When I was a kid, I dreamed of being on Broadway. This was back when a musical theater dream wasn’t cool. Back before Glee or Smash or American Idol or X-Factor or any of those talent-elevating shows that allowed theater and performance geeks to step out of their shells and assume their rightful place among other kids with special talents and interests and find each other.
I was away for a few days in paradise with just my daughter, (read more about that here). We had morphed a family vacation into a girls getaway leaving our “boys” at home to bond over video games and baseball. I’ve already written about the adolescent dynamic that mystifies and terrifies and fully was prepared for its head to rear and to even enjoy some of its wrath as I sat down wind on the beach.
Disappointments from childhood are the most complicated to unpack. I say this without reservation and with total authority.
When I was twelve, my mother was diagnosed with a (then) rare but very treatable form of cancer. It shook us all to our core since she was the one who “lived clean”–juxtaposed against my Dad–she had no history of drinking, didn’t smoke, avoided the sun. We found out that it had also metastasized (spread) and she was going to have to have surgery to remove the cancer and aggressive treatments of iodine therapy to remove anything left. During iodine therapy she couldn’t have visitors and couldn’t touch certain types of people so I could not see her. The therapy coincided with a pre-planned annual vacation we were to take, so my father decided instead of being home and not visiting my mother we would go and I would bring a friend with me.
I’m getting ready to go on vacation for spring break and nothing is better than the anticipation of having free, uninterrupted family time to relax and enjoy each other. It’s times like this that I am reminded of the vacations I spent as a kid in the Caribbean with my parents, as they were probably the happiest of my entire childhood and because of that they leave me with a deep ache and a profound sorrow for the loss of my Dad.
Adolescence has struck our home. And since we have two, the chances are lightening will strike twice. I’m new to this stage of motherhood and since I was the first of my friends to have kids and some of my buds have decided not to have them as of yet, aside from a kind ear and the fact that we went through adolescence there isn’t much advice based on experience in my close circle yet. I know what I know from growing up a female, and although I don’t want to discount that, my own childhood is a bit fraught ( I’m going to leave it at that) so I’m trying to be conscious of NOT projecting my experience on her.
Today I went to see the Phantom of the Opera. I’ve seen it five times. The last time I was with my parents and I was probably about 13 or so and I was an aspiring actress/singer… My biggest champion was my Dad, more on that at another time.
My Dad was a lover of the arts, music and musical theater and is responsible for instilling and encouraging my love of theater–a love that has brought me much joy even though my theatrical aspirations have long been abandoned. We would listen to a number of scores on our two-hour drives upstate (we had a country house in Columbia County). The primary ones were Les Miserables, Into The Woods and — of course — Phantom of the Opera. I know all of them by heart, seriously. I haven’t listened to them in a very long time though and had forgotten some of the nuances of the story (or book) and honestly had thought that this trip to Phantom was going to be more for my daughter than for me. I thought I would find it hokey… I’ve seen other shows in the decades since my last trip and wrote it off as a tourist trap (ok, I’m a jaded New Yorker… I’m copping to it).
Weddings still get to me. I imagine they always will. Every kind of wedding from a small family affair to the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It’s not because of the joy or anticipation of watching two people join lives–although that is also lovely. Seeing a father walk his daughter down the aisle, lovingly give her over to an officiant and her betrothed and kiss her for the last time as his little girl. Then watching a father/daughter dance is another tear-jerker… Ok, its more of a sob fest.