This one’s for Rascal Flatts.

Yesterday, I got the notification from my calendar: Saturday, July 18, Rascal Flatts Farewell Life is a Highway Tour 2020.

The entire tour was canceled, and today would’ve been the day I drove to Dallas to see it.

When I found out the tour was canceled a few months ago, I laid in my bed and cried. There are so many things I’d planned this year that had to be moved or got canceled, but THIS one. This one still stings.

Why does this one hurt so much? There’s a few reasons.

The first time I heard Rascal Flatts it was the summer of 2003. I’d just graduated from high school in Columbus, Indiana, and I was working two jobs to save up money for college.

I was headed to Louisiana in August. I worked part-time at a frozen custard shop and also at a drive-in fast-food restaurant that served hot dogs and fried pork loins.

The restaurant was owned by a husband and wife that had started several different eateries in our town. And all they played was country music.

I never really enjoyed country music, but I likely also didn’t give it much of a fair chance. That summer, I really had no choice. Waiting for orders, sweeping up spare fries in the parking lot, carrying the orange trays out to cars… all country music.

But that summer, I finally heard a song I liked, “These Days” by Rascal Flatts. It was catchy, and it was on a lot. Even today, I still love to belt it out at the top of my lungs.

My boyfriend that summer lived in a small town next to ours. He played baseball, drove a big truck, and also listened to country.

He’d also just graduated from high school and was working all summer. In his backyard, he had a Tiki Hut, which was really just a shed he transformed via adding a window, neon lights and tropical shrubs.

After work, my friend and I would often drive to his house and join his friends in the Tiki Hut, drink as many bottles of Coors Light as we could, and listen to country.

It was our very own escape to paradise. None of our friends from high school were there, no parents, just fairly innocent fun.

Every time I listen to Rascal Flatts, this is what I think about. My last summer in Indiana before everything changed, and it was so quintessential Indiana that I love it and hate it all at once.

When I left for school, I kept in touch with my then-boyfriend. We never really broke up, but it was just sort of unspoken that it wasn’t going to work being so far away.

We met through a mutual friend who also played baseball. When I went back to Indiana for Christmas break, I went to a party and he was there, but I don’t think he even said hi to me.

The party quickly ended when the cops came, sending me running through random backyards Ferris Bueller style.

Since then, he’s gotten married and has a family of his own. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of him from time to time. He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever dated, and just between us, he was fine as hell.

When I moved to Louisiana, I continued to listen to country. And now, it’s a regular part of my rotation. I also dated plenty of Louisiana boys who only listened to the stuff, and well, now I live in Texas, so…

Because of these stories, I’ve always wanted to see Rascal Flatts in concert, but admittedly I never did a great job of keeping up with their tours.

Finally, when I saw this was IT, their farewell tour, I set an alarm to get tickets and I actually had presale access so I got a good seat. I felt so lucky that I was going to be able to go to Dallas to see my favorite country band and I was going to wear my boots and maybe even a cowboy hat.

When I saw the news about the cancelation, a lot of people were commenting asking when it was going to be rescheduled. That’s the sad part about a cancelation. There is no rescheduling.

And like most things the pandemic has taken from us, I know it was the right thing to do. At least, it was the safe thing to do.

But that doesn’t make it fun or erase the pain.

One thing that the pandemic cannot take from any of us, though, is our memories. Nor can it take our imaginations.

I’ll always treasure the memories I have of that Indiana summer; whether my mind has dressed them up or not. And I’ll always have country music.

Yeah, life throws you curves
But you learned to swerve
Me, I swung and I missed
And the next thing ya know
I’m reminiscing
Dreaming old dreams
Wishing old wishes
Like you would be back again

-Rascal Flatts, “These Days”

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