There have been moments in each one of my son’s lives when I can specifically pinpoint the moment he hit a milestone. I remember clearly the day that Max stood up and started walking. I remember the day Shane walked to school by himself for the first time. And every day since then, they have become more and more independent.
Still, there are times when the calls or texts come in hourly. “Mom. Shane won’t play outside with me.” “Mom, Shane won’t let me sit next to him on the couch.” “Mom, Shane won’t let me talk to his friends.” I text back, “Max, give the phone to Shane so I can talk to him.” The reply, “I can’t right now. Shane is lying down in his room and he says he needs time to calm down. Why does he have to calm down?”
Even at times when I thought they were otherwise engaged, I got calls and texts. Once, a few years back, Max went camping with his dad and his brother. He called me from a mountain top at 2700 feet. “I’m so proud of you,” I told him. “Are you tired?” “I am so exhausted,” he said. “Shane made me climb all the way up here and I am sooo tired.” “What about the view?” I asked. “Yeah, yeah, the view. I still have to go BACK DOWN, Mom. Don’t you understand?”
Max made it down from the mountain. He found his own friends to play with. He has a love of music that is deeper and wider than my own, which is pretty damn deep and wide. With that love comes a desire to see and hear as much music as possible.
Hamilton came out and I immediately began getting texts. “Mom, I want to see ‘Hamilton.’” I checked online and tickets in San Francisco were over $500 for the cheapest seats. I told him, “I’ll enter the lottery.” He texted me endlessly, “Mom, have you checked for ‘Hamilton’ tickets?” “Mom, I won’t ask for anything else again ever if you can just get ‘Hamilton’ tickets.” He listened to the soundtrack to “Hamilton” on an endless loop. He sang it. In the morning, while he was in the shower. While I was driving him to school. Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton.
I told him, “Max, I can’t afford it, I’m sorry. It’s so expensive.” And then late one night, Max sent me a link to the traveling performance of “Hamilton” – at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles. The tickets were imminently affordable. “Mom, PLEASE! Hurry up and buy them! And can you buy three of them?” I did it. I bought three tickets to the show, for the performance on December 3, 2017, the night before Max’s 16th birthday. And then I worried about how we would get to LA from Santa Rosa.
I used up all my credit card miles to get three round- trip tickets to LAX for me, Max, and his girlfriend. I found an inexpensive room near the airport, so we could use a hotel shuttle to get back and forth to the airport. When we flew out early the morning of December 3, Max was sick. He could barely breathe on the plane. When we got to the hotel room, his girlfriend and I fed him tea, soup, water. He took a hot shower. We got him some cold medicine. We got him dressed and out the door. And we headed to the Pantages Theater. As we got closer and Max saw “Hamilton” on the marquis, he kept saying, “I can’t believe this is happening. I can’t believe it.”
We got out and stood in front of the theater, looking at the names of the stars on the sidewalk. When we finally got in, I bought each of them Hamilton sweatshirts, and we waited to be seated. Once inside, I realized that what I thought would be high-up balcony seats were in fact, true mezzanine seats. We were in the front row of the back set of seats, high enough to see everything, and without anything or anyone obstructing our view. The lights when down, the curtain went up, and the first song began. And I looked at my son. He clapped both hands over his mouth and started sobbing. He was incredulous and he was overwhelmed and he was overjoyed.
As we were headed out of the theater, the actors were stationed at the doors, collecting money for a benefit. The actor who played Aaron Burr was at the exit door. I put money in the bucket he was holding, and I told him, “Thank you very much. It was a wonderful show, and you made my son’s birthday amazing.” He turned to my son and he said, “Happy birthday young man. Did you enjoy the show?” Max said, “Yes. Yes.” As we stood on the sidewalk outside the theater waiting for our ride, I said to Max, “Well, not many 16 year-olds can say that Aaron Burr wished them a happy birthday.” Max was speechless. That has happened perhaps twice in his entire life.
That evening, as I was picking up food to take upstairs to my still-sick son, I saw on the news that there was a fire alert in Los Angeles. No, no, I thought. No. We cannot get stuck here, we cannot live through another fire. We were still freshly traumatized from the firestorm in October. We were in Los Angeles the next day, we wandered through music stores, and finally headed to LAX at 9 p.m. The next day, fires raged through Southern California and LAX shut down.
When we flew into Santa Rosa that night, we were silent as we looked down over the empty spaces where there were once lights of homes. The convergence of Hamilton, disaster and loss in our county, and imminent recovery and hope of our community, were etched forever in our hearts. We will never be the same. Those who have literally been through the fire are never the same.
As I have done, every day since the days the fires roared through my county, I consider all that I am or should be grateful for. On this day, Independence Day 2018, I am grateful that I was able to find a way to take my son to celebrate his birthday by seeing an amazing musical, partially a tribute to lawyers, (just saying, it’s true), and primarily, of course, a tribute to immigrants.
“I may not live to see the glory, but I will gladly join the fight. And when our children tell the story, they’ll tell the story of tonight.” (Hamilton – Lin Manuel Miranda.) This blog post was a very short story about how a mother found a way to take her son to see Hamilton. But that is just the beginning of the story of a fight. It’s a fight that has been going on since the beginning of time and mothers. It’s a fight that continues. Any questions? Go see Hamilton. And call your mama.
We are (all) are immigrants. Somos immigrantes.
We are (all) warriors. 私たちは戦士です Watashitachiha senshidesu.
We are mamaninjawarriors.