Wish You Were Here: Making Sweet Music, Man

"Hugh Jackman in Concert - Broadway to Oz" by Eva Rinaldi licensed under CC 2.0

I’ve never been much of a city person, or a country person for that matter. So I’m not really sure where that leaves me. Oh… right.

Don’t get me wrong, being in the ‘burbs has its fair share of perks, I’m not complaining. Even if I wanted to, I’m pretty sure my lungs couldn’t withstand racing for the train and kvetching to my mother-in-law about the fact that the only Fairfield County home her son and I might ever be able to afford would undoubtedly come on wheels or be constructed of cardboard, or both. (I feel like it’s good to have life goals).

“Just go on without me,” she manages, panting, behind me. “Just go!”

The Golden’s Bridge Station in Westchester is quiet for a Wednesday at 9:24 a.m., or would be quiet, I should say, if I weren’t screaming like a fish wife, “Wait! Hold the train!” And if my mother-in-law wasn’t yelling into the phone for my father-in-law to “Come put money in the meter because we just have to go, Barry! There’s no time!”

To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if she’d put the car into park or if it was rolling down the embankment, but sometimes you just have to hope you’re in the right station, on the right train on your way to see The Music Man and that you didn’t perhaps, possibly, probably leave your purse in a possibly, probably, most definitely unlocked vehicle.

But no, I had it, along with my phone and all the girlish giddiness of my husband about to get growing in that greenhouse because hey, Hugh Jackman, 76 trombones couldn’t hold me back. We were on our way!

My mother-in-law settled herself into her seat, sighed, and then proceeded to launch into a full-scale assessment of everything that is wrong with the way I pretty much do everything, and how children need boundaries, order and routine. Or maybe she said they need bouncy balls, popcorn and gelatin — it was hard to hear over the train. The sum of all things being, I fell short somewhere between not getting my Masters in something, anything… (gelatin comes to mind) and using the crib for purposes other than storing sleep training books I apparently never got around to reading.

But none of that bothered me because, as my sister-in-law of the accelerated degree and sleep-trained babies assures me, it comes from a place of love and also she was taking me to see Hugh, so (for a hot minute anyway), I was totally happy to tell her I read all those books she gave me and am seriously considering going back to school — the chances of which are right about up there with Hugh realizing I’m the sadder but wiser girl for him and making me the next Mrs. Jackman. I briefly entertained this somewhat detailed fantasy, chronicling everything from the moment he laid eyes on the slightly deranged-looking woman, singing along to Lida Rose, 12th-row center, to the tiny flat we’d share in Park Slope. No cardboard or wheels would be involved. He’d know how I take my coffee and 110 cornets might just find themselves playing to the commencement of our carnal pleasures and yes, I’m very aware I need help.

We hit Ellen’s Stardust Diner before the show. My mother-in-law ordered a Cobb salad before taking a burrito out of her purse and offering me a bite. I politely declined, marveling at the sheer amount of ridiculously talented young people singing in foodservice. She ordered three cups of decaf just so we could sit a little longer.

(This is the moment I break the fourth wall and disclose to you that despite all of my in-law lamenting and despite the fact that the burrito looked well past its expiration date, we really do have a good relationship.)

Rushing for that early train gave us a good two-and-half-hours before the show so we spent the second half of it sauntering through the city, almost getting hit by a couple of cabs and seriously overpaying at the M&M Store. I was amazed by the number of grown women who stood in line to find out what color candy they were, only to look visibly disappointed at the answer. The same expression, no doubt, was found on my own sorry mug after concluding that I’d effectively paid $10 a pop for a bag of snack-size M&M’s inserted into a pretty pink handheld fan (which promptly broke) times three, plus tax. You do the math. As I’m sure Harold Hill would agree, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

But truthfully, I was enraptured, and not just by the play, (which, if you have the means, by all means, run don’t walk for that train) or the $10 M&M’s that literally did not melt in my hand and not in my mouth because I forgot I was holding them but it really didn’t matter because New York, it gets me every time. The lights, the noise, the very persistent young man who was relentless in his quest to upsell us a hot dog, and Hugh… need I say more?

I will leave you with this.

We got on the Westchester-bound train and I don’t think I’ve ever walked so much in my life or at least in the last year and so I was fading fast by the end of the day. I closed my eyes for what I thought was under two minutes but was really more like almost an hour. And when I woke up, who was staring down at me but Hugh, alive, in the flesh. I mean, he was wearing clothes otherwise those cornets would have been orchestrating and…you get the idea… and he just looked at me like no one had ever looked at me before and then he said, “Lesley Kirschner, you pile up enough tomorrows, and you’ll find you are left with nothing but a lot of empty yesterdays.” Then he shook me and told me to wake up and “get off the train because Barry forgot to put the money in the meter and maybe they towed my car by now,” and then it dawned on me, Hugh sounded an awful lot like my mother-in-law.

“Golden’s Bridge,” the conductor called and so we ran, this time away from the train and back to the car, which, although unlocked, was amazingly still there and even more amazingly put in park.

“Well,” my mother-in-law said, pulling out of the station. “I don’t know about you, but today was definitely worth remembering.”

Columnist Lesley Kirschner grew up quiet, in the woods, and devoid of siblings so her hobbies quickly became reading, writing, and talking to inanimate objects. She also spent a considerable amount of time doing voice-overs for her dolls and watching too much daytime television–channel 3, sometimes channel 8, if the weather was good and the antenna wasn’t acting up. She was in attendance at school, graduated from a very much not notable college not worth mentioning, and was transplanted to Wilton with her husband, Ambler Farm‘s Farmer Jonathan and their (baby makes) three children almost a decade ago. Although she never quite found her calling in life, other than perhaps the doll voice-overs, which in hindsight were eerily convincing, she’s happy to try her hand at writing and is thankful for the support and community she found on Facebook’s Buy Nothing Wilton. Lesley realizes while this is all very exciting, she’s not winning a Pulitzer so she’ll wrap it up and be quiet. She’s had a lot of practice.

photo: Hugh Jackman in Concert – Broadway to Oz by Eva Rinaldi licensed under CC by 2.0