Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

On Hamilton – A Family Affair December 15, 2017

I have a bit of a parenting dilemma and I’d be curious to know what you all think about it.

 

I am a big fan of live shows in general.  Musicals, plays, concerts … I’m into all of it.  There are several Broadway shows whose soundtracks I know by heart.  Les Miserables.  Chorus Line.  Aida.  Dear Evan Hansen.  Rent.

I also know all the lyrics to Hamilton.  I mean, as much as is reasonable to expect.  It’s a VERY wordy show.  I don’t want to call it verbose because that implies that some of the words aren’t necessary.  I wouldn’t get rid of any of them.

Singing along with show tunes is usually something I do when I’m alone in the car.  It’s not really the coolest thing to do (apparently) and people can be judgy.  Not that I care what people think but I can’t exactly dive into my most emo self during ‘On My Own (Les Mis) the way I want to while someone is in the room rolling their eyes or putting their fingers in the ears.  I also cannot belt out ‘Tits & Ass (Chorus Line) while my children are in the back seat for obvious reasons.

*Side note* – One of the people who judge my love of show tunes is a fan of techno music so there goes all her credibility. 🙂

 

So anyway, in school, Ace was introduced to Hamilton.  He came home singing the opening song.  It’s kind of a Cliff Notes version of Alexanders life.  It made me happy.  It made Shaunie roll her eyes even further back into her head and stick her fingers even further down inside her ears.

 

I think it’s great that schools are using the show to get kids interested in learning history.  We all know that history class has a reputation for being boring – But it doesn’t have to be.

In drama class they also use it.  The kids were broken into groups and given a part of the show to recreate.  Ace got the role of Philip Hamilton at the time of his duel.  I gave him some back story and then we had fun imagining how Philip would be feeling in that situation and then practicing how it would play out.  So much better than math homework.

 

I’ve said a lot so far without actually saying much of anything.  Talk about burying the lede.  OK, here’s my concern:

Ace has taken that inch he got at school and gone the whole mile with Hamilton.  He is now interested in knowing all the songs.  He’s only 11 and the show does cover some adult-ish topics and includes some adult language which I don’t know if I’m comfortable with him singing about/along with.

 

But is one little “shit” the worst thing if he’s also learning the meaning of words like anarchy and intransigent and unimpeachable and deniability and civility and quagmire and abrasive and reticent?

Is a fairly mild wading into the topic of adultery so bad for him to be exposed to, if, because of this show, he’s also curious about other historical figures and events?

Is him singing “pain in the ass” really so bad if it means we are doing a duet?  Me playing the role of all the women and him playing the men in ‘Take A Break’?  It’s quality time and I love having someone to share my love of history and show tunes with.

Lately the 2 boys have been listening to ‘Aaron Burr Sir’ over and over and over and yes there’s a line in it that says “it’s hard to have intercourse over 4 sets of corsets”, … *yikes* … but I don’t think they really know what they’re singing when they get to that line and Jay absolutely delights in it when Ace gets to the part where he sings “Ooh who are you? Who you? Who are you? Ooh, who is this kid? What’s he gonna do?

The no-fighting bro time is worth it … Right?

 

Help me out here.  Tell me that it’s all fine and that I should just go with it.

 

 

 

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P.S.  Lin-Manuel is killing me.  He put out a new song about the life of Benjamin Franklin.  I was super excited because:

A) Lin-Manuel and B) Another cool way for the kids to learn about yet another founding father.

Except, I listened to the song this morning and it’s great and very educational but he drops more than a couple F bombs.  Like, a lot of them.  That’s a hard no for me.  Come on Linny;  help a mama out and make some kid-friendly history songs.

 

I Wrote My Way out November 29, 2016

I wrote my way out
When the world turned its back on me
I was up against the wall
I had no foundation
No friends and no family to catch my fall
Running on empty, with nothing left in me but doubt
I picked up a pen
And wrote my way out (I wrote my way out)

*Lyrics from The Hamilton Mixtape song, Write My Way Out*

 

 

I went in as a freshman to Rutgers University assuming I’d be a science major.  I had no great passion for science but where I came from, if you were smart, you studied the sciences.  Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Math.

I enrolled in 5 classes that first semester.  After one month I dropped out of Chemistry.  I finished the semester with 2 C’s and 2 F’s.

The following semester I enrolled in 4 classes.  I closed out that second semester with 1 C, 1 D and 2 F’s.

That summer I got a letter from the school saying I was on probation and if I didn’t get myself together I would be kicked out.

I should have cared more.  I didn’t.  I was in too much of a funk.  Not about the grades.  About life.

 

I was up against the wall
I had no foundation
No friends and no family to catch my fall
Running on empty, with nothing left in me but doubt

 

It had been a rough couple of years.  I was just trying to get through one day at a time.  For some strange and unknown reason in my sophomore year I enrolled myself in a class (which to the best of my recollection was) called “The Psychology of Elementary Education”.   The first assignment we had was to write an essay.  I don’t remember the parameters we were given, but I wrote.

I sat in the computer lab for hours and for the first time in my life, I told my truth.

I wrote about my childhood.  I wrote about my hopes and dreams.  I wrote about pain and loss.  I wrote about what I thought made a good teacher.  I wrote about regret and fear.  I wrote about my interests and the things that had moved me up to that point.

I don’t know what made me do it, but I poured my heart out onto those pages.  It was the most raw I had ever been.  Something about spilling my soul to someone I didn’t know was therapeutic.  I knew my professor was the only person who would ever read it and I was a nobody in a class of about 50 students so I would still be able to maintain my low profile.

The following week, after class, my professor asked me to stay behind.  He told me how much he had enjoyed my paper and that it was the best one of the class.  It had a big A+ written at the top.  I just stared at him.  I, all of a sudden, felt very exposed and it made me want to curl up in a corner.  Then he asked me if it was ok for him to have the other students read my paper.  I must have said yes, (probably because back then I didn’t know how to say no to a professor).  I remember the next week, sitting in my usual spot, at the back of the class, while my teacher handed out copies of my heart to everyone.

 

I wrote my way out
I picked up a pen
And wrote my way out

 

Dr. Hartley changed everything for me.  He asked me who my adviser was.  I didn’t know.  He offered to take over as my adviser and I made sure to attend our meetings.

It became important to me that I make him proud.  I was really sad when that class ended.  I was worried that I would once again be left floundering.  But I found my way.  I changed majors, thinking for and of myself for what seemed like the first time.  I took one economics course after the other and I managed to get good grades.  I took advantage of an internship that I found out about and earned my degree.  The damage to my GPA from my first year had been done so there was no 4.0 or yellow sash or cum laude to be had, but when I walked across the stage, I was proud of the work I had done to bring myself back from the brink.   I had come a long way from being threatened with expulsion.

 

Before I left, I penned my professor a letter.  I wanted to thank him for all he had done to motivate me.  I wanted him to know how much I appreciated him taking an interest in my well-being and my success.   I told him I would never forget him or be able to thank him enough and that being in his class and having his ear was the highlight of my college career.

 

I have never forgotten him.

 

 

The story of Alexander Hamilton is one of a boy who had no parents or family.  After a hurricane devastated his country, he wrote an essay about his experience.  It was so good that people in his town took up a collection so he could travel to New York and make a better life for himself.

 

I am no Alexander Hamilton.  I am no Lin-Manuel Miranda.  But I do believe in the power of words.  I do believe in writing as medicine.  Whether you are writing poetry, or song lyrics or essays.  I believe in writing whether no-one but you ever reads it or if millions of people read it.

 

Write.

Let it out.

 

 

I caught my first beatin’ from the other kids when I was caught readin’
“Oh, you think you smart? Blah! Start bleedin'”
My pops tried in vain to get me to fight back
Sister tapped my brains, said, pssh, you’ll get ’em right back
Oversensitive, defenseless, I made sense of it, I pencil in
The lengths to which I’d go to learn my strengths and knock ’em senseless
These sentences are endless, so what if they leave me friendless?
Damn, you got no chill, fuckin’ right I’m relentless
I know Abuela’s never really gonna win the lottery
So it’s up to me to draw blood with this pen, hit an artery
This Puerto Rican’s brains are leakin’ through the speakers
And if he can be the shinin’ beacon this side of the G.W.B and
Shine a light when it’s gray out

*Lyrics from The Hamilton Mixtape song, Write My Way Out*