“How did she get tickets to 'Hamilton?'” I asked the computer screen.
I’d been scrolling through Facebook when I saw it. I’d clicked and the picture expanded across my screen. I knew it! Another jubilant friend standing in front of the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York, holding up the now-familiar playbill of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s silhouette standing on a truncated star.
I tried not to hate my grammar school best friend.
Then, for the fiftieth time, I checked online to see if I could find a ticket for less than a mortgage payment when added with the cost of a flight to New York. No dice.
“I’ll never get to see this show!” A thick, burning envy churned through my veins as I counted how many of my friends have had the privilege of seeing it. (Seven so far, and two more are going in next month.) I tried not to give in to the self-pity, but it overtook me. I wanted to belly flop on the hard wood floors and wail: It’s not fair! I want to see it too! But I’m an adult, so I didn’t.
Instead I read every article I could find on Mr. Miranda, the creator and star of the show that has now garnered 16 Tony nominations and 11 wins. Then I checked his Twitter feed and ordered his book. I watched the video of his commencement speech at Penn. I told myself that it’s “just a show.”
None of it made me feel any better.
While the feelings didn’t get me one whit closer to "Hamilton," they did get me closer to my children.
When I couldn’t shake the malaise, I berated myself for being so childish. “There are mothers out there worried about the safety of their water supply. Stop with the "Hamilton" pity party.
The following night, my son pitched himself into my lap, apoplectic with sadness. “It’s not fair,” he wailed over my soothing coos. The injustice that occasioned his meltdown was his older sister’s good fortune. She’d found a dollar bill on the ground, so she was going to be able to buy a Pokemon binder before he could. His heart was shattered.
“You’ll get one soon enough.”
His histrionics continued, pressing my patience. I wanted to say, in a not-so-nice tone: Relax, dude. You’ll get your Pokemon binder so shut up. But I didn’t because I thought of my unfulfilled "Hamilton" dreams. I softened. I rubbed his back and said, “I get it. I really do.”
Unfulfilled longing is torture.
A week later, it was my daughter’s turn. She was aggrieved because her brother’s class was going on a field trip to see a play, while she had to sit through a regular old school day. To compound her sorrow, I was one of the chaperones. “He gets the zoo and extra time with you! This is the worst day of my life!” I told her that if that was true, then she had a fantastic life. Unfazed, she dove onto her bed and keened for a good five minutes.
Again, my first impulse was to snap at her to get a grip. I left the room so I didn’t say anything harsh.
I was half way down the hall before the playbill flashed in my mind. Dang it! Here I was again, watching my children grapple with the exact same emotion that roiled in my belly: unfulfilled longing mixed with the envy that comes up watching someone else get the very thing you’re pining for.
I returned to my daughter’s room and sat on her bed, my annoyance ebbing away. “Sweetie, I know how you feel. It’s hard to be denied something you really want, especially when your brother gets it.” She told me that she was so upset about not getting a fun day at the zoo that she “felt the sadness in her body like a toothache on her heart.” A perfect insight. Deeply felt longing is a physical experience that is not pleasant.
I was grateful for the moment to identify with and connect to my daughter.
Inevitably, within a few days, my newsfeed revealed another friend with a golden ticket to see the show. I let myself feeling the longing like a toothache on my heart. While the feelings didn’t get me one whit closer to "Hamilton," they did get me closer to my children, and arguably, that's more important than seeing the hottest play on Broadway. At least, it's a very close second.