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A week ago today, Shawn and I set out from home for a month on the road. One week in and a few great shows under our belts, we’re kicking back now and getting after some sunshine and some new song ideas before we get moving again.

On Saturday night, we played a show hosted by our friends at the Americana Community Music Association in Fort Myers. It was, like the shows before it in Tallahassee and Pensacola, a night full of connection, joy, and fun.

Before the doors opened, one of the ACMA’s volunteers took notice of my merch case – an old cardboard suitcase that I found years ago at a second-hand shop in Northampton, MA. It’s been slowly coming apart in recent months – and though I know I ought to replace it with something more trustworthy, I’ve grown irrationally attached to this old thing and the many stickers that I’ve put all over it. I recently learned this type of suitcase was once referred to as a ‘grip’, and I now think of it as ‘the old grip’ (though we still call it ‘the merch case’ when we’re packing and unpacking the car).

‘Oh, I love those old cases,’ the volunteer said as he took the last bites of his dinner. ‘I love it too!’ I answered, and when I told him how I use it, he smiled and said, ‘I know so many of you musicians use them for your merchandise, but when I look at them, I just think, “Hey, that’s my mother’s luggage.”‘ And we both laughed.

As I started setting up the CD table, he came over and looked at the recent repair that Shawn had done with some aluminum tape around one of the bottom edges. I noticed this and said to him, ‘Yeah, it’s really coming apart, especially at the hinges.’ The pins have been slowly pulling out for quite a while now, and it’s an odd job that we just hadn’t gotten around to yet.

He looked at me and said, ‘Tell you what. My wife and I are gonna go take a walk, but when I get back, I’m gonna fix this. I think I’ve got all the tools I need in my truck.’

‘Oh, that would be awesome, thank you!’ I answered.

‘Just make sure it’s all emptied out for me when I get back,’ he added.

True to his word, he came back some time later with some tools and got to work on the empty case. At one point, he went to the kitchen in search of an ice pick that never materialized.

He was still at it when the doors opened t 6:30, and as ticket holders filed in, many were asking him about it. ‘Saving a piece of my mother’s luggage,’ was the answer I heard more than once. The whole scene elicited many smiles, sweet little conversations, and offers of help.

I was really moved that he offered to fix it and ended up spending as much time on it as he did – and what moved me most was how the old grip put this stranger in touch with fond memories of his mother.

In the end, he wasn’t able to fix the hinges to his satisfaction, but he left it in much better shape than he found it. He reiterated how happy he was to have a go at it, and again, the comment about his mother’s luggage. After the show, he spoke with Shawn briefly about what he had done, gave him some pointers about how to finish the job and what tools to use, and, as he got ready to leave, his wife approached me with a wide smile and said softly, ‘The show was absolutely beautiful, thank you.’