Sunday, October 28, 2012

On Checking Out of the Hotel Transylvania

Dear Mackenzie,

A couple of months ago your mom and our friend Cheramie, whose daughter Madison played “Annie” in the 2008-2009 National Broadway tour of Annie, decided to organize a reunion of that touring company in New York City.  They coordinated it to coincide with a performance of the latest Annie revival on Broadway.  Everyone would get together for dinner and then go see the Broadway show. The event would take place on Saturday, October 27, 2012.

The night before the reunion, you asked me if I would take you to see the animated movie “Hotel Transylvania”, which was playing on 42d Street not too far from our apartment.  I had no idea what the film was about and didn’t care. I was excited about having some father/daughter bonding time.

To my delight, you held my hand as we walked down 8th Avenue all the way to the movie theater. Not wanting to press my luck I didn’t comment on it, but I remember thinking how great it would be if I could bottle you in this moment, and hold on to both you and it forever. Watching your child grow up in front of your eyes, as any parent will tell you, is fraught with conflicting feelings to say the least.

Ironically enough, “Hotel Transylvania” is about that very thing.  The film tells the story of Count Dracula, the owner of a hotel where the world’s monsters can take refuge from human civilization and the perils of “the outside world”. In the film, we learn that the love of Dracula’s life was murdered by a mob of angry humans. As a result, Dracula is desperate to make sure that his daughter Mavis never leaves the safety of the hotel.

He provides Mavis with all the love, creature comforts and great birthday parties that any monster could ever need. But of course, all Mavis wants to do for her 118th birthday is to leave the nest and experience the world for herself.  Hijinks ensue and Daddy Dracula learns a valuable lesson about parental love.

Which brings me back to the reunion. About twenty members of the Annie touring company, including assorted “orphan” moms, dads and grandmas had dinner in midtown before the show.  As food and drink flowed, I watched as Analisa (Grace Farrell), Lynn (Miss Hannigan), Jillian (Star-to-be), Zander (Rooster), Cy (ensemble) and Sari (swing) shared their stories of the road.  At the next table Madison, Jordan, Siara, Sydney and you (the orphans) laughed and shrieked like long lost siblings.

At one point someone yelled out the word “Miami” and everyone hooted and hollered at the memories. Anchorage came up, and the stories flowed about the volcano that erupted while the company was in Alaska. On it went like that throughout the meal.

After dinner we went to the show, where Liz, Kelly, Kenny, Patrick, Dustin, and maybe other tour company members (who with apology I am forgetting) joined us. The performance was just fine, and hopefully Broadway will have another big hit.

But watching the show was a mixed experience for me, and probably for much of our group. I suspect most of the company either saw the production through the filter of their own interpretation of the same roles or, like me, through the prism of memories of their young child on stage. I choked up at all the places I used to choke up during the tour.  Whoever the young girl playing “Molly” was, I never saw her. I saw only you.

When the show was over and the audience was gone, we all went up on stage and took a few group pictures for posterity with Sandy the dog. No one was ready for the night to end, so we went for a late bite and another drink or two, and had a few more laughs remembering the good old days on tour.

The evening wore on, and eventually people started peeling off to return to the real world and their present day lives. The group dwindled, and amidst hugs and maybe a tear or two everyone promised to get together again soon. Who knows, we might even do it. Walking back to the apartment, I couldn’t help but be amazed at this special group of friends.

Hotel Transylvania was still fresh in my mind too, and I was learning about letting go. I had to fly out early the next morning and knew you’d still be sleeping when I left, so I started to say goodbye to you in a manner befitting the young woman you’re fast becoming.

You responded by grabbing me into a deep hug, and we held each other like that for about a minute with neither of us saying a word.  Now a minute is an awfully long time to be in a hug, my sweet daughter. But in the emotional universe of a daddy holding on to his little girl, I can tell you it goes by in a millisecond.

I don’t know what was going through your mind during that minute, but in that wonderful hug I got clarity. Soon enough you’ll be checking out of your own Hotel Transylvania. That’s the natural order of things.  We couldn’t stop you even if we wanted to, and ultimately we want to encourage you to spread your wings.

Yet the notion of you eventually leaving doesn’t mean that we can’t savor every moment of the stay. And we should record wonderful memories in our mind’s eye that, like with the Annie experience, we can share with each other over and over as the years go by.

I may even ask for a late checkout.

All my everlasting love,


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