An unwanted vacation, some obnoxious teenagers, and the impromptu performance that welcomed me back to the world.
There are many ways to start a story. Too many. Or at least too many ways to start this one — so I’ll do what my betters always encouraged — I’ll start in the middle.
It’s spring break and I’m staying with my husband and our two kids at an Embassy Suites in a small industrial neighborhood outside of Boston. It is the first time we’ve traveled as a family by plane since the pandemic started and we’ve come with my ten year old’s entire synchronized skating team for the ISI Nationals. It’s kind of a big deal. If it hadn’t been, there is no way I’d have gotten on a plane with a bunch of unvaxxed kids and agreed to stay in a big, cheesy hotel overrun with unmasked strangers right as a purported second wave of Omicron is apparently about to crash over the East Coast. It is truly — truly — my worst nightmare — a steadfast combination of many if not all of the things that I try always to avoid, but right now — here in the middle of the story — none of that stuff matters. What matters is that I’m standing on a balcony six stories above an open mezzanine upon which, approximately fifty teenagers are singing a cappella to “A Million Miles Away,” from the musical Aladdin, and their voices — the voices of this group of unruly, misbehaved, and foul-mouthed kids whose presence in our hotel has been driving me crazy for the past two days — are so beautiful — so unabashed, enthusiastic, and pure — that tears are streaming down my cheeks.
Beside me, my husband is fumbling with his phone, trying to get a video of it, and beside him, both of my children are watching in awe.
The show choir stands in a large circle, shoulder to shoulder, with their teacher, alone in the middle, waving his arms — really his whole body — as he leads them towards the song’s climax. The circle undulates with the music. Their moves aren’t choreographed per-say, but the group leans and sways like one organic form, gesturing with their hands and faces to help tell the story. Harmonies soar up through the courtyard, the lobby bar, the bay of glass elevators, passing the guest rooms below us and traveling beyond where we are standing to the floors above us, all of which, at this point, have spectators leaning out over the rails to watch and absorb what is…