Mattie Miracle 2021 Walk was a $125,000 success!

Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation Promotional Video

Thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive!

Dear Mattie Blog Readers,

It means a great deal to us that you take the time to write to us and to share your thoughts, feelings, and reflections on Mattie's battle and death. Your messages are very meaningful to us and help support us through very challenging times. To you we are forever grateful. As my readers know, I promised to write the blog for a year after Mattie's death, which would mean that I could technically stop writing on September 9, 2010. However, at the moment, I feel like our journey with grief still needs to be processed and fortunately I have a willing support network still committed to reading. Therefore, the blog continues on. If I should find the need to stop writing, I assure you I will give you advanced notice. In the mean time, thank you for reading, thank you for having the courage to share this journey with us, and most importantly thank you for keeping Mattie's memory alive.

As Mattie would say, Ooga Booga (meaning, I LOVE YOU)! Vicki and Peter

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation celebrates its 7th anniversary!

The Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation was created in the honor of Mattie.

We are a 501(c)(3) Public Charity. We are dedicated to increasing childhood cancer awareness, education, advocacy, research and psychosocial support services to children, their families and medical personnel. Children and their families will be supported throughout the cancer treatment journey, to ensure access to quality psychosocial and mental health care, and to enable children to cope with cancer so they can lead happy and productive lives. Please visit the website at: and take some time to explore the site.

We have only gotten this far because of people like yourself, who have supported us through thick and thin. So thank you for your continued support and caring, and remember:

.... Let's Make the Miracle Happen and Stomp Out Childhood Cancer!

A Remembrance Video of Mattie

July 19, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2007. Mattie went from a child who hated the water and bath time to one who you couldn't kick out of the tub. He could spend hours in the water if you let him. This was Mattie's rendition of "Santa Mattie!" A character he played often in the tub. He could play a whole cast of characters when taking a bath and mind you he never bathed alone..... there were always cars, trucks, and toys in the tub with him. It was always a party in there, which was why bath time was a major production!

Quote of the day: "I used to go and flatten my nose against that window and absorb all I could of his art," she once wrote to a friend. "It changed my life. I saw art then as I wanted to see it." ~ Mary Cassatt, speaking about how Edgar Degas transformed her life

I had a relatively computer free day today. Which was absolutely needed given my mental state. Peter and I took a five mile walk through Washington, DC and along our journey we passed this Sponge Bob mailbox. If Mattie could have seen this he would have gone absolutely hysterical. I am NOT a Sponge Bob fan, but in honor of Mattie, I posed by it! This mailbox is on Pennsylvania Avenue and it gets a lot of tourist attention. In fact, Peter snapped a photo of a family in front of the mailbox right before taking my photo. 

Our destination today was the National Gallery of art. We wanted to see their special exhibit entitled, Degas/Cassatt. Some how when I go to museums in DC, I can't help but think of my friend Margaret. She was my museum buddy. In fact my only friend in DC who really enjoyed going to museums with me. We had the same interests, went through exhibits in the same way (THOROUGHLY reading every placard and then discussing them!), and together we had a way of bringing the art alive. As I stepped foot into the Museum today, it reminded me of who I lost on June 1 and the tragic way I lost my friend. 

The Huffington Post wrote an article/conducted an interview about the exhibit Peter and I saw today, and entitled it, "An exquisite exhibit." I attached the link here in case any one wants to read it: Do I think Degas and Cassatt were extraordinary artists? Indeed, but do I think this exhibit was extraordinary? Absolutely NOT! I hate to break it to the National Gallery! I even got the audio tour too, so I can't say I missed out on content. But unfortunately the content wasn't to be had! Instead, I had to come home and spend an hour or more of my own time to learn about the lives of Degas and Cassatt. Seems to me that is counter intuitive of going to a museum. There was virtually no biographical information about Degas and Cassatt within the exhibit. If they are expecting people to know this off hand, I think that is a stretch. 

The exhibit intimates that there is a great relationship between Degas and Cassatt, however, they really do not go into detail about what level of closeness we are talking about. This troubled me to NO END, especially as I moved from room to room and kept observing the art work which I will highlight for you below. So I found that the exhibit left me with many unanswered questions, which I had to come home to answer. Perhaps human dynamics do not intrigue every museum goer, but it seems to me the way the National Gallery had set up this exhibit, the question of whether Degas was IN LOVE with Cassatt???? practically screamed off the canvases to each museum attendee! 

(Overview from the National Gallery) Mary Cassatt, American born, made her debut in 1879 with the group of artists known as the impressionists, her name has been linked with French artist, Edgar Degas. Cassatt stated that her first encounter with Degas’s art “changed my life,” while Degas, upon seeing Cassatt’s art for the first time, reputedly remarked, “there is someone who feels as I do.” It was this shared sensibility as much as Cassatt’s extraordinary talent that drew Degas’s attention. The affinity between the two artists is undeniable. Both were realists who drew their inspiration from the human figure and the depiction of modern life. Both were highly educated, known for their intelligence and wit, and from well-to-do banking families. They were peers, moving in the same social and intellectual circles. Cassatt, who had settled in Paris in 1874, first met Degas in 1877, when he invited her to participate with the impressionists at their next exhibition. Over the next decade, the two artists engaged in an intense dialogue, turning to each other for advice and challenging each other to experiment with materials and techniques. Their admiration and support for each other endured long after their art began to head in different directions: Degas continued to acquire Cassatt’s work, while she promoted his to collectors back in the United States. They remained devoted friends for forty years, until Degas’s death.

"At the Theatre" by Mary Cassatt. Cassatt loved to paint women and the reality of every day scenes. Over time her subjects seemed to change from aristocratic scenes and women to that of mothers and their children. Nonetheless, her scenes were always real and candid.

"The Loge" by Mary Cassatt. These two young women were at the theatre, being chaperoned of course. In the 1870s, this was the only respectable way women could meet men. Notice that the women were NOT wearing jewelry. Jewelry was worn by married women only. Which explains the velvet choker around the young girl's neck. The only flair and adornment allowed were the fans and flowers worn by these unmarried girls.   

"Rehearsal in the Studio" by Degas. While Cassatt liked painting people observing the movement, Degas preferred painting the movers! He loved capturing people behind the scenes such as dancers. 

"Girl in the blue armchair" by Mary Cassatt. The period leading up to Cassatt’s debut with the impressionists 
in 1879 was one of keen experimentation for both artists. They worked closely together during this time, exploring new and 
unconventional media. The most intriguing work to result from this intense dialogue was this one. With its loose brushwork and light palette, it is arguably Cassatt’s first true impressionist painting. In fact through infrared technology, they have discovered that Degas actually worked on the background of Cassatt's painting. He really revamped the whole background in a way. The dog at one point was on the floor by the couch, rather that on the chair. If you look closely, you can still see the covered spot on the floor where the dog used to sit. Also Degas extended the painting in height. In Cassatt's original work, it cut off right above the girl's head and there was no back corner where the sunlight is now coming in!

 (info from National Gallery website:) "Scene from the Steeplechase: The Fallen Jockey" was one of Degas' most ambitious early works. Painted in 1866 for exhibition at the Paris Salon, this painting marked a transition from the classically inspired history paintings of his youth toward the depiction of subjects drawn from modern life that would dominate his art for the rest of his career. The subject he chose was both fashionable and relatively novel: the steeplechase. First introduced into France in the 1830s, the steeplechase was—and remains today—a dangerous and at times controversial cross-country obstacle race. The sense of immediacy the painting seeks to evoke contrasts sharply with the artist's own working method, which was complex and painstaking. Degas produced several preparatory drawings for this painting, including several of the fallen jockey for which the artist's younger brother Achille served as model. Despite his efforts, neither the contemporary appeal of the subject nor its impressive dimensions piqued the interest of the critics, and it passed largely unnoticed. Soon after the exhibition closed, Degas appears to have reworked at least part of the canvas. It was but the first of at least three transformations carried out by the artist over the span of some thirty years. In 1880, with the intention of selling the painting to Alexander Cassatt, the brother of the painter Mary Cassatt, Degas began reworking the painting a second time, altering the original composition and introducing another horse. Dissatisfied with the results, Degas refused to release the painting. In a letter to her son, Cassatt's mother observed bleakly of the painting: "I doubt if he ever sells it—he says it is one of those works which are sold after a man's death & artists buy them not caring whether they are finished or not." In the mid-to-late 1890s, Degas returned to this painting a third time, transforming its appearance even more dramatically by adding an overlay of vibrant color to the sky and the jockey's silks. Virtually every inch of the canvas was reworked with one notable exception: the delicately painted face of the fallen jockey—Achille, who had died in 1893—was left untouched. True to Mrs. Cassatt's prediction, the painting remained in the artist's studio until his death.

There was one room within the exhibit that featured sketches Degas made of Mary Cassatt at the Louvre. Cassatt was the woman with the umbrella. Not just one sketch mind you, BUT MANY! The audio tour skirted around this by saying that he needed a subject for his scene or something like that. I wasn't buying it. 

Then on the next wall we saw a series of etchings by Cassatt. These etchings were entitled "The Visitor" by Mary Cassatt. Keep in mind they were a SERIES! MANY!!!! Guess what? Degas bought all of them. Degas had over 100 of Cassatt's works in his home. The exhibit kept pointing to the fact that they admired each other's work, understood each other, spent time with each other, and so forth. That he sketched her, painted her, and collected a great deal of her works. When you look at this exhibit what came to my mind was he was in love with her. 

When you read the Huffington Post link above, and see the response to just that same question posed to the National Gallery representative, her response is NO. That they did not have a romantic relationship. That this did not interest either one of them! That may indeed by the case. But one does not need to be romantically involved with someone to be enamored, obsessed, and captured by a person. I would say that was what Degas was with Cassatt. Certainly I can't know this for sure, but his art work spoke volumes to me. 

This painting is entitled "Mary Cassatt" by Degas. Degas painted this when Cassatt was in her 30s. At the time, he wanted to show the serious, intense, and persistent side of Cassatt. In all intensive purposes, he painted it devoid of feminine attractiveness. It was to prove a point about her brilliance. Of course when one is in their 30s, that makes a wonderful statement. Yet as Cassatt aged, she did not value this painting nor the statement it made anymore. In fact, she hated the painting and did not want it in her home any more, and wanted to sell it. But she also did not want anyone to know that this was her depicted in the painting. Ultimately, she was very explicit that she did not want it going to an American collection because she didn't want her name attached to it and the American collectors knowing it was her. Ironically, it now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC with her name very much attached to it. 

It saddens me that Cassatt's wishes about this painting are known and yet despite that no one has a problem displaying this painting for the world to see. She apparently has an heir, and I guess this woman has no problem with Cassatt being on display, but if it where my family member's wishes, I would think twice about it. I also wonder what was the deeper emotion behind the disgust with this painting? To me it points to a bigger falling out between Degas and Cassatt and frankly I wish the exhibit gave us a better understanding of their lives together. They hinted at it, but I felt like Hansel and Gretel today at the National Gallery. I was picking up bread crumbs on a trail and instead found a half eaten ginger bread house. 

July 18, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2008. Literally two weeks before Mattie was diagnosed with cancer. Rather ironic in a way, because to me, Mattie looks like the picture of health. Yet there are many people who are diagnosed with cancer, who I have heard also felt fine right before they were diagnosed. That notion is frightening to me. That weekend we took Mattie for a walk on Roosevelt Island. As was typical, Mattie found a branch along his walk and claimed it. He most likely took it home with him that day and added it to his stick collection. Do notice the orange shirt. Mattie gravitated to the colors, orange and red. They were bright, bold, and strong which he loved, and these are colors which represent his Foundation today. 

Quote of the day: Courage does not always roar. Sometimes it is a quiet voice at the end of the day, saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.' ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

I spent a good chunk of the day by the computer and at this point in time, my computer and I have a LOVE/HATE relationship with each other! My eyes hurt, as well as my head. But most of all I am simply tired. More sheer exhaustion than anything else. I came into this project exhausted. I can tell my level of exhaustion, because as I am writing, I can't follow my train of thinking or the words I am stringing together. Which is very unusual for me. I typically do not have trouble concentrating. 

Therefore as it is 9pm, I am having the courage as tonight's quote implies to say that I will try again tomorrow. I am backing off of the computer and going to clear my mind. 

July 17, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. Mattie was pictured here with his buddy Maya. Maya is a clinic patient, but does not have cancer. She was the only same aged friend that Mattie made while at the hospital. Otherwise Mattie preferred much older friends! Mattie related to Maya. Maya is a lot like Mattie.... bright, engaging, very verbal, and speaks her mind. In fact, they met one day in clinic while sitting around the art table. Maya made a comment about not liking IV sticks and as soon as Mattie heard that, out of no where, he piped into the conversation and began talking. Which was unusual for him! From that moment on, they just clicked and played very well together as this photo clearly showed. They were quite creative together. In this scene they transformed a cardboard box into a planet and there were alien creatures involved. They performed a show for all of us who were willing to watch the entertainment that day in clinic and the show even had musical numbers!

Quote of the day: I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plants and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life. ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

This coming September Peter and I will be acknowledging the fifth anniversary of Mattie's death, and yet despite the progression of time, there are aspects of grief and day to day living that I would say I/we still haven't mastered. I struggle with the fine balance of the need to isolate and protect myself from those I used to know (who are mothers) to finding ways of remaining connected. Either extreme doesn't work...... complete isolation or complete connectedness. Complete connectedness can't work because we no longer do the same things, we do not travel in the same social circles, or have the same interests. That is directly because Mattie died. I am not connected to a school, I am not raising a child, and therefore the typical mothering things one discusses and those stresses are off the table for me now. I have been instantly moved into the empty nester category. Except the one big problem is I am not an empty nester, my child doesn't exist. I have no one to check on, but have a lot of emotional baggage instead to live with. I assure you this is not pretty lunch conversation! 

It is hard to be around groups of women I once knew. Women in which we were united by our children! The natural conversation in these circumstances is our children. If Mattie were alive, I would be talking about him as well. They should be able to talk about their children and I should be able to hear about them, which I do. Yet, at the end of the day, I feel a greater sense of loss and a deep sadness because I can't explain why he is gone. People are talking summer camps and family vacations, and I am focused on the Foundation and writing book chapters about cancer. To me these are stark differences. Of course who said life is fair? I get it, know it, and don't like it. I guess as Da Vinci's quote seems to point out, I will always be looking for answers!

I came home and was feeling quite down. Rather teary. I bumped into Derrick, our complex's painter. He did not know how I was feeling but I was talking to him about my deck, which he painted for me in May! Which I was very grateful for, since without his help, I would never have gotten it together this spring! In any case, for the longest time Derrick has wanted to do a diamond pattern on my deck floor. So this afternoon, he came on over and repainted the floor. It was a lovely treat. While I was writing on the computer, I had my window open, the fountains going, he had his music on, and we were working in tandem. Some how it was wonderful company and as I told him, his diamond pattern reminds me of the beautiful pattern painted on the Cape Lookout Lighthouse in North Carolina! So I love it, I couldn't envision this, but thankfully I let Derrick convince me to do this! 

July 16, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. Literally a month before we found out that Mattie's cancer was terminal. Amazing the difference a month, or a few weeks can make! We knew Mattie wasn't eating and he wasn't feeling well, but the doctors kept assuring us that this was just a side effect of the chemotherapy. Some how I did not believe it. Some how I suspected something wasn't right, mainly because I was listening to what Mattie was telling me. I believed him. I assure you I heard all sorts of explanations from the doctors, everything from he was manipulating me with starving himself to..... he was addicted to a pain meds! Honestly! I wonder if the doctors ever felt any sort of remorse for these statements? I am sure they did not lose a minute's sleep over any of these false presumptions, but I remember each of them! I love this photo because Mattie took one of his buckets from the hospital (he had a sense of humor!), and decided to make a pretend bug soup! I filled the bucket up with water and he threw in all his plastic bugs and I gave him a big spoon. He had a fun time concocting on the floor that day.  

Quote of the day: Most people who offer their help do it to make themselves feel better, not us. To be honest, I don't blame them. It's superstition: If you give assistance to the family in need... if you throw salt over your shoulder... if you don't step on the cracks, then maybe you'll be immune. Maybe you'll be able to convince yourself that this could never happen to you. ~ Jodi Picoult

This evening Peter and I sat down and were watching TV. We watched a show that I had never seen before on The Learning Channel called, Born Schizophrenic. I love watching shows about mental health issues and human interest stories. Fortunately Peter has a diverse set of interests and as long as the story is engaging and compelling, he is happy to watch along. Tonight's series captured his attention immediately. How could it not! It was the story of a couple in California who have two children. One of them is a girl named Jani, who at the age of six was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Which is VERY unusual. Typically this mental health disorder gets diagnosed in one's late teens or early adulthood, or at least older than 12 years of age. Jani was highly unusual. This particular episode of this series introduced us to Jani, her parents, and her brother. 

Peter was captivated by Jani's dad, who said that in his wildest imagination he never thought that children developed mental illnesses, much less that he would have a child with a mental illness. Why this resonated with us is because we say this to ourselves about Mattie, only replace the words mental illness with cancer. The disease is different but the sentiments expressed were exactly the same as we feel. As we were watching Jani's parents manage her disease, the stresses on their marriage and their concerns for their daughter's future, everything made perfect sense to us. One has to marvel at the strength, passion, and conviction of Jani's parents. They have really fought incredible odds to get her to the stable place she is at today. Jani's road has been challenging with a great deal of therapy, medication, love, and parent support. But if this wasn't enough to contend with Jani's brother has also been diagnosed with mental illness.  

Seeing tonight's episode about Jani further reinforced to me how life altering it is when something happens to your child. It turns your life around. Jani's parents are living proof. Their world has and will never be the same since they had children with profound mental health issues. Yet they take their role as parents very seriously and through all of this, they channel the frustration and pain to advocate and help others. Their story can't help but capture your attention and their daughter's journey truly shows what love, persistence, and what early interventions can accomplish. 

Story about Jani:

Jani's Foundation:

July 15, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 -- Mattie died 253 weeks ago today.

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. Seeing this photo always makes me smile! I am not sure if it is because Mattie's smile looks a lot like Sponge Bob's or the simple notion that Mattie knew I did not care for Sponge Bob and he was hamming it up to show me how much he loved this gift! Either case to me this photo is priceless and precious. 

Quote of the day: Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking together in the same direction.  ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

In the mail yesterday I received a book from my long time friend and colleague, Nancy. Nancy sent me the book, How to be a friend to a friend who's sick. Nancy clearly met the author of this book, because I have a signed copy! Now the book's title may scare some people off, but to me, it is right up my alley. In fact, Letty (the author) could have written this book just for me. Of course she didn't. The author is a cancer survivor, who not only shares her personal perspectives but that of over 80 people she interviewed from Memorial Sloan Kettering to write this book. The premise of the book is fascinating because it gives us better insights in how to continue our relationships, our connections, and our bonds with our friends when illness comes between us. One may pause and ask, does illness really change a friendship? The answer from my perspective is a resounding YES!!! Illness changes everything about us and then if you should experience death, well that adds to the complexity! Letty's book discusses some of the things people said to her and her comrades during their illness journey, but more importantly it gives us some insights into ways to stay connected, and I have a feeling some of this may be humorous and heart breaking at the same time. All I know is I read the prologue today and I immediately identified with the book. I felt that Letty was able to put down in words things that are jumbled in my head and that I can't quite explain about friendships. 

Today Peter and I celebrated our anniversary! It is a surreal experience in many ways that we have been together all these years. We met in college! To be specific, I met Peter when I was 19 years old, and when you are 19, you can't even imagine that some day you will have a child that will develop cancer and die. It just isn't part of the plan, much less even a possible reality! Yet this is our reality. As I told Peter at dinner tonight, I am surrounded by women who constantly share their news with me about family members getting married or having babies. To the average woman this is all positive news. To me, this news is bittersweet. It is hard to explain, but once you lose your child to cancer, I see the odds and potentials for cancer as high in everything around me!

As I write this, I am sitting in Peter's office. We went out to dinner and got caught in a horrible rain storm walking back home from the restaurant. So we diverted to Peter's office for a while. Sitting at Peter's desk, I am surrounded by what Peter's sees each day at work. Photos of Mattie and other Mattie trinkets! Mattie is a part of our lives and yet it is an infuriating existence that he isn't physically part of our lives. On our anniversary, we naturally celebrate the fact that Peter and I are together and are working through a great tragedy, but always acknowledge who is missing at the table with us. 

July 14, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2009. Mattie was pictured with Anna, his physical therapist. Anna was one of the special women in our lives and I truly valued her skills and abilities. I also appreciated her honesty because she was one of the only professionals who told me the truth about Mattie's disabilities and why he was unable to walk after his surgeries. The majority of children with osteosarcoma have one primary tumor and therefore need one limb operated on (or at least one at a time), but Mattie had three limbs operated on in two months time! Therefore, it was hard for him to have the strength in his arms to support the recovery in his leg. He couldn't use crutches and it was also challenging for him to use a walker. So in essence Mattie really never learned to walk again. Though he looks upright in this photo, Mattie couldn't really take more than a couple of steps without becoming winded and needing to sit down. Yet Anna tried her hardest to motivate Mattie, to build up his strength, and to give him hope and confidence to continue working. She tried all sorts of games and antics to accomplish these tasks!

Quote of the day: Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn. Benjamin Franklin

There is something quite lovely about Benjamin Franklin's quote. All I know is I have been doing a great deal of LEARNING this summer. At times, I feel like I can't absorb much more. I look at the computer screen and I what I am reading doesn't make sense to me at times because I am tired. I am very grateful though that the George Washington University gives me access to their library and all their on line databases. Without them I could not possibly do the research that I need to for this book chapter. I am not granted this permission as an alum, I am granted this wonderful gift because in essence I worked for the counseling department for many years. I view this as a gift that I am most grateful for, because there is no way the Foundation could possibly pay the fees for what I have access to. I literally can search any database and I can retrieve articles and get articles sent to me from anywhere in the Country! It is amazing the publications at one's fingertips and the learning one can do!!!

Some times I think.... will I ever have to use the skills I learned in graduate school? Then a project like this comes along, and viola, before I know it, combing through databases and doing literature reviews is right back on my to do list. It is just like riding a bicycle. It is a skill that once you develop, you never forget it. Or at least, I had a dissertation chair that drilled this skill into me for so many years, that I know I will die being able to research just about any topic and subject matter. There were days in graduate school that I was so fed up with literature reviews for my dissertation that I would be in tears. I still remember the nightmare of writing my chapter 2 (which is the literature review chapter of a dissertation). People say you can forget, I DON'T forget the pain, even from that experience. 

Any case, I spent the day reading more articles, and wrote five more pages of the book chapter today. Again that may not sound extraordinary. But I learned with writing a dissertation or taking on any big project, the key is to attack it a little bit each day. In bits and pieces it eventually gets done. My hardest part was starting the chapter, but now that it is well on its way, my mind is turning and processing its development. 

July 13, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Tonight's picture was taken on July 13th of 2009. It was Brandon's 19th birthday and we were celebrating it in the clinic. Brandon was Mattie's big buddy and as you can see in this photo Mattie was with Brandon, clipping his fingers together with his alligator clips, and on the other side of Brandon was Jocelyn! It is hard to believe that two wonderful people in this photo are gone. Taken by osteosarcoma. 

Quote of the day: Without music life would be a mistake. ~ Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

This week Peter and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary. In honor of that occasion, I got tickets today for us to see the musical, Side Show. Musicals are something we both enjoy, after all we met each other singing in college. We both sung in our College's choir for four years.

Side Show originally was performed on Broadway in 1997, and basically was a flop. People either loved it or hated it, and after 91 performances, the show was CLOSED. Now seventeen years later, the show has been significantly revamped, new songs have been added, and apparently the content of the show has been changed. The focus of the show has gone from a backstage circus to more of a biography of the main characters within the play. 

This musical is heart wrenching. In fact, I couldn't make it through most songs without a tissue. It follows the life story of conjoint twins who were born in England in 1908. They were the first twins in England to be born joint at the spine and therefore it was unclear as to the safety of separating them surgically. Their mother was a barmaid and single and she gave them up for adoption. Unfortunately their lives only became more complicated and tragic. Their guardians exploited them and would allow people to pay money to see and touch them because of their deformities. Eventually these guardians made them perform as a side show in a circus (by this point they moved to the U.S.), where they would sing and dance. When they weren't singing and dancing, they were working. They had no freedoms and literally there was a court case in the United States where they had to fight to become independent citizens, to remove all custody and rights from their abusive guardian. 

Their upbringing and circus career were fascinating in and of itself, but it was the psychological nature of this play that captures the audience's heart strings. Literally almost every woman around me was CRYING! I haven't been to a play like this in YEARS!!! The twins shared with the audience their dreams and their hopes for a future.... to be like every one else!!! Something we all can relate to! They revealed how different they are as people, despite being twins! They also let us understand their frustrations with being physically attached to the other twin 24 hours a day. Yet even when one of them got mad and angry at the other at times, neither of them could imagine having a surgical procedure to become separated from the other. The whole notion frightened them as the song, "I will never leave you" depicts so poignantly! I will never leave you

The play explores love, differences, loyalty, trust, betrayal, and of course loss. These women really only wanted to be able to live an independent and every day life in which they could fall in love, marry, and work. But how does a man marry a conjoint twin? I do not think we still have answer to such a question and it is now 2014! The twins were deemed "freaks" all their lives, and they died that way. To me this play was also a social commentary on the evolution and perspective of tolerance in society. In the earlier 1900's, those with disabilities and deformities were classified as "freaks" to be put on display. Fortunately we have come a long way from that point in our history, where we have much more tolerance and understanding for physical disabilities. Of course, however, I will always remember people staring at Mattie when we took him out in public when he was battling cancer. I will never forget the rudeness and glares at his bald head and surgical scars, so I can't even imagine what kind of ridicule a conjoint twin suffered in the earlier 1900's. 

I am saddened to say that Side Show is leaving DC tonight! Otherwise I would say it is a MUST see! It has to be one of my favorite musicals I have seen in a long time! The music was moving and memorable and for once their was a plot, and a touching story line! We did not need to be dazzled with pyrotechnics and props........... all we needed was music and a story! Wow go figure! 

Info about Side Show: