I was listening to some folks who were talking in the lobby of the hotel one day that i worked at. They were talking about the sacrifices they had made in order to make sure that their kids could achieve their own dreams. It’s really easy to assume people didn’t want to do more with their lives in their careers, their families, or in any arena that they may be living in or with. It’s much more interesting to delve into why things happened the way they did.
I talked with them for a little while. As it turns out, the father had dreams of being a professional singer. Those plans got put on hold when his wife found out she was pregnant and they weren’t married yet. They were teenagers. They were among a small amount of folks who made marriage work. The father took a job for a real estate company. He chose to provide for his family with a steady income that would allow them to grow their family. Interestingly enough, he would sing to his daughter every night. He had the kind of voice that was as smooth as honey. He would even create his own melodies to put her to sleep. The daughter loved the songs. She would sing right along with him and then he would tuck her in, get him own few hours of Z’s and start all over.
As the years progressed, their family grew. The mother didn’t speak much but you could see the swelling of tears that built up in her eyes. When the oldest child was ten, the mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. They now had a total of three children to care for, the medical bills were piling up and there was a lot of strain on their marriage. The father spoke of the days where they used to have really bad arguments and he said that he found himself wanting a way out. As he told his story, I had many questions. For one thing I wanted to know what the mom did before she ever had a family. Did she want to be anything in particular or did she want to be a housewife? Curiosity got the best of me so I asked. She looked at me with the kindest eyes and said that she was once a dancer. There was an accident that caused her dancing career to end. Not long after her hopes of dancing on Broadway were crushed, she decided that she would leave that world far behind. She never got to perform. She auditioned and had studied at the School of the Arts in New York but never got to see her name in lights. As she said to me, she knew she could have had an opportunity because the School of the Arts didn’t just let anyone in but she wouldn’t trade her life now for anything.
I asked her what it was like. I think as a kid I had grown up watching the movie Fame and then subsequently its TV show. She laughed and said it was some of the hardest and best years of her life. She reminded me that musicians, dancers and performers take their craft so seriously that for them, it’s not a job. It’s a way of life and when they walk away it is either one of the most difficult chapters for them to close or a breath of fresh air. For her, it was a little of both. She wouldn’t have traded her experiences for anything. They met in New York, they were young, energetic, and ready for the world. When she got pregnant, her priorities shifted. It took about five years after the birth of her first child, to have another child. As she said to me, life had other plans. She was pregnant with triplets. Nothing could contain their excitement. Unfortunately, life wasn’t what they expected. She delivered two of the children with no problems. When it came to the third, the child was stillborn. No amount of tears could be equated to the pain she felt. She was struggling with post par tum depression as well as the loss of a child.
Before they knew it, their kids were growing before their eyes. Eventually, the husband transferred to a different job in a different career. He decided to go into insurance. They moved to Wilmington, NC. They both loved the beach and wanted to raise their kids near the ocean. Since I had wanted to become a professional musician at one point, I was utterly fascinated with their story. I inquired about their dreams of performing. As it turns out, they still got involved with their talents but in different ways. She purchased a dance studio and had been running it for close to ten years. They no longer lived in Wilmington but loved their time there. As we all continued our conversation, it was interesting to me that both of them felt that their broken dreams had turned into a different set of dreams. Their oldest child was accepted into Julliard. The father beamed with all kinds of pride showing the pictures of his little girl. The mother’s eyes twinkled with the kind of pride that mama’s all over the world can relate to. There is a huge lesson that came from that conversation. Just because you dream of something, doesn’t mean that your dreams have to shatter. It just means that life may take you on a different course.
Before the conversation ended, I had learned quite a bit about them and asked if they could do it all over again would they change anything. The woman replied that she would have rather not had to fight breast cancer but she had emerged stronger. She said that cancer had tested her faith, her spirituality, and her emotions. What it hadn’t done, was made her want to give up. She wanted to be there to watch her children graduate, have careers and families of their own, and for them to not let anything get in the way of their dreams. She wished her children a happy life. Little did I know at the time that this family who had touched my heart with their stories would be in for a very difficult journey. You see, two weeks after they left the hotel, the staff was given the news that the mother had died from cancer. Every single one of us who knew them was affected. There wasn’t a single person who didn’t feel for the family.
I’m very grateful to the two of them who showed me what love, perseverance and determination could do. They both gave me one of the greatest gifts that day. They taught me to be grateful for the little things and not take anything or anyone for granted. They also taught me that the dreams I think are important may be where I need to be or a stepping stone to a different path. When I think of new adventures and new challenges, I now think of them. I hope that I can find the kind of love they shared and can find the happiness they acquired in their time together.