I haven’t spoken publicly about this, but it’s been a very tough year.
I am adjusting to being single again.
The kids are adjusting to a new routine. Sometimes I think it’s getting a bit easier with time. Other days, I’m not so sure. But during some of the most painful months, nothing sounded more appealing than an escape to somewhere magical. A place free from pain, grief and worry.
A place like Neverland.
Today’s wish: that the adventure I’m about to share with you inspires you to someday do something “crazy” and out of the ordinary that brings you joy.
It just so happened that right around the time of our family upheaval, my dear friends David and Tony introduced me to the soundtrack of the new Broadway musical “Finding Neverland.” My daughters and I were instantly “Hooked” (sorry – couldn’t resist the pun.) It’s the story of how a widow and her sons inspired James Barrie to write “Peter Pan,” and how he in turn helped them find joy during a dark time in their lives. As Mr. Barrie sings to them: “Picture a land that you never have seen, where life is eternal and evergreen – a future of happiness all in your hands, all in this place of your dreams, here inside Neverland…”
My 10-year-old daughter Clara memorized every word to that soundtrack. (It has been playing almost constantly in our car since last summer.) She watched all the videos about the show that she could find on YouTube.
As Christmastime approached, she told me her biggest wish: “All I want is to go to New York and see “Finding Neverland” on Broadway.”
It seemed kind of far-fetched and crazy, but the more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t resist the idea. She’s the middle child. She has taken everything the hardest. We had never done something special like this together, just the two of us.
I scrapped and saved, accepted extra freelance work, and found a great deal on an apartment rental through Air BnB. I recruited my mom to help with the other kids.
I cried when I bought the tickets.
Clara and I touched down in NYC a week ago Friday. Seeing the skyscrapers and Statue of Liberty as we descended over the city was breathtaking. David and Tony spoiled us with the gift of a private shuttle service to and from the airport – such a luxury to arrive in style!
In spite of record-breaking windchills, Clara was a dream traveler, handling the cold with hardly a complaint. I loved watching her wide-eyed reaction to the sea of humanity (and the occasional rat) in the subways. We tasted the best pizza and best Chinese food we’d ever experienced. We met wax celebrities galore at Madame Tussaud’s.
And we saw not one, but TWO Broadway musicals, Les Miserables, and Finding Neverland. From the first notes of the orchestras, we were blown away. (Clara actually had to close my jaw for me at one moment when special effects created a stunning moment of Neverland magic!)
I stood with Clara outside the stage door after both performances so she could meet the actors, deciding that sub-zero windchills weren’t going to stop us from the full experience. She was beyond thrilled that the leading men of both productions (Alfie Boe as Jean Valjean in “Les Miz,” and Kevin Kern as James Barrie in “Finding Neverland”) stopped to give her autographs. Both men were charming and sweet to her as she chatted with them.
I was proud of her for not being too shy and star-struck to speak up and tell them how “awesome” she thought they were. I could tell that meeting them made her feel more than excited – she felt SPECIAL. These handsome, uber-talented, charming leading men who she’d just admired in incredible performances thought she was important enough to spend a moment saying hello to her in the freezing cold night air.
I mentioned to “Mr. Barrie” that seeing “Neverland” was all that Clara wanted for Christmas, and I told him how much we loved it. I know that in those fleeting moments outside the stage door, there was no way to express how much it meant to me to have made this little dream come true for my kid. But I wish that somehow every actor, musician and crew member involved in the shows we saw could understand what a gift their artistry was to this mother and daughter who desperately needed an escape.
They gave us magical moments we will never forget.
They took us to Neverland.