There's something that I do, or rather, there is something that happens to me at the beginning of any big deal "live" cultural event: I tear up and cry. Not great sobs or anything, but water leaks out of my eyes and runs down my cheeks for a few minutes before I finally settle in a sob my eyes out at the appropriately emotionally manipulative moment. It happens when I go to concerts, to musicals, to the ballet, to the orchestra, and even to some movies. To be in a room, with other people, sharing in a moment of beauty and creativity moves me to the point of tears every. Damn. Time.
Last week was the Ultimate Nerd Week for my son and I. On Tuesday, Mortal Kombat 11 was released. On Thursday, we went to see Endgame, on opening night no less. And then on Sunday, we went to Awesome Con and he got to meet Goku (or, the English voice actor for Goku) and I got to meet Timothy Zahn and Jonathan Frakes. He went to bed happy, and I let out a gutteral YASSSSSSSS when Arya did the thing.
First, Mortal Kombat. My son has been waiting for this release since Christmas, when he decided he was going to pool all of his Christmas money together in order purchase the ultimate edition, which included being able to beta-test the game last month. He loved MK10, and scoured YouTube for any and all hints as to what was coming with MK11. He would excitedly update me at bedtime about the latest rumors and how many more days until he got to beta-test.
I'll let this Ringer piece sum up my own feelings about Mortal Kombat. It perfectly encapsulates my experience with the game and my son's experience with the game. He challenged me to some fights, and I was able to mash my way to vitory a few times before he got the hang of it and started handing my ass to me. And my heart. And my brain. And other internal organs in various liquified forms. He played and played and played until he unlocked a certain character, proud of the fact that he was probably one of the first people to unlock said character (without paying, like most of those YouTubers probably did, Mom).
There's a story in the game, but I have no idea what's going on, and he sadly informed me that within said story, Sonya Blade (an original character) dies. "But don't worry, Mom," he reassured me. "They're doing time travel, so she'll probably come back and be fine." At least that's what I think he said. Between his dragons and dinosaurs on Arc, his skins on Fortnite, his players and their status on DragonBall Z, and now this, I can't keep track.
I know, lame, mom.
Speaking of time travel, we then went to see Endgame on opening night. It's been something my son has been begging us to do for a while now, go see a major movie event before anyone else. Thank goodness for the massive meltdown of the online buying systems on the day the tickets went on sale, because when I finally had a moment to buy tickets late in the afternoon, I was able to snag for of them, back-row center, for the first show.
I bragged to my swimmers at swim team about getting to see it opening night. We coordinated getting the husband home, get to the theater (to get to which you have to navigate a heavily congested route during the worst of rush hour), eat dinner, and then go to the bathroom before settling in for 3.5 hours (including previews). I was treating it like I would a vacation - Wear layers! Potty now and then again once we get there! Shoes on and be ready once Dad comes in the door! You need to go to the bathroom, you're going on your own!
There really isn't anything like going to see a movie in a theater packed with the target audience. When South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut came out, I won movie passes from the local radio station to see the preview/premiere. I took my brother with me. He was the one who introduced me to South Park ("There's this weird cartoon on at midnight that's hysterical that you should check out.") and had just had his wisdom teeth taken out, so he needed a good laugh. When Cartman started to sing "Weeeeelllllll...." the entire theater erupted. My brother almost fell out of his seat he was laughing so hard.
Some of my best memories of him are him laughing until he can't breathe, so I'm always looking for opportunities to make him laugh that hard again.
When Frozen came out, I went to see the movie in a theater full of first graders with my daughter, as part of a end-of-year class trip. The movie had been out for a few months, so everyone had already seen it, possibly multiple times. While even Siri was tired of playing Let It Go in my house ("Siri, play Let It Go." "Playing Don't Let Go by Weezer." "SIRI, PLAY LET IT GO FROM FROZEN!" "Playing Frozen Heart."), I got choked up hearing a hundred first graders sign along with it. They laughed unabashidly, cheered, sang along, and generally reminded me why I still love Disney movies.
So there we were on opening night for Endgame, my son sitting intently at the edge of his seat as the movie started, not wanting to miss a thing. "Mom, are you crying ALREADY?" my daughter asked me within the first five minutes, and I was, and she rolled her eyes, but we sat for those three hours, cheering and applauding and gasping alongside all of the other fans who had managed to get tickets to this first show, and we all sat until the very end, unconvinced that there were no bumpers to be watched.
(Back in my day, kids, you couldn't buy your tickets online and we didn't have reserved seating; you had to show up early and wait in line, hope you got a ticket, and then run to get a good seat. It was tough, let me tell you.)
The Marvel movie franchise has been around for as long as my son has been alive. He has literally grown up watching these movies, first at home, and then in the theater. He can't sit still, but he could for many of the Marvel movies, no matter the length. I know when it's an emotional part of the movie because at home he gets up and walks around, even hides a bit behind the couch, while at the theater, he'll climb onto my lap and burry his head in my neck. He speculates and looks up theories and loves the spectacle of the Marvel movies.
Also, he is very spoilery. He gets so excited talking about the movies afterwards that he'll accidentally blurt out key plot points and events. We now have a JUST DO NOT TALK ABOUT IT UNLESS WE'RE IN THE CAR OR AT HOME ALONE rule now, just for him. He was reveling in the fact that he could go to school on Friday and possibly spoil it if someone wasn't nice to him. He didn't, but just having that kind of knowledge made him feel special, if just for the day.
Marvel was something we all shared as a family. Neither my husband or I were particularly into comic books growing up, but we fell in love with the spectacle as well, and I loved researching what was canon and what could still be coming up in subsequent films. Both kids got into them as well, and so it became an annual tradition to go and see whatever Marvel had cooked up for us that year in the theater, while buying the other ones to watch at home as soon as they were released (going to see movies in the theater is expensive!).
The kids are at a perfect age where they still want to see movies with us, as a family, and experience them together. We'll definitely go and see Toy Story 4, as we do every Pixar film. My daughter and I clutched each other during Toy Story 3, terrified for the fate of our beloved heroes, while my son requests Inside/Out whenever he's having a rough time. If the Muppets ever reboot again, we'll be there too, although nothing will ever compare to my son sitting on my lap in the theater watching The Muppets singing along to Rainbow Connection.
And then December, Star Wars. Of course. Lemme tell you, the kids watched me for the crawl of The Force Awakens, knowing I would cry. They weren't disappointed.
On Sunday, we headed into DC for the final day of Awesome Con. I burried the lead with my son, in preparing him for the event. I told him there were going to be comic book artists and Batman costumes and he thought, ok, cool, sounds good. And then, I told him that he could meet the voice actor who does Goku, of DrangonBall fame. He just about exploded: "MOM WE HAVE TO GO AND SEE HIM AND MEET HIM AND DAD IS GOING TO BE SO JEALOUS!!!!"
DragonBall is something my husband watched and read when he was younger, and he started watching it on YouTube with our son a couple of years ago. My son and husband play the app together, comparing the power of their characters, and we even now pay for a subscription to an animé app so we could watch the latest episodes, even watching them with subtitles because they hadn't yet been overdubbed. And yes, we all saw the Brolly movie.
I don't get it myself; it a lot of yelling and punching and (in the early episodes) troubling amounts of sexual harassment and racism. But he loves it and knows the intricacies of the characters' lives the way my grandmother used to know the intricacies of the characters' lives on Guiding Light. So I knew that getting to meet Goku was going to make his day.
It did. But even before he knew he was going to get to meet Goku, the moment we walked into the Con, he wore a smile that never left his face. Both of us did. We walked in and knew we were among out people. It was filled with kids, small kids, with their parents, dressed up and ready to go. There was an energy in the building that was perfect. My son doesn't usually do well in crowds and chaos, but loved being at the Con, seeing all the people, and seeing all of the art and artists and creators.
Before we went to see Goku, we headed to Artist's Ally to meet the person I was most excited to see: Timothy Zahn. Timothy Zahn is the reason I'm obsessed with Star Wars. As I explained to him, trying not to cry, I was too young to have seen the Star Wars movies in the theater, so while I loved them, I experienced them as grainy VHS copies taped off TV. His books made the universe come alive for me, in the big screen of my imagination. I bought a used hardcover online for him to sign, with my paperback copy having long disintegrated from multiple readings.
My son looked on while I babbled on and on to Zahn about the books and what they meant to me and my friends growing up, and how I'll be passing the books along the books to my son. He saw me gush and beam and smile that stupid smile I get when I'm so happy I'm about to cry. He held my hand and afterwards asked me if I was happy to have met him, and I said yes, yes I was, and that it meant the world to me.
Also, my son managed to not spoil Endgame for Zahn. So that's good.
We headed to see Goku, ready to pay to get his autograph and get a picture, having to walk past all of the other big named-talent, included half of the main cast of Star Trek: TNG. There they were, sitting there, out in the open, chatting and signing autographs, getting pictures with fans. Data, Troy, Dr. Crusher, Wesley, and Will Riker, all there, right in front of me. I knew they were going to be there, but was unable to convince my husband that $185 was a good price for a picture with all of them. I was resigned to not meeting some of my other childhood heroes, but then when I caught site of them, all bets were off.
We didn't have movies that we all enjoyed in the theater as a family, not really, not giving us the kind of feelz that I have with my family. No, we had Star Trek. My dad LOVED the original series. I was skeptical of the show, to my young eyes it looked dated, having seen Star Wars, Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones, and even Alien (which, I have never, ever re-watched). But possibly the most hated of the films, The Voyage Home, was perfect for me at age 9, and got me hooked on Star Trek alongside my Dad. When TNG premiered a few years later, it was our Saturday evening ritual to sit down as a family and watch it every week.
When I got to high school, I found friends who were as into it as I was. I wrote TNG fanfic with a friend on sleepovers. We would gather on Monday mornings before class to discuss the previous week's episode. We all lost our damn minds when the Borg showed up. I even read some of the books, including when Troy's mom falls in love with Q. Or when Data gets feelings not from a chip, but I think from Q (yes, it happens in the book before the movies). And the one that explains the story of the first contact with the Vulcans. Or I didn't read all of them, but I read enough of them.
And I was pissed when First Contact completely changed that story.
(I'm a little obsessed with canon. Don't even talk to me about the Zahn's Star Wars novels not even being canon anymore. I love the new movies, but I tried to read the first new novel, got to Wedge Antilles, and threw the book down, silently screaming, I ALREADY KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO WEDGE DAMN IT. Anyway, moving on...)
All of this to say that, although I couldn't justify meeting all of them, I could justify meeting one of them, but which one? I settled on Riker if only because 13-year-old me WOULD HAVE JUST DIED if she met Riker. So we met Goku, and he was delightful, and we walked away with my son beaming, saying he couldnt believe he just shook Goku's hand, and I stopped at Riker's booth. Did I have enough cash left? Only enough for a picture, so that's what I got, awkwardly shoving my son out of my way when Frakes suggested that the picture was to be with him and not me. "No," I said. "He got to meet Goku already. Now it's my turn."
I'm nothing if not hella-awkward.
We met Goku and the people ahead of us in line paid for a whole bunch of things to be signed for their nieces and nephews for their birthday, and while he wouldn't do a video shout-out, he did call one of the nephews to wish him a happy birthday as Goku and we all witnessed one side of a conversation where the other side was a kid clearly losing their shit because GOKU JUST CALLED TO WISH ME A HAPPY BIRTHDAY. My son was in awe, and couldn't stop talking about how great that must have been and how great he was to do that.
As the day wore on, we started to run out of steam, but my son wanted to go back to Artist's Alley one more time, to soak it in. Artist's Ally is filled with authors and illustrators and artists of all kinds. My son found a graphic novel he wanted to read, drawn by a high school art teacher who used his experience teaching special needs kids to inform his series. He found an oil pastel drawing of, who else, Goku in his favorite form. We found books for his sister. But mostly, we saw a wealth of talent and enthusiasm and passion spilling from every booth. I was overwhelmed by it, but my son wanted to soak it in for a little while longer before we headed home, knowing it would break whatever spell we were under for the time we were there.
As we were leaving, my son remarked that I hadn't really gotten much for myself. I told him I got exactly what I came to get, and so much more. Later that evening, I texted one of my best friends the Timothy Zahn signature and my father the picture of me and Riker. They were both suitably jealous of me, and my husband fiended an appropriate level of jealousy about getting to meet Goku to satisfy my son, who was already planning next year's trip to Awesome Con.
While I was texting my dad, he asked if I was getting ready to watch Game of Thrones. I'm not allowed to spoil it for him, as he always waits to buy them on Blu Ray when they come out, but he knows I watch it live. It's his fault anyway that I'm even into the series, as he got me hooked on the books. Before that, he got me hooked on Wheel of Time, which I still haven't forgiven him for. We share similar taste in books and movies when it comes to science fiction and fantasy, recommending series to each other.
Exhausted, I settled in to watch GoT. Somehow we made it through Endgame without having to get up, but couldn't last the supersized episode that was still half the length of the movie. The pausing gave us a chance to breath, breaking the spell, but also building the tension, like commercial breaks that come just at the "right" time, just like the old days, before streaming. Then again, we couldn't pause live TV back then, either.
Monday brought me back to real life and all of the hot takes on GoT and Endgame. So many people found so many problems, but all I could remember was how I felt watching my kids watch Endgame, and how viscerally I felt that moment when Arya did what Arya is best at, yelling at my TV so loudly I almost woke up the kids. I can experience these moments at their purest in part because of my kids, and their sense of wonder and excitement and passion.
Monday brought another piece of news I had been waiting for: an on-sale date for tickets to go see Hamilton. I had been hoping that they would go on sale before my daughter's recent birthday, but of course they didn't, so all I had to offer her was the possibility of maybe getting tickets to see Hamilton. I have to wait another week for them to go on sale, in the hopes that I am even "approved" as a buyer and "invited" to try to get tickets online.
Did I ever tell you about the time I lined up at some ungodly early hour in the morning to get NKOTB tickets? Dad took me, as he did so often to things that I was deperate to go to. One time it was to go downtown to meet Moxy Fruvous at HMV. Another time, it was to the Stanley Cup Parade. But standing in line in winter with hundreds of tween girls was a special kind of hell that I always appreciated.
Now, I just have to hit refresh. It's just as stressful, just less hormones, I guess.
I love concerts and musicals. Growing up in Montreal, we got a lot of great shows and great bands. I didn't see them all (one particular "miss" stands out as particularly egregious - I had a ticket to see Beasty Boys, but I gave it up because I was too hung over to go. My reasoning was that I'd get to see them again someday. Heck, I had already seen the Stones twice. How wrong I was), but I saw enough, and my daughter has already gone to her first concert. I tried not to cry as the band came on and started to play, but it didn't work, and at least she didn't notice.
As for musicals, I've seen Les Misérables more times than I can count, and saw the Phantom of the Opera, with Jeff from Today's Special as the Phantom. You have to be Canadian to get the impact of that to a Gen X kid, but needless to say, it blew our minds. I went to the Stratford Festival, and alongside Shakespeare, we saw light opera and musicals, 4 or 5 shows in three days, sometimes with the same actors in the same day in different productions. It was wild and I loved it.
If I don't get Hamilton tickets, then I'll get really great seats to see a ballet at the Kennedy Center. We're fortunate that we live where we do and have easy access to some of the best arts and culture the country and even the world has to offer. If Hamilton falls through, it will be back in DC in 2021, which isn't that far off at the end of the day, and we'll get to see another show right now. The dancers' grace and strength and beauty will take my breathe away, or the power of the performances will leave me speechless, on the brink of tears.
And my daughter will roll her eyes and ask me if I'm crying, and I will tell her that I am because there are moments like these that are the result of lives dedicated to their craft coming together to make this one show, for us, for all of us, in that small window of time, the world falls away, and the space is filled with beauty and whimsy and creation and that I get to share it with people I love makes it all the more special and overwhelming for me. Even now, at 41, I am struck with a feeling of disbelief that I, that we, get to experience it.
Spoiler alert: I'll cry. Every. Damn. Time. But I wouldn't have it any other way.