Wait for It
Same as every other Sunday, my family began our weekly shopping early.
Unlike most Sundays, we first stopped by the bookstore so I could buy a hard copy of Ready Player One (upon multiple recommendations).
On our way to the cash register, my husband, Anthony, pointed out one particular display to me: “Hey, it’s the book that inspired Hamilton.”
If you’d asked me three months ago whether I’d read a book on Alexander Hamilton for fun, I’d have said no, but only after laughing. A lot.
Then, two months ago, one of the bloggers I follow posted links to a couple of songs from a show called Hamilton. I can’t even remember which one I listened to or who posted it (so sorry!/thank you!), but I clicked through to one of the songs and listened. Anthony quickly joined me at my computer and we listened together.
“How have I not heard of this?” I asked him, as if I’ve watched more than a single musical (Wicked) live. Anthony’s the musical lover in this house.
I didn’t think much more of it until two weeks ago, when Anthony pointed out the soundtrack available at the register.
We set a copy on the conveyor belt and began listening to the first disc immediately when we got in the car.
“Did this really happen?!” exclaimed our six-year-old from the back.
“Yes, sweetie. These things happened … not in these words, exactly, but these are how we can imagine them based on what we know,” I told him.
We only got to listen to the first five or six songs before reaching home, but we were captivated.
I listened to the remainder of the soundtrack driving to work the next couple of days. I wept first to “Wait for It,” track 13 on the first disc, but cried through several more songs on the second disc.
I felt vaguely guilty, not waiting to share the experience with Anthony, but there was no way I was waiting with those discs tantalizing me from my passenger seat. I already knew I’d listen to them several times, beside, and that we’d share it before long.
I listened two times through before Anthony and I resumed listening together last weekend.
Yesterday, having benefited from a date afternoon courtesy my sister Amelia, Anthony and I finished our lunch before driving around near our home long enough to finish listening all the way through together.
(There were zero dry eyes in the car, not that you needed me to tell me that.)
Before awakening this morning, then, I dreamed I was flying to New York to take in Hamilton there. It’s coming to Los Angeles, sure, but it won’t be here for more. than. a. year.
When I awakened, I checked–with Anthony’s blessing–on New York ticket prices. They are well outside our price range, so that my accountant self had to restrain the rest of myself against the very real urge to pay $700 per ticket for my family.
The thought I’d be so deeply entranced by a musical would have had me laughing three months ago. A historical musical? My laughter would’ve been all the more incredulous! I’ve had to sit through several history classes in my life, after all, and knew far too well that history was boring things done by boring people many, many boring years ago. “History” meant matching those boring events to specific dates, and hoping I’d remembered those dates well enough to pass each test.
Listening to Hamilton, history is alive and present. It’s far from boring; so much so that even a six-year-old, surprised, would ask, “Did this really happen?!”
Seeing history–and Hamilton–in this different light, with no expectation I remember specific dates, has been invigorating. It’s not only made me so desirous of seeing the musical that I dream it, but made me so much more intrigued by history outside the bounds of high school lessons.
It’s made me wonder how I can make the subject of history more engaging and interactive for my sons than it ever was for me. If I have to write songs to do it, so be it! I’m nowhere near as skilled at songwriting or storytelling as Hamilton‘s author and Hamilton actor, Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I’ll surely get better with practice! Visiting historical sites? Reenactment? I’ll do that, too.
So, today, I bought the book Hamilton after standing in a bookstore walkway chuckling at historical segments anything but dry, hearing in my head the songs Miranda wrote inspired by the book.
And I walked away from that bookstore with my own copy in my bag, excited to learn more about Hamilton, history … and engaging kids in history that is so much more complex and fascinating than matching dates to events.