These past few weeks, we have felt very unlucky. Ger had a nasty bout of pneumonia that put him out of commission for about 8 days, leaving me struggling to juggle work and the kids. Then a week ago, with finally everyone healthy, we were driving to Noodles and Company for dinner, only to have our minivan die on the side of the road.
A mechanic determined that the transmission was dead. Since the van was nearly 9 years old and with 150,000 miles, this (regrettably) sent us down the path of a new-to-us vehicle rather than pay thousands in repairs. Two full days of car shopping and five dealers later, I came home with a gently used Honda Pilot. The entire buying experience was exhausting and stressful.
Ger and I were talking about luck and he told me that he didn’t believe in luck. But he was thinking more in the context of saying “that person was lucky in his/her career” in which case he believes in hard work and effort. I pointed out that in the case of our minivan’s transmission dying: that was bad luck. Or, I thought in my head, the fact that two of our babies died in the second trimester, without any explanation. I did everything right in my pregnancies, and it was very, very bad luck.
I have felt unlucky since our babies died. Even after bringing our rainbow baby home, it still felt like we were the people who did everything right, and things still went wrong. The minivan kicking the bucket was just another example.
Then, this week, something very lucky happened to me.
My sister-in-law texted me on Tuesday afternoon. A friend of hers had won the Hamilton lottery. The lottery can be played every day, and winners received two tickets to the show – for $10 each. For tickets that normally cost hundreds of dollars, winning the lottery is incredible. The catch is that the show’s performance is usually in the next 24 hours, so winners need to be able to act fast. My sister-in-law’s friend had two tickets to the matinee show in Chicago the next day, but couldn’t use them due to a work conflict. She wanted to know if I wanted the tickets.
I only had one meeting to move. I called a friend and said “YOU ARE CALLING IN SICK TOMORROW. WE ARE GOING TO HAMILTON WITH $10 TICKETS.”
I have seen Hamilton, twice. The first time, Ger and I decided to pay a lot of money for really good seats, thinking it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It had been a rough few months for us personally, and we got dressed up and were able to escape for a few hours for the show of our lives – and it truly was that.
We loved it so much that we decided to go again, and this time take the kids – who had become obsessed with the music. We watched resale ticket prices and made the purchase only the week before the performance, watching the prices drop as ticket holders became desperate to unload and receive something for a show they were unable to attend. We were in nosebleed seats and it was a completely different experience to see the full view of the stage from “above” versus our floor seats previously. It was our Christmas present to the kids and there was a considerable amount of shrieking when we told them.
That last performance I saw was about four months ago, and I was secretly longing to see the show again, even though I knew purchasing additional tickets was incredibly impractical. But I knew that I could never replace that experience of seeing it performed live with anything else. And then suddenly – I found myself with two tickets available to me.
My friend and I drove into the city early on Wednesday morning. We had to meet the ticket winner at the box office, as he was the only one who could claim his prize. Going on a photo that my sister-in-law sent, I walked up to him when he entered the lobby and introduced myself. I stayed as he waited in line, still wondering if something would happen and he would get to the front and not be handed his lottery tickets. But it was a completely smooth process and I found myself in possession of two tickets in the orchestra section.
We went to a nearby restaurant for lunch and came back to the theater as the doors opened at 1:00. We sat in our seats, 13 rows from the stage, still marveling at our luck. Two women in front of us had also won the lottery. The woman behind us looked like her eyes were going to pop out of her head when she heard us talking that our tickets only cost $10. I can’t imagine what she paid for hers. To my right was a family of four, with two children probably in upper-grade or middle school. I smiled, thinking of what they were about to experience.
The show is everything. It touches so many layers and the visual and sound grabbed me, in ways I felt the first time, and in ways that I could appreciate with each individual performance. I tried to watch it as my friend was watching: not knowing what was about to come next. I saw it the first time, already familiar with the music. She had heard that it was an amazing musical, but knew little else.
Even as a third time audience member, I was still moved. I was teary-eyed during “Dear Theodosia,” sobbing during “It’s Quiet Uptown” and wiping away tears again during the finale. When the cast lined up at the end, I noticed that a female ensemble cast member was sobbing. An insert in the program indicated that she had just joined the cast, and my guess was that it was her first performance.
As the lights came up and we stood to leave the theater, my friend said “I am a different person for having seen that show.”
We drove home, and I thought about the luck that had brought me to the performance that day. Me – a person who had seen the show twice previously – ending up with the lottery tickets. I felt a bit guilty, knowing that someone else could have seen the show for the first time with the lottery tickets, if my sister-in-law’s friend had simply declined them. But I brushed that aside, considering it the universe’s way of apologizing to me for killing my minivan a few days prior.
I never think of myself as lucky. I cannot remember the last time that I won anything – like a gift at a charity event, or the pot of money in a drawing. And yet, if there was anything I could have won, I could think of few other things that would make me as happy as seeing another Hamilton performance. An otherwise ordinary Wednesday ended up being the best day.