Setting the stage for meaningful memories

Once in a while there is a moment in life that gives you pause; even stops you in your tracks, as the circle of life becomes an overbearing elephant in the room. Sometimes the elephant is filled with joy, and only gives you a light mortality slap. The events surrounding my daughter’s recent birthday are one such pachyderm.

I wanted to honour her 16th birthday in a memorable way, so I booked us a trip to see some musical theatre in Toronto. She is a very talented singer and actress, having performed in local musicals, but had yet to see any “Broadway” musicals outside of the Sault.

I booked us Come from Away tickets, and then found that Cats had begun a new run. The way that the seating availability worked out, we would see Cats first. That is when the epiphany happened. My first major musical was Cats when my mother and stepfather took my sister and me to Montreal to see it.

So there I sat, staring at my hands poised on my laptop keyboard, and all I saw was my mother’s hands. My skin is now more crepe-like and less elastic. I have some brown spots that I never noticed before. I am the mom, the matriarch, the old one in our house.

I focused on the beauty and symmetry of the moment, and called my mother to let them know of our plans if they wanted to join us. They chose to see Come from Away with us.

Fast-forward to her birthday, Cats was like I had remembered it, though children weren’t allowed up on stage with Old Deuteronomy, like I had been in Montreal. It was a magical evening. The song Memories from an aging/aged cat, who’s life was once so full of happiness and beauty, was haunting, though felt a bit close to home.

The next afternoon, sitting in the front row, Come from Away was an emotional roller-coaster of profound joy and sorrow, with an amazing cast, excellent writing, and truly memorable music. I was on my feet clapping before the lights had come up after the last song. I was awed by the performance. It is my new favourite show (and that was even before we were able to meet one of the actors and two of the show’s musicians).

As a 9-11 related musical, I was left thinking about how much my life has changed since 2001. My then partner, turned husband, is now my ex-husband. I have moved cities, changed careers, got a doctoral degree, and have two teenagers. Neither were even a sparkle in my eye yet during 9-11, and now the idea of life without them is unbearable.

Looking over at my daughter on one side of me and my mother a few seats down, the chain links felt so strong and yet so fragile at the same time.

Coincidentally, our flight home was delayed 28 hours, and we made the most of a less than ideal situation. It was not unlike the plot of Come From Away where airline passengers were stranded in Gander, Nfld.

A week later, on my most recent flight, I find myself watching The Lion King, pondering Simba and Mustafa (and the cats of Cats) my daughter and me, my mother and me, Come From Away, and this circle of life. I know that I can’t stop nor slow down the cycle. I just hope that I have built in enough lasting memories, so that the elephants in the room truly never forget.

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