With mixed emotion I left town last week. Unlike most excursions, I was not flying to a life cycle event. Sure I’d see the kids and Yes I’d stay in Westchester but truth be known, this trip was for me. This jaunt, you see — this absence from Carrie’s comfort — was taken for one reason only: to see a play in Edison, New Jersey.

What’s that your mumbling, conscience? When am I going to grow up? Can’t growing up sometimes mean embracing your passions?

Listen, Inner Voice: Don’t bother pointing out (as Aunt Helen did) that I was just in New York. And don’t chuckle at my theater doings either. Know…just know I take it seriously. Get that when I direct a show I study it. So, OK, this one was for me… to see “Bye Bye Birdie” in a big venue and maybe learn. This one was me — blending insecurity with diligence — looking to know that when the show goes up in January I’ll have left nothing in the locker room.

Yeah, I planned it. Saw it on line months ago. Right after getting the gig. Map-quested it, considered driving straight to Jersey, studied options with Michael, blocked out the work week, and finally… August came.

Anyway, I left on Saturday. Waking to a Carrie-less home, (she was babysitting Evelyn), downing the morning coffee she leaves me daily, I passed through security with hours to spare.

My flight? Asleep before takeoff, awakened by touchdown, I was, most importantly, greeted by Michael and Max. We were on to their homestead, all systems on schedule.

The boys were great. Beautiful. Meredith too. Eli crawls in perpetual motion, his eyes shining with the glow of Wieder’s smile when Snyder hit the cut-off man. As younger brother, he still plays the off-guard. Max has the point, rules the court, directs traffic. The good news: it’s great to watch; the bad news: he’s apparently traded Elmo for Carly Rae Jepsen. If I hear “Call Me Maybe” one more time I’m going to wish I had my mother’s ears.

Cacaphony aside, seeing them strut their stuff, hanging out absent the pressure of time — you know: weekends when you land one minute and pack to return the next — was wonderful.

Being… observing … absorbing…laughing …

Warm and fuzzy it was, watching Michael with the one year old.

“This is a flower”, he showed him, holding the petal. How wonderful, I thought, that the kid’s being taught. How precious it was, that my son took the time.

Of course other lessons left mixed emotions:

“Eli, where is your head?” asked the father (and the kid pointed aptly).
“And where are your ears? (Two small hands raised in sync).
“And where, Eli,” urged Michael, pausing … pointing dramatically … securing attention… ”Where is Grandpa’s big nose?” (Ed. Note: Stacy says she didn’t know my nose was big until I got glasses a few years back).

Eli wasn’t the only one that learned, of course. Indeed, where would I be without the wisdom of my children?  I did not know, for example, that men my age should not wear tee shirts with printing on them. Solid only is the mandate. Nor did I know that using Sweet N Low in lieu of sugar was a bad thing. God I love my kids. And well I know that that they tell me these things ONLY because they love me and want me to dress well and be well.  But F’in A, do they really think that the moment I touch ground in Ohio I won’t be donning “Odd Couple” regalia and drowning my eggplant in powder?

Nor did I know people don’t eat in bed. (I think they tried to teach me that one before but the lesson comes slowly. Fact is I snuck a banana into my room Sunday night, dutifully smuggling the peel out the next morning and disposing it at the Starbucks in downtown Chappaqua.

The weekend flew by. The play would be Tuesday. With no show on Sunday, plans were to head down with the Millers, see the show, sleep in Great Neck, and fly out on Wednesday. Easy. In the meantime: quality time.

—I babysat Saturday. The boys were sleeping when they left, so I watched TV a bit and the monitor a lot, texting Meredith with precise, timely updates. (I think she trusts me more. Status reports are no longer 20 but 30 minutes apart).

—We hit the zoo Sunday. The Bronx Zoo: 265 acres (I looked it up) with hundreds of animals and nary a restroom. I looked for them too.

—We were a family, doing what I love most: marveling at the ordinary.

And Yes: Saturday just chillin’ became Sunday at the zoo became Monday at the coffeehouse.

Became Tuesday… and don’t ask! Turned out the theater was outdoor only; turned out rain left the performance an if; turned out it made no sense to schlep an hour and a half each way for an 8:30 curtain that might never rise.

Turned out…well, what’s that they say? People make plans and God laughs.  And it turned out, YES, common sense trumped even my passion.

So no show was seen.  Just life.  Ordinary life.  Extraordinary life.  Family life.

I did, by the way, sleep at Chez Miller Tuesday.  Better yet, awakening Wednesday, as I readied to leave… who should walk up the steps but one Caryn Miller—cup of java in hand.

“We are NOT going to be outdone by any Carrie!” she exclaimed.

(It’s good to be loved).

So I sipped, smiling…and then Stuart drove me to LaGuardia.  And I flew home to Carrie.

And a second cup.

6 Responses to “SOUNDS IN THE KEY OF LIFE”

  1. Joel says:

    Nice to know the outdoor theatre is still in operation. But really, all the way to Jersey for BBB? How many ways are there to block “Put on a Happy Face”? You can probably find a thousand versions on YouTube.

  2. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Never underestimate the insecurity of a charming man.

    Glad Natalie’s back safe.


  3. Joel says:

    If you want to feel old, at your first read-thru ask how many in the cast have heard of Ed Sullivan.

  4. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Circle your calendar, Brother Joel. I will do so this fall and send the results.

    I say: 1 in 5.

  5. alan wieder says:

    Never should we listen to our 30 something children but we always do. I wear political tee shirts all of the time. But I actually do think Michael is right and solid blue, black, grey, are actually better. In terms of eating in bed, how did you teach him THAT?

    Sounds like a lovely time and I totally understand that you wanted to see the show. Did you get to talk to the director????

  6. Up From Dysfunction says:


    I grew up on the poor end of South Euclid (unlike you). My brother and I
    didn’t have beds until fourth or fifth grade. Eating in bed was a treat I first enjoyed at college. Heck, in the years before the twin beds, Hal and I would often sleep standing up. And No, I didn’t talk to the director, but did speak to the box office, and will be following up on it all.

    In any event, everything was Rosie.

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