I’m home on Long Island for Memorial Day weekend, a combination of work and family visiting. I took the Long Island Railroad out here this afternoon and as my bare legs stuck to the plastic seat, I couldn’t help but think of all those times that my cousin Tom and I would ride the train from Ronkonkoma to Penn Station, wallets full of hard-earned cash, usually spent on dinner, a sidewalk cart hot dog and one or two Broadway show tickets.
We were partial to student rush tickets, which were around $20 and probably the only reason why I saw Tim Rice and Elton John’s “AIDA” three times. We also stood in long lines at the TKTS booth in the middle of Times Square, crossing our fingers that something exciting would show up in bright red on the screen, 50% off. Our last resort was to purchase tickets full price and we did occasionally since this was, of course, back in the day where you could easily show up to a box office and find available tickets in a price range of $45-$85. (Ha! I talk like an old lady! Where’s my walker?!) We spent that kind of money on shows we were DYING to see or shows that contained performers we were DYING to see, shows that we couldn’t get enough of, shows that we’d listen to on CD over and over and over again on a summer afternoon.
When I think of the Long Island Railroad, I think of our parents picking us up late at night in front of the Dunkin’ Donuts. Or, later, walking miles and miles to my 1993 Dodge Shadow, parked in the distance, patiently waiting for us to drive it home and sing along to ABBA on the radio. I remember scanning the playbills on the train ride back reading biographies over and over and over again, cementing names into my brain. I loved tracing people’s careers, not necessarily the stars but the ensemble members and understudies. I loved knowing that they could do that, that they could move from Broadway show to Broadway show, that they could make a LIFE out of performing.
Coming home always feels familiar, comfortable, easy and sometimes awkward since there is so much of me here that doesn’t feel like me anymore. There is the younger musical theatre version still very present here, from the NY Times’ clippings on my closet doors to the stacks of Broadway vocal selections on top of the piano. I still sit down to play and sing along and I remember that I used to do that for hours, that there was nothing else I wanted to do every evening after dinner, play and play and play and sing. Forever.
I’ve promised to clean out my closet this weekend–scrapbooks and clothes from junior year and shoe boxes full of photographs still linger in the dark there and I dread having to sift through all those memories. It can be so nostalgic and wonderful to re-read those notebooks and flip through those montages of all the younger versions of myself. But sometimes, like most things, it overwhelms me. I don’t always like noting that I am different now. I don’t always like that I have grown up, not because I don’t like what I have grown up to be but because I hate leaving that other girl behind.
My house will always hold the picture of me it knows the best. I guess that makes sense since I moved into this house when I was four and left when I went to college. Tonight, I walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water and caught sight of my mother’s legs in the living room, stretched out easily in front of her on the couch as she intermittently read Newsday and squinted at Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. It startled me as I realized that life here goes on as usual while I’m gone. I don’t know how I feel about that. You’d think by now, I’d be used to it. Tonight, for some reason, I wasn’t.
I think I blame it all on the train ride. Staring out the window, watching the various Long Island suburbs go by, I couldn’t help but think about all the places I’ve stopped at along the way, all those valuable train stations that brought me to this moment. Tomorrow night, I’m going to start going through that stuff in my closet. I’m going to trash the things that are meaningless–the clothes from 1997, the notebooks from AP Statistics, etc. But the train ticket receipts and the playbills and the autographed Broadway posters? Those? Those, I think I shall keep.