I cannot, for the life of me, remember when The Middle Child, who I will call by her actual name: Eliza, (periodically, in this piece, for just reason) introduced me to Hamilton, but I know it was some time ago. This is my child who stays in her room a lot, on her iPad too much, yet I have checked her browsing history and all I can ever find are Broadway links and such. There is much eye rolling that goes on between us and I have longed for a connection. I have often thought maybe it would come when her brother goes off to college. She thinks I don’t get her at all, but I do-if only a little. I had an Annie obsession in the early 1980’s and would go to the library and research Andrea McArdle on occasion, as the internet was not at my fingertips! I can distinctly remember thinking to myself, how silly-to be so taken with a Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton! (like my obsession with an orphan girl was any better?) At the same time, I was ever so thankful to have a self-proclaimed Broadway Nerd for a 14 year old daughter. There were far worse things to get involved in at her age-I knew from my own experience as a teenager. The things that I started doing at just about her age are what have led to my having just about 14 years of sobriety today. The Middle Child could have as much Hamilton as her heart desired! She knew every word to every song-all 46 of them! She would excitedly tell me things about the Schuyler Sisters when she could get a minute of my attention. Last school year was a blur, what with one brother a senior (Mini Me) and another a second grader (The Baby). I would tell myself to stop and listen to her. I knew it was important–she was trying to share something that she loved with me. I would catch bits and pieces here and there. I caught that Hamilton’s wife’s name was Eliza Schuyler Hamilton. AHA! A name connection. This, I got. Strange…I know. It’s just how my mind works. After that, when my Eliza would talk to me about Hamilton, I was a little more receptive to hearing about it. I would hear her singing the songs in her room. There is one song, The Schuyler Sisters, where the chorus goes: Angelicaa, Eliiizaaa, and Peggy: The Schuyler Sisters! Work! Work! I started calling The Middle child Eliiizaaa just like in the song. It drove her nuts, which of course egged me on. The more time went by, the more I heard about Hamilton, and the dude who wrote it: Lin-Manuel Miranda. LIN WHO? I remember saying. The Middle Child told me all about him, and about how he had written In The Heights, which Dekalb School of the Arts (our beloved school) had put on two years ago. Oohhhh, I said, remembering going to see In The Heights with Eliza and my mother in law and being slightly embarrassed. I could not resist. I had to ask. Is it sexy like In The Heights? I will never forget her answer. MOM!!!!NO!!! IT’S A HIP HOP MUSICAL ABOUT OUR FOUNDING FATHERS!!! ….. Broadway Nerd, much? 😉 So…little by little, I learned more and more about Hamilton and its founding father, Lin-Manuel Miranda….and the more I became intrigued. When Eliza showed me a picture of Lin, I said, he looks like Shakespeare. HE HAS BEEN COMPARED TO SHAKESPEARE, MOM!!! The Middle Child practically squealed at me. Sheesh. I had not seen her so excited over something and/or someone in quite awhile. It reminded me of my adoration of Adam Ant ….okay…I won’t go there. Eliza would play the Hamilton soundtrack in my car whenever we went anywhere. It was always, MOM! YOU HAVE GOT TO HEAR THIS ONE! So I heard it. Usually more than once. And I liked them. All of them. I found myself picking up the words-most especially to You’ll Be Back. I would make Eliza play that one over and over. Finally, she got sick of it and refused to play it for me. I figured out how to YouTube it and then eventually just broke down and bought the album on iTunes. Summer came and we would go out to the pool and play the Hamilton soundtrack. Loud. Yes, even with OH! Southern motherfucking (uh-huh) Democratic-Republicans! from “Washington On Your Side”….I did not care. It was Hamilton or nothing. When we were in NYC in June for Eliza to sing at Carnegie Hall with her choir, we entered the lottery for tickets numerous times and lost. I told The Middle Child how sorry I was that I could not buy us tickets. Hamilton is sold out until 2017 and resale tickets average around $1250. We did not have $2500-$3000 for 2 of us to buy tickets to go see a show! Even if we did, my conscience would never allow it. I would never sleep again if I spent that kind of money on something like that.(We aren’t destitute…just average, middle class Americans with a kid going off to a private college in August and two other kids, a mortgage, etc.) MOM!!! I KNOW!! I WOULD NEVER EXPECT ANYTHING LIKE THAT EVER!!! I KNEW WE COULD NOT SEE IT!!! my sweet, sweet Eliiizaaa said to me. I tried to put it out of my mind, but it simply would not go away. Lin (Manuel Miranda-we are now on a first name basis LOL) held a sweepstakes to benefit the Hispanic Federation. The Grand Prize was to be 2 tickets to his LAST performance in Hamilton on July 9, complete with 2 airline tickets, and hotel accommodations, as well as getting to go to an after party with the cast. There were different levels at which you could enter. There was an Eliza level for $225. This gave you 2,250 entries, a hoodie and a beanie with the sweepstakes logo “I Did Not Throw Away My Shot” on it. The Middle Child used some of her own money to enter. When it was getting close, I had a mental snap, and well, let’s just say I had 750 entries and will be receiving a t-shirt 😉 We spent the last week of June at the beach in South Carolina.- Laurens is in South Carolina, redefining brav’ry-I now have Hamilton lyrics for every occasion 😉 I began reading stories online about people camping out for cancellation line tickets outside of the theater. I had camped out for concert tickets before-back in the day-The Grateful Dead, in particular. I began to view this option as somewhat of a dare, if you will…so I took myself up on it. I did not realize that Eliiizaaa had not taken me seriously when I had been talking about it. When I told her I had bought our plane tickets, she jumped out of her beach chair and started screaming. Looking back now, the me that she knows is far more mundane, I suppose. She has never known me to be spontaneous and compulsive in this way. I may have scared her a little.
When we got to NYC, it did not take long for me to figure out that talking about this and doing this were two completely different things! Sleeping on 46th Street in a kid-sized Lightning McQueen sleeping bag, which was stuffed inside a Hefty Cinch Sack because of rain, was, in my mind, a new low for me. And, sleeping in a kid-sized sleeping bag at 5 feet 5 inches is like sleeping in a short-sheeted bed. It was hot-a different kind of hot than in Atlanta. On the very first day, not long after we arrived there, I thought to myself, what the fuck have I done? , though later that night-watching my Eliiizaaa sing the songs from Hamilton with all of our fellow Hamilcampers, on the steps of The Richard Rodgers Theater, that question was answered for me….I had done the right thing. I never questioned myself again.
The Cancellation Line (CL) is a few different things, and probably more than what I know. And, what I think I know, may or may not be true! It is just what I was told by others. Seats become available for different reasons. Cast and crew have seats for family and friends. If their family and friends are not using the tickets, those tickets may go to the CL. If a lottery ticket winner does not pay for their ticket by the specified time, that ticket may go to the CL. Ticket re-sellers may sell unsold tickets back to the theater at the last minute and the theater may sell those tickets to the CL. For whatever reason, the tickets that go to the CL do not go there until the last minute. This means that if you have been sleeping out in the line for days and you get tickets, you go in exactly as you are. You do not get to go take a shower and get dressed up. What happened for us was better than it could have been. On Tuesday, when we did not get in, the line had to disperse for the duration of the show. We hopped on a train and went to our friend’s house in Pelham. We took a shower and re-packed our backpack’s and left our big suitcase there. That was the best shower of MY LIFE. We got back to Hamilcamp around 11:00 and it had cooled off, so we did not get all sweaty and nasty again-we went to sleep. Wednesday was a complete clusterfuck. Ham 4 Ham happens on Wednesday’s. This is when some of the cast comes out and does a skit and they have a live lottery. The lottery tickets cost $10. A Hamilton for a Hamilton-get it? This was to be Lin-Manuel Miranda’s last Ham 4 Ham. Over 5000 people showed up–the most ever. I started to get nervous. The theater recognizes the first 20 in the line. We were barricaded off to the side. We even had NYPD protection for awhile-it was wild. Some dishonest people tried to lie and say they had been in the headcount. I have never seen grown adults lie outright like that. I was greatly disappointed in humanity that day. There were so many people. I had a feeling that everything line-related was about to fall apart. The lady from the theater started coming out and offering us premium tickets. These cost $544 each. I really did not want to do that. I wanted to hold out, but I was scared. A few people bought premium’s.I decided to wait one more day, then I decided I was going to cave. I was up next for premium’s when they came out with regular tickets-$199 each, but there was someone in front of me for one regular, which meant one for him and one for us. I looked at Eliza and I said YOU GO! MOM! Are you SURE? she asked me, with tears in her eyes. Tears sprang to my eyes. ABSOLUTELY!, I said, without hesitation, we came here for you! with my heart breaking in half because I was dying to see it with her, and we had done all of this together, as the only mother/daughter Hamilcampers at that time! I handed her a credit card and when she left, people started cheering. I had not really noticed that there was still a long line of people next to us-getting ready to go into the theater. These people had watched all of this go down. The tears started flowing and I couldn’t make them stop. Please let there be one more ticket. The Middle Child sent me a text message that said, you have reached a new level of awesome momness among the group. More tears. She had already told me several times that the others had said they thought I was an awesome mom for doing this. This really had been a great bonding experience for the two of us. We had not fought a single second. There had not been a single eye roll. About 10 minutes went by. I kept thinking that it had been too long-the lady was not coming back. One of the guys in line came up to me and told me we still had 15 minutes and I should not worry! About that time, the lady came around the corner again, I have two more!! she said. I just need one! I said with my voice shaking and tears streaming down my face. Okay, is there someone else who will take the other one? the lady asked. Of course there was-there always is for Hamilton! As I ran in the theater with the lady, I heard everyone cheering. Let me just say that this was serious Lifetime Movie Material, people. I could not have scripted it better, myself! I was shaking so hard I could hardly pay for my ticket. When I got inside the theater, my heart was pounding so hard I thought surely it could be heard outside my body. I WAS IN! WE WERE BOTH IN! WE WERE IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS! OH MY GOD. When I got to my seat in the center orchestra section, and there was my Eliiizaaa, and all of our new BFF’s we had been sleeping on the sidewalk with since Monday morning, Eliza jumped up , and we hugged and our little group cheered, and the people all around us cheered , and everyone was crying…I am totally serious. At that moment-we were the stars of this show! Eliza and I did not sit next to each other, but our whole little group was together, and it was all good. The lights dimmed and it began….How does a >>bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman >>dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean>>by providence Impoverished, in squalor>>Grow up to be a hero and a scholar?>>…. People were cheering and audibly gasping. Then it got to the world is gonna know your name…what’s your name, man?….and Lin-Manuel Miranda came out, and I thought I might pass out right there. People were screaming and cheering-I among them. There was a noticeable pause-there had to be-before Lin could sing his next line…Alexander Hamilton>>My name is Alexander Hamilton. I had read about the pause, and how it had grown. The audience goes completely nuts when Lin comes out at the beginning. In fact, we got a couple of glimpses of Lin on Tuesday, and the same thing happened each time-uncontrollable screaming from everyone who is around. He is charming and marvelous and adorable. The entire play is in song. One right after the next. There is no way for me to adequately describe how magnificent it all is–the costumes, the set, the rotating stage floor design, the dancing, the singing, the music, it is all perfect. I cried through most of it-not only because I was so happy to be there, but because the whole thing is really so beautiful and wonderful and GRAND. I thought my heart might burst with love for Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and Lafayette! Whoever would have thought it? It is so fabulous that you can hear people openly weeping during parts of it. I was one of those people. I could not help myself. I was a wreck. It was that much.
I could see The Middle Child’s face from the side. I could see that she was having the same spiritual experience that I was having. When it was over, I could not stop crying. I was taken aback that the cast did one curtain call as a whole. Nobody came out by themselves for applause. They held hands together because they had worked together and made all of this wonderment happen together. For me, it symbolized that not one person had done anything alone. It was sort of the same with all of us sitting there together on the right sides of those 2 rows in the center orchestra section–we had not done this alone. During Cabinet Battle #1, after Thomas Jefferson did his rap, Lin did his, and after we know who’s really doing the planting, our wonderful Jawan gave Lin a thumbs up, and I swear to you, Lin gave one back! Our little group felt like Lin gave that thumb’s up to all of us-not just to Jawan 😉 I just got chills while typing that sentence!
The most important piece happened after the show. The Middle Child and I went to grab some dinner at Junior’s before heading out to Pelham for another shower. While we were there, my Eliza said to me, Mom, thank you. Thank you so much for finally getting one of my Broadway obsessions! Oh. I got it, alright. I got it baaaaaaddddddddd. And it has made all the difference in our relationship. How weird is it to think that my daughter and I have been brought closer together by one of America’s Founding Father’s? Or was it Lin-Manuel Miranda? Or maybe it is that we slept on the sidewalk in NYC…..? I guess it’s just the whole shebang.
Throughout our big adventure, I gave updates on Facebook and on thepsychomother.com, with #ATL2Lin_Manuel, created by my friend Wendy Weir (Greater Than Gravity )-thanks Wendy! You ROCK! When I started, I fully expected people to tell me I had lost my mind. I never, in a million years, expected the outpouring of love and support that I got from family and friends and friends of friends as well as complete strangers who just happened to hear about me. Some of the comments were things like you are showing Eliza how to make something happen for herself–which was a view I had not yet taken. See, what some of you do not know is that I wanted to see Hamilton as much as she did. As I sat there, in my sweaty Belmont t-shirt, old Lilly shorts, and purple running shoes, Lin’s words were resonating in my heart and in my head….And I wanted what I got>>When you got skin in the game, you stay in the game But you don’t get a win unless you play in the game>> Oh, you get love for it. You get hate for it You get nothing if you…Wait for it, wait for it, wait>> And then click boom, and it happened….my Eliiizaaa and I were in the room where it happened.