Monday, April 11, 2011

When You Wish Upon A Star...

This is my third day home and I still can’t believe everything that happened on my wish trip to New York. My family and I had a glorious time. We arrived Sunday night and got settled in before our non-stop week started the next morning.

On Monday, our first full day in the city, we took the subway (the 4 train from Grand Central- 42nd to Bowling Green) to the ferry that would take us to Liberty Island. It was pretty chilly by the water and, once again, I was so glad we got snowed out in December. It would have been miserable. Anyway, we took the ferry to see Lady Liberty (Fun fact here, her name is actually Liberty Enlightening the World.) and on the 15 minute ride over I tried to imagine what it would be like to see her after weeks cramped on a boat with hundreds of other people. I couldn’t fathom the elation that sight would bring. She was beautiful. After circling the entire statue we hopped on the ferry again and headed to Ellis Island. (Apparently it is a common misconception that the statue is actually on Ellis Island.) The greatest thing about Ellis Island is the database of all the people who passed through there. We found who we think to be both of my Dad’s grandfathers. When we got back to the hotel we got a call from Make A Wish asking if we would like to go to Tuesday night’s Yankees game that tickets had just been donated. Of course I said “yes.”

I decided to take it easy on Tuesday because it was the day before my wish and my leg was already pretty tired from all the walking we did on Monday. I chose to visit the Strand Bookstore, which I had planned to visit at some point on the trip. The four story used bookstore is home to 18 miles of books, otherwise known as, my personal heaven. What makes the Strand even more special is that the third floor is devoted entirely to rare books. When the elevator doors opened I was overwhelmed by one of my favorite smells in the entire world, old books. Mmmm. Not nasty moldering discarded old books, but meticulously cared for preserved old books. Mmmm-mmmm-mmmm. Brandon was very excited to find a copy of the Odyssey from the 1500’s. It was a bit out of his price range at $600 though. After lunch we went back to the hotel to rest. That night we took the 4 train again, this time in the other direction, to Yankees Stadium. We were expecting just normal seats. Nope our tickets were for the Legend’s Suite (if you’re from Seattle they are equivalent to the Diamond Club at Safeco Field.) We were in the very first row behind home plate. Now that is the way to watch baseball let me tell you.

Finally, the big day came. I could hardly believe it; I had been waiting so long. A limo picked us up at 11:45 and took us to the Minskoff theater. I went in the stage door and met with one of the stage managers, who took me backstage. That’s right I said ONE of the stage managers. It takes FIVE to keep the Lion King running smoothly. One calls the show, one stays in the stage manager’s office to iron out any wrinkles that pop up during a performance, one works on stage left, one works stage right and one works the “basement.” I got to shadow the basement stage manager. I have to tell you when I first heard my assignment I was a bit disappointed thinking that I’d be sitting under the stage for the entire show. Man was I wrong. The basement stage manager does what I like to do when working on a show, runs around and makes sure everyone and everything are where they are supposed to be. The basement stage manager also calls when the elevators used to bring actors up or down through the stage are clear to go. (I got to wear a headset and got to call clear a couple times.) We were on the move for the entire show and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Once again I was very happy that my trip was delayed, I wouldn’t have been able to do that in December. Anyone who has seen this show know how spectacular it is, the backstage is at least ten times more spectacular than what you see onstage. It was hard to know where to look, there was so much crammed into the relatively small wing space. Every inch of the wings are used as well as every inch of air space. When puppets and set pieces are not being used they are flown up to make room on the stage level. I have seen many professional shows at the theaters in Seattle and have always wondered how they made the set pieces glide across the stage without someone pushing them. Now I know there are tracks in the stage floor that set pieces are hooked to and someone pushes a button that makes them move. I can’t tell you how long I have wondered how that works. Though it may seem utterly chaotic backstage at times, this show is anything but. It is a precisely choreographed awe-inspiring dance. Everybody, crew and cast alike, was so nice and made me feel so welcomed. The people of the theater are what drew me in and kept me coming. The caring, sarcastic, passionate, loving, welcoming, beautiful people that I fell in love with in Everett, Washington are part of a special community that from Colby Avenue, Everett to Broadway, New York bring joy and love to the world and make this girl feel at home.

I think I woke up Thursday morning with the same smile on my face that I fell asleep with. That morning we were scheduled to go on the NBC studio tour. We had planned on getting there in time to be a part of the Today show crowd to show off the neon “Thank You Make A Wish” sign that I had made, but we didn’t make it. (We decided sleep was much more important.) The tour was really good. The studios are much smaller than they appear, especially the ones for Nightly News and SNL. After the tour we walked around Rockefeller center and had lunch. When lunch was finished we took a cab to Strawberry Fields in Central Park. The teardrop-shaped area is designated as a quiet zone in memory of John Lennon. Being the Beatles fan that I am, I could not leave New York without seeing it. There is a peace and serenity to Strawberry Fields that I am sure can’t be found anywhere else in the bustling metropolis. I still have trouble believing what happened Thursday night. To understand my disbelief you have to go back to Sunday morning at the airport in Seattle. We were waiting for the plane telling the Alaska Airlines Make A Wish representatives about my wish. There was a gentleman to the right of us listening to what I was saying. He started asking me some questions and then told us that he was one of the producers of Memphis, which won the 2010 Tony for best musical. (The show debuted in Seattle and I really wanted to see it but, I never got a chance to see it.) He said that he would like to get us tickets and a backstage tour after the show. Thursday night we had great seats to see the show, which deserves every award it’s won. Memphis was fantastic, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. After the show, Kenny (the man from the airport) and his wife Marlene gave us a backstage tour and introduced us to some of the cast. Once again I was in awe of how wonderful the theater community is. Thanks to this very generous man I didn’t get just one wish, I got two.

Friday I again woke with a smile on my face. It was our last day in the city but, there was one thing left on my list of must dos. The Museum of Modern Art is home to my favorite painting of all time, Van Gough’s Starry Night. My ankle was hurting pretty badly after all the walking I had done the rest of the week but, I had to see it. I am so glad I did. The painting was so beautiful; the stars even seemed to twinkle. I fell in love with it all over again when I saw it in person. It was a magical ending to the most magical week of my life.

Above anything else, this trip renewed my belief that everything happens for a reason. Even though I was very disappointed when my trip was postponed, it was definitely for the best. First, we would have frozen our butts off in December and would have had a terrible time getting around. We wouldn’t have met Kenny at the airport and we wouldn’t have gone to a Yankees game. Most importantly I would have had a lot of trouble getting around. In December I was still completely dependent on a cane to get around. Now I don’t need any walking aid except the occasional arm of another person. There is no way I could have walked all over the theater at the Lion King like I did. In short, my wish would not have been nearly as wonderful as it was. Like I said, everything happens for a reason.

Thank you Make A Wish so very much for making my dream come true!!!

Mischief Managed, SAMMY

If you would like to see more pictures go to:


  1. I am so happy for you and so envious of your incredible NYC experience! And what a cool act of the fates that you should meet Kenny and get to see yet another show! An amazing week for an amazing lady :) Thanks for sharing your joys with us, Sammy!
    BTW - I'm loving all the hair!!! :) It's growing back so fast!


  2. Sammy - what an awesome opportunity!!! You look fantastic and Brandon looks so grown up. What happened to that little boy that used to love to play with Justin? It sounds like you are doing so well. I keep telling Dan to check in with your family - he travels to Seatle a few times a year now on business. Maybe we'll all come see you next time he has a business trip there. Take care and give your parents (and brother) big hugs from Chicago.