My dad has this exquisite way of being both measured and spontaneous. His life’s successes were built on that winning combination. “Everything in moderation.” is one of his tenets. Except what he really means is “Everything with great purpose.” So you plan like it counts, work like it counts, love like it counts, play like it counts and seize opportunity like it counts.
Margot, like many young people, has a deep affection for Hamilton. She’s spent hours studying the songs and memorizing every word. She’s looked up lyrics to see what they mean and in turn become absolutely enamored with history and a person’s potential for impact. She wrote the most heartening, gorgeous letter to Lin-Manuel Miranda last summer and collected as many fifth grade signatures as she could before she popped it in the mail.
One night last November at the dinner table she sang My Shot in a way that could make you cry because she was just so alive, eager and full of the unrestricted joy specific to childhood. My dad turned to me and whispered, “I want to take her to see Hamilton on Broadway for her birthday.” I smiled at that pipe dream and at his affection for passionate people.
But he meant it. Like he means everything he says and does. On her 11th birthday my daughter received her absolute number one impossible dream come true. And, special bonus: I got to go too.
The three of us had about 48 hours there, which of course flew by. We were good at letting go of things that compressed time too much, favoring strolling and absorbing the glorious throb of New York City. We stepped out of the skyscrapping shadows and into the bright stillness of Central Park. We walked quickly across intersections, bundling our faces against the biting chill. We rose up to the top of the Rockefeller building to take in the city the pouring night rain. We toasted cocktails, sought out coffee shops and fantastic food.
Our play was at 2pm on a Wednesday. Margot and I sang Hamilton songs in the bathroom together while we buzzed with anticipation. We had bought her an elegant dress that trailed lower in the back showing a spray of grey roses on the interior. “Mama, will other people be as fancy as us?” she wondered. I shrugged and winked. Us Montana girls don’t have much opportunity to get all gussied up and we were going for it.
We traded stories of what we were excited for and shared eye shadow. I helped her wiggle into her tights and she helped me zip up my dress. My growing girl.
We walked to the theater and stepping into line under The Marquis. My daughter’s eyes surveying it all, my dad’s beaming eyes fixed on her.
The show. I knew it would be great. I trusted it would be “worth it.” I couldn’t wait to see my daughter light up at the whole spectacle. I didn’t count on it exceeding my own expectations. I quite literally didn’t think that was possible. It was.
At one moment after intermission, it was quiet and stirring (for those who’ve seen it: Eliza is forgiving Alexander, song: It’s Quiet Uptown) and I, for one, was crying. Not “tearing up”; my ducts were pushing our some fat tears that were eagerly racing down my cheek and over my collar bone. I heard a wail, a heaving suck of air after trying to contain the feeling. At first I thought it was on stage but it was from the audience and it intensified. Her body couldn’t contain her reaction. She sobbed.
I am pretty sure I imagined right: everyone in the audience understood. The thing with great art is that it moves us without our permission. It makes us think outside our boxes. It provokes us to change our discussion, our direction.
Who lives who dies who tells your story?
So my parents have decided this would be a thing they invest in: an 11th Birthday Dream Trip for their grandkids. Ruby has just under two years to plan and, so far, she’s considering studying Frida Kahlo in Mexico, visiting giraffes at the San Francisco Zoo and hiking a volcano in Hawaii. ♥