If you are new to Sharon Wheatley’s blog, I write stories in “blogisodes”. To start, go to blogisode one of this story here: http://wp.me/p1zRyr-eg
Happy Thursday! This blogisode is brought to you by 11:15pm after a full day of meetings and me launching back full throttle into New York City life. I have to blog fast and get to bed, my friends! It’s Charlotte’s first day of 8th grade tomorrow (AN EIGHT GRADER?? MY BABY!!). Just as a side note for all you non-New Yorkers, can you even believe they start school so late in New York? Isn’t it the weirdest thing? Have your kids been back in school for weeks by now? I know. It’s not my idea, file your complaints with the New York City Department of Education.
But really, let’s not waste any time and head right back to our story. Ready?
Back to 2001, things were beginning to look a bit sketchy. It’s early September and we have my parents demolishing portions of their burned house, packing their mosquito netting for Africa, me packing my Kleenex for Atlanta, and Rob was looking for flights for a visit with Charlotte.
The night before I left, I did several things to get ready. First I made an audio tape of all the songs I usually sing to Charlotte when putting her to bed. Then I made an audio tape of me telling her stories to listen to in the car. These were not short tapes; I think I took
up both sides of a 90 minute tape, and several times I had to pause the tape because I was crying. Rob would never tell me the truth about this, but I’m guessing maybe they listened to the sappy mother tape for the first 5 minutes on day one, and then popped off the tape and watched the Yankee Game. I, on the other hand, took a tape of Charlotte talking and playing a long game with her imaginary pals Cookie and Sally, which I just about wore out listening to in my Atlanta rental car. As if I wasn’t upset enough just by driving–remember I was terrified to drive because of my recent panic attack. But somehow, listening to that tape and crying while speeding down a highway seemed like a good idea at the time. I make no excuses. I was a mess.
Together Charlotte and I made a little calender in orange construction paper that outlined the number of days I would be gone, so she could keep track and count off the
days. I drew a little airplane with “Mommy” flying to peach trees on September 3rd, a little airplane with Charlotte and Daddy flying to peach trees on September 8th, and then Charlotte and Daddy flying back to the Manhattan skyscrapers on September 11th and Mommy flying back to Manhattan skyscrapers on September 16th. This is one of those moments that Rob is going to say, “How do you remember that?” so I will tell you. The stick figure image of Charlotte and Rob on the airplane heading to skyscrapers on September 11, 2001 haunted me for a long time. But (again) I’m getting ahead of myself.
The flight to Atlanta was blissfully uneventful, I deplaned, rented a car and headed straight to my friend Hylan’s house. A word about Hylan Scott. I met him in rehearsal for my first professional show in 1986. We were doing a production of Nine and–in case you don’t know the show or haven’t seen the more recent movie–it is all women and one man. Hylan was hired as the choreographer for the show–which is an odd thing because traditionally Nine is done with the entire cast sitting on boxes. Our production was
totally choreographed and the female cast was a group of women with body issues, squeezed into miniscule costumes. Somehow Hylan transformed our anxiety into pride and we paraded around in the skimpy costumes believing we were beautiful dancers. He’s good that way. He makes everyone feel wonderful about themselves all the time. We developed a great friendship from those days, yet we never spent enough time together due to the fact that we have always lived in separate cities. It seemed perfect to live with him during this anxious time away from home because if anyone can calm me down and make me have fun, it’s Hylan.
It ended up being a great week. Hylan and I stayed up late and talked, solving all the problems of the world. I was inspired by his free bootin’ life style and creativity, and he was inspired by my ability to settle down and raise a family, while managing to maintain my career. We drank cheap beer and talked late into the night. He played the guitar for me. I pretended to be bohemian–which I am absolutely not–but Hylan can make you feel like it is something you might seriously consider.
I remember lying on the futon the morning Rob and Charlotte were coming and feeling a great peace. I was better. I’d made it through the week intact, I’d rehearsed and gone on, I’d spent time with a friend who was good for the soul, and today my family was coming. I packed my bags and kissed Hylan goodbye, knowing that my sorrow when Rob and
Charlotte went back to New York would be short lived because I was returning to Hylan’s for more fun later in the week. I drove to the airport, reunited with Rob and Charlotte, and headed to the swanky Georgian Terrace Hotel, across the street from the massive Fox Theater where Phantom was playing.
Rob and Charlotte hung out while I went and did the matinee, and then we went for Jamaican food between shows. This is notable only because Charlotte was a pretty adventurous eater at 3 and we could get away with a “grown up” restaurant and stuff her full of Jerk chicken and plantains while Beatrix at three would have none of that nonsense. She’s a kid-menu-food-only kind of gal. Later that night Rob and Charlotte came and saw Phantom, but they left early on because the explosions in the opening number scared her. I remember we were surprised that she was so scared because she’d been around the show her whole life (even in utero–I performed in Phantom until I was 7 months pregnant) and despite the scary ambiance had never registered fear. It was sudden and decisive, and I remember thinking she was at the age where we had to be careful about what she saw and watched because she was really starting to notice things she hadn’t before. Rob took her back to the hotel, tucked her into bed and they watched cartoons until she was sleepy.
The next day was another two show day, and the last two shows of the week. Monday was the day off. Sunday matinees tend to be cranky shows because everyone is tired from 2 shows the day before and there are still 2 shows to get through before the day off. Some people find ways to get around it–I hear Sutton Foster brings bagels and coffee to her casts on Sunday matinees–but all in all you just have to get through it and make it to the giddy and goofy show of the week, the Sunday evening show.
This Sunday evening show was very different in tone, though, because it started with an announcement two minutes before the curtain was about to rise: “ATTENTION LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE NEED YOU TO VACATE THE BUILDING IMMEDIATELY.” It wasn’t a prank, there was a very serious and immediate threat.
To read the next blogisode in this series, go here: http://wp.me/p1zRyr-g4
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