Thursday, May 22, 2008

Racing to Casey...Slowly

Casey on-stage fills my heart with a joy that banishes every other thought or feeling. I smile, all light, listening to my daughter sing.

It has been awhile. She last sang onstage three years ago, at college. Dave and I had been anticipating her upcoming cabaret showcase for months. But we almost didn’t make it.

It seemed reasonable to depart at 2:10 in order to arrive when the theater doors opened at 4:00. Dave’s brother, Steve, and his wife, Debby, were meeting us at the commuter lot on Route 58 at 2:20.

I cut Dave’s hair after his shower, then meandered outside to clip some lilac boughs for Casey. Zach, Casey’s boyfriend, arrived promptly at 1:45. Our friend Joan pulled in about 2:05; she’d stopped to buy brownies from two kids at a road-side stand. We left our house right on time, picked up Steve and Deb, and cruised onto the Merritt Parkway.

We zipped along, boppin’ to “Love Shack’ and “Disco Inferno.” The lilacs perfumed the car. The day was sunny; we were off to New York City to see Casey’s show; and we were all together.

As we crossed into New York state, the weather turned. The sky clouded over and it started to drizzle. Then it poured. Oh well!

Traffic slowed to near non-movement as we passed a phalanx of Trump buildings overlooking the Hudson River. It was 3:30. Plenty of time. “How far do we have to go?“ I asked.

“Still quite a ways,” Dave answered.

Joan was sitting next to me and we are one in our anxieties and vulnerabilities. Her antennae were quivering, invisible though they were, swiveling my way as she tuned in to my angst.

We crept along. Sort of. “I’m getting off,” said Dave.

The pace was not much better on the crossroads of the city. We hit every red light. We were daunted by one-way streets. Our path was barred by sawhorses put up for a street fair.

Finally, we went right on 7th Avenue, turning toward our destination-address of Christopher and 7th. We don’t know the city well, and this turned out to be a bad choice. “Is that Times Square straight ahead?”

Of course it was.

It was Times Square with its mammoth neon signs, come-on posters and head-thrown back gawkers; with its press of visitors from Japan, Germany and France; with its babble of voices and its streets clogged with vehicles that do not move.

It was 4:00. Somewhere out there, on Christopher and 7th, the doors of the theater, The Duplex, were open.

I wish I could say that my mantras were working, that “faith in the unfolding” was reeling peacefully from brain cell to brain cell, keeping me calm and resigned. But, no.

Through gritted teeth I said, “I may have to walk. I am not missing this show.”

We were blocks from The Duplex. Blocks and blocks away. Walking was not a sensible option.

Hysteria was an option. And I took it; quietly, and in my own head. I pictured my girl walking onstage – beautiful, a little nervous, but ready to belt. I imagined her face as she scanned the audience, peering past the stage lights into the dark… and seeing that we were not there.


My mind shifted to blame-mode, always a good release. But there was no refuge there; this was no one’s fault. My eyes darted from frozen car to frozen car. “I’ll grab a cab,“ I thought, ever so rationally.

In my self-centered stewing, I gave passing consideration to Zach who sat, quiet and patient, in the middle seat with Debby. He’d opted to ride with us rather than take the train. This would be his first opportunity to hear Casey sing.

I flickered a thought in Dave’s direction as he sat white-knuckled at the wheel, yearning to see Casey as much as I was. I gave a mental nod to Joan, Deb and Steve, Casey’s faithful godmother, aunt and uncle who’d attended every show in which she’d appeared.

And we were all stuck in traffic at 4:15.

Dave, my generous, most-beloved husband said, “You all take the subway. I’ll deal with the car.”

I was already gathering up my umbrella and coat. I felt badly for Dave, but I’m a selfish mother. I was not going to miss Casey’s show.

Steve said to his brother, “You’ve got to see her too. I’ll take the car. You find a subway.”

Steve and Dave ping-ponged briefly over who’d take the car, or more accurately, who’d sit in the car in traffic. Debby said, “I’ll stay with Steve. Hurry up and go! You can’t miss this!”

Subways, oh! They are scary. I don’t really trust them. What if we chose the wrong line and wound up in some god-forsaken place?

We asked the man at the cubicle for directions as we purchased a ticket. We confirmed with another man as we waited on the platform. We checked with a third man once we boarded the train. We were not going to miss this performance.

I asked Zach, ‘What’s the time?” and he glanced at his watch. ‘”Don’t tell me!’ I said. “I don’t want to know.”

His blue eyes were kind, indulgent, forgiving. “We’re fine. We’ll make it. We’re fine.”

The lilacs I’d gathered were drooping. The scent was a comfort, the lavender flowers and heart-shaped leaves a happy splash of color in the underground tunnel. Each time the train lurched, I stumbled, thrusting the lilacs into a stranger’s face. Each time, the stranger smiled.

28th street. 24th street. 23rd street. A local. These trains usually fly. We were moving so slowly; could something be wrong? A technical failure” A blockage on the tracks? Were we on the right train?

“Christopher Street!” Joan shrieked as we shuddered to a halt. We pushed out the sliding door and bolted up the stairs.


“That’s it,” said Zach. “Across the road.”

“It? You mean The Duplex? We’re here?!”

We raced across the street, the wilted lilacs bobbing and shedding a trail of spent blossoms on black asphalt. We thumped up the stairs and took our seats.

The lights dimmed and there was a slight commotion in the back of the theater. Steve and Debby smiled and waved as they inched down the aisle.

We made it. We all made it. And Casey singing onstage filled my heart with a joy that banished all else. I smiled, all light, listening to my daughter sing.

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