Dear Ellie — You’re rolling over now. Opa and I were trying to talk to you on FaceTime, but you couldn’t be bothered for long. You’d get a determined look on your face, and voila, you’d flip onto your stomach — delighted with yourself and ready to do it again.
Fortunately, your parents send us a steady supply of videos and snapshots of you (maybe because they know we start to complain loudly if we don’t get our daily fix). I won’t tell you how many times Opa and I watched this video of you screeching with laughter at your father’s antics. “Want to watch it just one more time?” I’d ask — and Opa would nod eagerly. One more time!
It’s funny to look at you, propped up by your parents’ hands, carried around by them, placed in strollers and baby beds. You’re confined and completely dependent, for now. But you’re already struggling against those restraints, trying to do more and more on your own.
Then I look at Opa and me, at our own very different time in life. In our sixties, we’re fortunate to be freer than we were in our early and middle years. We’re fairly comfortable financially, we travel, we work hard at things we care about, we’re healthy, our children are grown.
It’s a lovely time for us. But there’s also an undercurrent, an unease, to this point in life. How many good years do we have left? What losses will we face in the future?
You can dismiss this kind of thinking as pessimism, but I think it’s simple reality. You have to acknowledge the shadows, because they give meaning to life. I also think the knowledge that nothing lasts forever makes you more appreciative of what you have now.
So, while you were rolling over by yourself and learning to eat solid foods, Opa and I were appreciating one of our favorite places in the world, New York. We love its intensity, its energy, its unsurpassed culture. I can’t think of a place more different from the flat, barren, lonely plains of West Texas where we come from — which may explain part of its great appeal to both of us.
We’d come because Opa had talks to give in Connecticut — and I show up in New York any time I get the chance. The flimsiest excuse will do.
This time, we had a lot more than a flimsy excuse. We had tickets to see “Hamilton,” the hit musical about Alexander Hamilton, the American revolution, and the very beginnings of this country. It’s the story of a brilliant, deeply flawed man and the brilliant, deeply flawed origins of the country we live in.
“Hamilton” is a phenomenon. People line up tickets months in advance or they pay a small fortune. We paid a small fortune — but what the hay. I love theater and this was one of the events of a lifetime.
So much for plans. A blizzard hit New York just after we did. Somebody even named the blizzard Jonas, like it was a hurricane or a pet hamster (since when do blizzards get names, for crying out loud?). Anyway, Jonas was a prolific little creep who dumped 27 inches of snow in Manhattan and our show was canceled. Prolific little creeps show up in your life from time to time, uninvited.
Opa and I got to whine a lot about being Jonas victims, and everybody I’d bragged to about seeing “Hamilton” sent sympathetic messages. The fact we got a full refund made us a lot more cheerful about it. We saw other plays, we saw friends, we skidded around on the sidewalks.
Right now, we’re thinking about April. In April, you’ll be eight months old. You’ll be on schedule to crawl, pull yourself up, and mouth some new syllables like “ma-ma” and “da-da.” Opa and I will be back in New York, and we’ve already got our replacement tickets to see “Hamilton.”
Every age, you’ll find, has its compensations. Love you, Coco