AGMA isn’t all about travel and working and running and blogging and bounce house jumping and watching young men in spandex ride bicycles.
Not at all…
I like to dip my toe in the fine arts pool now and then. The very tip of my toe.
Specifically, musical theater.
I’ve been musical theater fan since I was a tiny AGMA. My mother took my sister and I to a Broadway musical (Do I Hear a Waltz) when I was the tender age of ten. We were in New York City for the 1964 World’s Fair. I can’t imagine it was an inexpensive trip. Pretty impressive for a single parent working as a nurse to be able to pull it off.
But I know that my mother loved music, especially Broadway musicals. We had many records for our old “stereo” console, but the one that I remember her playing the most was the original Broadway cast of The King and I. Because she died in 1965 I can’t confirm this, but if AGMA was a betting woman (and I am!) I’d say her favorite song was “Hello Young Lovers”
When I hear that song, crust ole AGMA’s eyes glisten…
She passed that love of musical theater onto me. In high school, I was a dancer (because you did NOT want to hear me singing) in our high school musicals both in my junior and senior year. And BC (before children), Hubs and I would go to see touring companies of Broadway musicals that made their way to Cincinnati.
We even managed to see a few AC (after children) and tried to pass on our love of musical theater to our skeptical, testosterone laden sons by taking them to see Phantom of the Opera. Their comments afterward were brutal…
One can only imagine my delight when Son #1 married a woman who is a walking encyclopedia of Tony Award winning musicals, actors and actresses. And who has taken Son #1 to NYC many times to see musicals in addition to going to shows in their home city, Chicago.
I knew his conversion as a musical theater fan was complete when he was in New York City for work last year and he got tickets to go re-see Come From Away. By himself.
My sweet mother is looking down on her grandson and his wife, smiling.
Which brings AGMA to this past week.
Hubs and I went to see Dear Evan Hansen (DEH) at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. DEH won 6 Tony Awards in 2017 including Best New Musical.
It was at the same time incredibly fabulous (cast, music, sets and story) and very disturbing. Disturbing on multiple levels.
In a very tiny nutshell, it’s about the difficulties of not “fitting in” in high school. And the difficulties of parenting kids who don’t fit in. That honestly doesn’t even begin to describe it, but I don’t want to share any spoilers. In case you ever want to see it.
Which you should.
I found my stomach churning during the show.
On one level, AGMA sooooo related with the main character. I was a kid very much like Evan in high school – quiet, shy, awkward, and just didn’t seem to fit in with any group. For reasons I won’t bore you with but very much deal with the type of trauma Even had in his young life, I had extremely low self esteem and borderline depression. I had a lot of acquaintances but only two people I considered friends. But even then, I felt so alone so many times. And that I had no voice at all.
Just like Evan.
On another level, AGMA sooooo related with the mothers. Mothers who were haunted with doubts about their parenting skills. About their ability to navigate their way through the minefield of their children doubts, fears and struggles to help them without alienating them.
Ah, there’s the rub…
The first song, sung by the mothers, “Anybody Have a Map” was so AGMA back in the day. How was I supposed to know that teenagers didn’t come with instructions?
And I felt that that old feeling from 20 years ago in the pit of my stomach. That sick feeling when you knew that your child was struggling and probably lonely. Maybe dealing with rejection or feelings of hopelessness. Or was worried about “real” or imaginary dragons they had to face. And knowing that their brusque answer, “No” to your question, “Is something wrong?” was totally not the truth. And knowing they didn’t trust you enough to talk to you about it. And not being able to communicate to them the depth of your love and caring in a way that they would believe. And not being able to help them understanding that this wasn’t the end of the world.
Yeah – AGMA could have sung that Map song many times over.
Although DEH was very much current in its reflection both in the set and dialogue of contemporary teenager’s use of technology and social media, the themes of the need for love, self-acceptance, friendship and family are universal.
In the end, AGMA left the theater last week feeling thankful.
Thankful that I’m no longer that awkward, lonely, self-doubting, self-loathing person I was in high school. Thankful for years of counseling. Thankful for my faith that put me on the path to healing. Thankful that my children made it thought their teenage years relatively unscathed. Thankful that they’re emotionally healthy adults. Thankful that I made it through their teenage years without my head exploding. Or my heart completely breaking. Thankful that they (mostly) forgive me for my mistakes.
So many mistakes…
Why can’t there be a map?