Tears streamed down my cheeks as the final notes rang out and the curtain fell. I’d seen this story before but it never had this effect on me. Something about growing older, becoming a mother and seeing the anguish of a mother choosing the best life for her son, knowing I would do the same, just unleashed a torrent of tears.
On Saturday, Asher, Eliana and I took my mother to see Miss Saigon as a birthday present. I’d seen it before – years ago, when I was a teenager – and of course I didn’t cry then. When you’re young, you can’t possibly imagine having to make choices like your life or your son’s life.
And yes, it’s a dramatic musical. So what? Many people in this world make those life-and-death decisions every single day. I am so lucky that I don’t have to.
Which is how I explained it to my kids when we left the theater. The hardest decisions we have to make each day are what to cook for dinner and which after-school activity looks brightest.
My mother was choked up, too. The dramatic ending of a mother realizing she can never live her own dream of life with her beloved, who is now entangled with someone else, and that the only way he will take his son to America, the land of the free and the safe, is if she’s out of the picture. Who wouldn’t be emotional?
And that’s another thing. In this day and age of shut-down government and stupid squabbling over health care reform, we have forgotten how damn lucky we are to live in the United States with the freedoms and opportunities we have.
Yes, there are people living in poverty here. But it’s also here that people have the unique opportunity to change their status and live differently. I know the roads aren’t paved with gold for most; but at least we can all walk down our roads freely and pursue education, livelihood and love.
I sound righteous, I know. When you’re raised with choice and opportunity, as I was, you start at a higher place, with more doors already open. Thank you, Mom and Dad.
To be born American, on American soil, we are already steps ahead of the rest of the world. It used to be that we understood how fortunate we were to be American. We were patriotic. Proud. Protective.
That has disappeared in this era of argument. I don’t give a damn about partisan politics; let’s get back to a place of gratitude and perspective.
Let’s remember what our forefathers did to pave the way for us. Mine endured trans-Atlantic boat travel to come to a land where they wouldn’t be persecuted in pogroms for what they believed. They imagined a land where we could worship as we choose. And they achieved it.
It doesn’t take that many generations to slip past before we take everything for granted.
I own a business and have worked for myself for 14 years – since I was 27! Where can you do that? In how many countries can recent college graduates in tattered jeans be founders of brilliant tech startups?
Don’t talk to me about hardship until you’ve truly looked through the microscope to decide if your life contains it. Mine doesn’t really. The hardships I face are of an emotional kind and I would do well to take control of the stories I tell in my head on those bluer days and realize that I’ve got it good, damn it.
And so do you.
Saturday night, we gathered in a private room with shoes off to eat sushi and Japanese food on the floor in celebration of Eliana, Grace and Dan’s birthdays. The chocolate cake had three kinds of creamy layers. Life is good. Life is pretty, damn good.