Last night I accompanied a local choir on violin as they sang a wide variety of great showpiece tunes. (This was a repeat of the same concert I played back in the springtime following a truly horrendous rehearsal attempt with my children present.) I had only a small part for the Merry Widow Waltz, so once that was over (quite successfully, if I may say so myself), I sat back and enjoyed the show. One particular number gave me goosebumps all over and a thrill of nostalgia. That was a medley from The Phantom of the Opera. You see, I have a rather intense relationship with the Phantom that’s going on nearly twenty years.
When I was six, some friends of my parents gave them tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera in Toronto and offered to babysit me and my sister, too. (I can really appreciate a sweet deal now when I see one as a parent — tickets and babysitting!) The only problem was that that was the day I brought home my alphabet book from kindergarten. I’d been working on it a letter a day and it was my pride and joy. I was totally ticked off that my mom wasn’t around to see it. My patient babysitter Cecily distracted me, my sister, and her own daughter with her collection of tutus. We danced around the living room for what seemed like hours, jumped on the mini trampoline, hung out in their hot tub, and watched Land Before Time. It was a good time, until I got homesick at bedtime. While comforting me, Cecily promised she’d take me to see The Phantom for my sixteenth birthday. It was a safe promise for her to make, ten years in the future, but I took it very seriously, as any six-year-old would.
Mom and Dad got home the next day, glowing with happiness from their romantic getaway and bearing the soundtrack. That CD quickly became the soundtrack of my life for the next year. A pattern soon emerged: I’d come home from school, put on the CD, grab a pair of leotards and put the elasticized end on my head in order to simulate long hair, get a toilet paper tube as a toy microphone, and stand on the couch singing my heart out at full volume. My particularly favourite part was Christine’s solo where she goes higher and higher, and the Phantom yells, “Sing, my angel, sing!” and she responds by going yet higher. At six, I could nearly hit all those notes if I used enough force. I knew the entire soundtrack, as well as the liner notes and the names of the actors, by heart.
How my mother put up with this racket on a daily basis, I do not know. Old retired Uncle Gord from next door would wander down for visits and find himself suddenly immersed in a very intense world of opera. He was a forgiving audience and one that I appreciated because he clapped dutifully and never told me to stop. Come to think of it, he probably enjoyed this extreme opposite of his normally quiet life.
My sixteenth birthday came and went and I never saw The Phantom of the Opera. Cecily moved away from Dorset when I was about 10, and though my parents kept in touch, I think she forgot about her promise. I don’t resent that at all, but I’ll always feel slightly incomplete till I’ve seen it, just because I believed so strongly for so long that I’d see it when I turned sixteen. Phantom is no longer in Toronto and I don’t know when it will be back. I still want to see it more than anything. Someday I’ll go, and when I do, a little piece of my childhood that’s remained incomplete for so many years will finally be satisfied.