recorded a song and how we are going to marry at least one or two of the members.

We found some tickets. Everyone knows that sold out never really means sold out if you’re willing to pay. And so a few hours on the Internet nabbed us three tickets to the concert. Anything other than peanut heaven will cost enough to keep you from dining out for a couple months, but that’s OK. Aren’t the best gifts the ones that create memories?

Now, the set-up. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, I would casually mention that we tried our best but there were just no tickets to be had. Grace looked sad, but being the sweet child she is, she would say it was OK, that she would be happy with the band’s new CD, and maybe the “Barbie” doll that looks like her favorite band member, Harry.

I stayed up late Christmas Eve concocting the perfect ruse, a scavenger hunt that would lead her to the tickets. This was going to be great.

As with every other Christmas morning, we all sat in the front hallway and opened gifts. Grace loved all the One Direction stuff she got. She was particularly happy with the doll. We cleaned up the wrapping paper and bows and retired to the kitchen for some breakfast. Then I handed her a “forgotten” gift, a coloring book. She laughed. Open it, I said. On the first page was a note telling her to check the butter.

Grace opened the fridge and started picking up boxes of butter. One was empty. She opened it to find a note that told her to look behind the piano, and “turn to month seven.”

“I’m scared,” she said. She ran to the piano and opened a package to find a calendar. She counted through the pages to July. There on the 8th I’d written “1D” and “Look in the mail.”

She knew that was the date of the concert, and she ran to the front porch and opened the mailbox. Inside was a little package containing the tickets.

Grace screamed and ran down the hall. She crumbled to the floor and buried her face in her hands, and cried.

“I can’t believe I’m going to see them,” she said, over and over. “I didn’t think I would, and that was OK. But I am. I’m really going.”

Come July 8th, I will be in the crowd with Grace and a friend to see One Direction. Being 13, she may have gotten over the band by then. But who cares; it will be a dreamy show.

Seeing the band in person will be fantastic, but I already got my money’s worth out of those tickets when she unwrapped them Christmas morning. I saw a moment of utter joy, and that memory’s a keeper.

Beth Dolinar can be reached at



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