Monday, September 2, 2013

The Golden Ticket

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
Hamlet Act II Scene ii
I recently returned from a ten-day trip chaperoning a group of students in England.  The trip had may artistic and professional dimensions to it which will no doubt be inspiration for future blog posts.  However, the story I wish to tell is about an experience I had that has reconnected me with myself and changed my outlook on life.

I got a call at 1:30 a.m. on August 10th, that our flight back to the states had been canceled and there were no flights available until the next afternoon.  This was a lousy wake up call portending a long, dreary day filled with hassles, vouchers, airport hotel rooms, and the domino effect of arriving home a full day later than planned. At 5:00 a.m., with students in tow, we drove two hours from Warwick, where we had been staying, back to Heathrow to take care of rebooking our flight and dealing with the details of the delay.  By 9:00 a.m. we were eating breakfast and I was faced with the decision of what to do with the rest of what was already a very long day.   Fighting the urge to crawl into bed under the covers until it was time to begin the trek back to the airport the next day, I announced to the wilted group that we would go back into London for a "bonus" day.
I directed everyone to meet back in the lobby in twenty minutes, giving me time to go back to the privacy of my room, have a quick cry, splash water on my face, change my clothes, and most importantly, adjust my attitude!

After an hour's ride into London on the tube, we arrived in Covent Garden, where the Saturday afternoon scene was festive and lively.
The students and other chaperones set off to explore, leaving me free and strangely solitary for the first time in ten days. Alone, my thoughts drifted to my childhood.
London held many memories for me, particularly with my father. From the time I was eleven-years-old, I grew up traveling to Europe most summers with my parents, always ending our six-week ventures in London. 
My father and I shared a love of theatre. He was my first acting coach. Hard to sum it up, but suffice it to say, everything I am today can be traced to my father.  He dropped dead of a heart attack when I was twenty-two-years old. His death changed the course of my life.  

As I stood there at the edge of Covent Garden, I was overcome with a strong sense of connection to him. I was compelled, utterly propelled, to turn around. As I did, my eyes fell on the three hundred and fifty-year-old Royal Drury Lane Theatre.  It was the first theatre in which I had seen a live musical with my father when I was eleven-years-old. The theatre seemed to call out to me, beckoning me to walk down the street toward it. Mesmerized, I couldn't take my eyes off of it - the marquee advertising the brand new musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - the hottest ticket in town.
As I arrived at the grand entrance, I noticed a crowd gathering and realized they were going in to see a matinee.  It was 2:15 pm and the curtain was at 2:30.  In a foggy, dream-like state, I walked up to the box office and asked "Do you happen to have any singles?" The woman smiled and with a beautiful British accent replied, "We have one seat left in the house." "Really....," I replied. And then after a brief inner dialogue of "Should I or shouldn't I?"
 impulsively I said, "I'll take it."

I didn't pay any attention to where the seat was, I simply handed it to the usher who directed me through an open door to a center box seat.  I sat myself down on a velvet chair with three strangers, and shook my head in disbelief.  Center Box.  The show began and I was transported to the land of Charlie, Willy Wonka, and the delightful Oompa Loompas during Act One.  During the intermission, I made a quick call to my group saying I'd be 30 minutes later than I'd planned to meet them.  Joyously liberated, I wandered around the grand lobby and staircase marveling at where I was.  As the bells chimed indicating the end of the interval, I moved back up the steps to where I had been seated.  As I approached the box, this time, the door I'd entered was closed.  As I stepped up to the beautiful shiny, Mahogany door I came face to face with the letter "L".  I had been seated in the "L" box.  Stunned, I laughed and then burst into tears.  I knew in that moment, that something truly remarkable was taking place. My father's name was Lee. Overwhelmed, I thought of how my day had begun and where it had ended up.  I got the last seat in the house in the L Box for the hottest show in town.  I knew instantly why I'd been compelled to turn around! My father was waiting for me at the Royal Drury Lane Theatre in London where he had taken me to see my very first musical forty-three years earlier.

The theme of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is you have to believe it to see it.
The message came through loud and clear.  I wept with joy as I sat in my seat, feeling surrounded in love, embraced by my father. 
In the play, Charlie magically wins the "golden ticket."

 So had I.

When I left the Royal Drury Lane Theatre, I felt transformed.  I'd had a mystical experience reminding me that we live a mystery.  There is no death - only a passing from one dimension to another.  I have too much evidence in my life experience to doubt this.

I know there are those who will say it was all coincidence. But I know it was more than that.
What started out as a terrible day, ended up giving me one of the greatest gifts imaginable. Had my flight not been canceled,  I would have missed it. Had I crawled back into bed at the hotel, I would have missed it.
Since that day, I've been filled with joy and a sense that everything is as it should be.  I have felt at peace, happy, connected to myself, and absent of anxiety  and worry.
I truly believe my father sent me a message.
Trust that where you are is where you are meant to be.

You have to believe it to see it.


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