A Moment at the Theater
The past few weeks have been emotionally tough. The news has been a constant barrage of silencing, dismissing, berating, or blaming women who are trying to share their stories. It is draining, on many levels. While I have never experienced sexual assault that is at the center of the discourse, I can empathize with being told that my experience is not worthy or valid. Feeling rejected. Feeling that I have to hold my stories inside. It is challenging to want to show support and listen to the stories, without simultaneously wanting to crawl into a hole and hide from the vicious, unfeeling attacks.
As a form of escapism, we bought tickets to take Theo and Quentin to see Hamilton in Chicago. They have been obsessed with the musical for months and listen to the music constantly. Even with the fast and challenging lyrics, they routinely sing along to their favorites. It was our early Christmas gift to them. We watched ticket prices, only buying on StubHub two days before the show.
Their shrieks of delight when we told them were well worth the money spent. I felt like this was something fun we could experience as a family, to combat all of the negativity that the air around me had held lately.
Because of our late purchase, we did not have four seats together, but rather two and two in the upper balcony. One set of seats was slightly better than the other – in the middle and a few rows closer. I carefully planned with Ger how we would arrange ourselves. He and Quentin would sit in the middle balcony seats for the first act, leaving Theo and I in the left balcony seats. For the second act, Theo and I would move to the middle balcony seats.
The second act has several powerful scenes: Philip Hamilton being killed in a duel at 19 years old, the song “It’s Quiet Uptown” about how Hamilton and Eliza dealt with their beloved son’s death, and then Hamilton’s own death in a duel at the hand of Aaron Burr. From past experience in movies, I know that Theo often cries during emotional scenes. I wanted him to feel like he could freely show his feelings, which he would likely feel more comfortable doing sitting next to me.
The show is very long, and even with a deep familiarity with the songs, the kids had never heard it all “start to finish.” There were parts when Theo was a bit squirrelly in his seat, but he froze and fixed his eyes on stage when Philip Hamilton was shot.
When I saw the show back in March with Ger, I tried to contain my own emotions. Even though I knew what was coming, I was unprepared for seeing it acted out in front of me. “It’s Quiet Uptown” had little impact on me when I only had heard it before, but seeing it onstage was wrenching. I could feel the tears forming, flowing, but tried to hold them in only because I had no tissues and knew that if I let myself go that I would have no way of wiping away the tracks from my face.
This time I was prepared, tissues in the pocket of my coat. As Philip’s heart stopped beating, with the corresponding drum beat also going silent, I pulled out my supply, while also keeping an eye on Theo. He didn’t blink. Eliza’s wail as her son died pierced the theater, followed by “It’s Quiet Uptown.” I remember telling Theo and Quentin about that song, when they first started listening to the soundtrack. The lyrics describe the death of a child as “the unimaginable” and how Hamilton and Eliza walk alone, move away, because they are so devastated that their son died. Theo’s eyes at the time sparkled with tears, as did mine. We both were thinking the same thing and how our family does not have two of our children.
But in watching the live performance, Theo did not cry. All of my planning and bracing myself to be there for him in anticipation of something that never came into being. On the other hand, I was sobbing, letting go of everything that I had held in from the last performance.
As the song wrapped up, the cast sang:
They are standing in the garden
Alexander by Eliza’s side
She takes his hand
It’s quiet uptown
Theo leaned his head into mine, ever so slightly, so the tops of our heads were touching.
I had assumed that I would need to support my child. And instead, he supported me.