Last week I talked about finding my old illustrated copy of Phantom of the Opera. I left off with me sitting down to read it’s story once more. Of course, much like the mouse and her cookie reading the story led me to downloading the soundtrack, led me to sharing it with my sons, led us to watching the 1950s version, led us to getting the 25th anniversary special of the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical and watching that. (The boys totally dug it by the way!!) Side note to say that the costumes in that production are so fantastic. If there was a fan experience where you could wear the costumes and strut around on stage for a bit, I’d totally pay for that experience. Side, side note, one of my best friends actually met the cast and got to ride in the boat across the stage when she was in eighth grade…The Eighth grade me, that’s trapped inside, nearly exploded when I found out.
All of that got me thinking about my Grammy. I guess after the Christmas miracle of the out of print book she started thinking about taking me to Toronto to see if for myself. That was so far beyond the realm of possibility for me that when she told me, I nearly fainted.
Several weeks before the trip she took me to Macey’s to buy a dress (lacy and navy blue), and shoes (black Mary Janes with the perfect heel, I wore them until they died somewhere around my second year of marriage). Then we went to the makeup counter where she bought me my first bit of makeup and had the lady show me how to use it. I remember telling the lady behind the counter that I wanted eye shadow “that would give my eyes depth. Like Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle.” I am laughing now! I wonder what that meant?
What I remember from the show was walking into the Theater. The Pantages Theater doesn’t look like much from the outside, and I was confused. Until we walked in the front door and the lobby swallowed me. It was exactly right. Red velvet carpets, huge gold gargoyles and cherubs hanging from the ceilings. so. many. pillars! In my memory there is a huge sweeping stair case, but I’m honestly not sure if that was real (someone let me know in the comments). When the pit orchestra started warming up I got chills all up and down my spine, and decided right then that was my favorite sound in the world (side note, I still love the sound of the pit orchestra tuning, it’s like the anticipation is too much for even the instruments!). I don’t think I blinked for the next three hours. It was everything I had hoped, and dreamed and imagined.
I have a couple other memories of that night, eating a snickers bar in the room because I was too excited to go to bed, laughing when we checked out of the hotel and the receptionist asked if we’d had “two rums” (you’d laugh too if you knew my Grammy), but the one that really sticks in my heart is of my Grammy looking over at me during the performance and just smiling.
I’m older now, I can see how giving that experience to someone would be really special. I just wish she knew what she gave to me. It wasn’t just the dress, or that night, though it was amazing. It was knowing that she loved me, deeply. It’s having this special memory to hold on to when I think about her. It’s remembering that smile, on that night, when I know she no longer recognizes mine. Not only was it a gift that drew me closer to her, but it’s was also a gift that sowed seeds into my imagination that would take root and grow and become part of my passion for telling stories. Being a writer is so much apart of who I am, and that moment in time was one of the few times when I knew in my heart that making stories, like Gaston Leroux and Andrew Lloyd Webber, was the thing that I wanted to do more than anything!
Thank you Grammy. Someday when you get to heaven and you get to see how you made the world a better place, I hope you’ll see how Phantom and Toronto and navy blue dresses was part of that.