Leaving on a Jet Plane

On Saint-Patrick’s Day, 2014, the phone rang at our house. It was Rodney Cottier, the Head of the Drama School at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (or LAMDA) on the line.

LAMDA is one of the finest drama schools in the world and a month earlier, my youngest son Christian had auditioned in Toronto for LAMDA’s Masters in Classical Acting program. Rodney’s call was to inform Christian that he had been accepted.

It isn’t always possible to know which of the choices, or which of the curves thrown at us, or which of the harrowing experiences, or successes, or events, or chance encounters will be seminal in our life, and I think that’s a good thing.

Christian waiting for the evening's performance.
Christian waiting for the evening’s performance.

But on that day, Christian knew. We all knew…that his life had just jumped its tracks, that its course had been indelibly altered, that he was going to live an adventure the likes of which he had only daydreamed about.

And so began the saga of Christian’s year in London.

That story is his to tell.

Mine is about how the story ends. It ends with success and immense shared joy. It also ends with a trip to London, which I began on September 11th, because it was unimaginable that I should miss seeing my son on stage performing Shakespeare in the greatest theatrical city in the world; and that he be left to graduate alone, and to pack up and move back to Montreal alone.

I arrived at Heathrow on September 12th. What followed were 15 extraordinary days during which a lifetime of hopes and what-ifs and imaginings about the land of Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Fry and BBC drama were measured against the reality of Great Britain’s capital, and found to be totally up to snuff.

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What I also realized during my time across the pond is that while Christian was at LAMDA, his father, brothers and I were in London with him for a part of every day: with every Skype and Facetime session, with every Facebook post and Message, every story, every experience he shared with us, every problem, every fever or cough.

 

This is the way we love each other. Our London was discovered vicariously, but it had its own reality.

Here begins my LONDON JOURNAL. Bon voyage!

September 11th, 2015

Facebook post from the airport:

Okay! I made it through airport security and here I am at gate 59.

A year ago, I had just walked Christian to his security check point.

There was such strong emotion on that day; such an acute feeling of separation, anticipation and apprehension…in us both! Finally, Christian disappeared behind the wall of security and what was left was the most painful happiness I have ever known.

Now, I go to see who he has become and what he has accomplished in London, at LAMDA which, for me, still feels more like fiction than fact.

“The truth is life is full of joy and full of great sorrow, but you can’t have one without the other. “
Andre Dubus III

The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London
The Thames Walk, Hammersmith, London