By JENNIFER STEUER
“Check it? Can I be real a second? For just a millisecond? Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?” Thank you, Lin-Manuel Miranda for giving me the words I need to reach out and say I am overwhelmed. I’m the mom of three 13-year-olds – during a pandemic, wearing masks and not touching anyone other than the people who live with you. Thank you to the “Hamilton” soundtrack for helping transport me to happier times for me.
This past year, I turned to music as my therapy and listened to the Hamilton soundtrack. My earbuds and speakers took a beating. All I wanted to do was be in my happy place and sing along. During conversations, lyrics would pop into my head and I could smile again. Olivia and Rebecca know the lyrics by heart. Ben likes to roll his eyes and pretend he doesn’t know all the words. The kids and I have fun with them.
When Disney+ announced that they would be streaming “Hamilton” with the original cast, I was so excited! I have no idea how many times I have watched “Hamilton.” My days were dark sometimes. I know that there are other people who use music to help or to celebrate good times. Olivia uses music like I do, and she will sing to make everything better. Rebecca chooses to listen and sarcastically comment.
My brain can’t wrap around all the death and despair that has been a part of this past year. My overwhelming and pathological need to keep my family safe has consumed me. I listen and draw strength from this music. Aaron Burr sings “Wait for It” and describes how love, life and death “do not discriminate between the sinners and the saints/ they take and they take and they take.” This is how I see COVID. This virus does not discriminate. A virus does not care about infection and death. Many, many people have died from COVID, and I just don’t understand how this happened.
My brain would seek out Phillipa Soo’s voice. Her beautiful and haunting Eliza calling out “Stay Alive.” This song may be about living through the American Revolution, but the words can also work in the time of COVID: “Stay alive ‘til this horror show is past. We’re gonna fly a lot of flags half-mast. Raise a glass.” My goal through the last 14 months has been to stay alive and keep my family alive. We wear our masks, use hand sanitizer and socially distance in an effort to stay safe and help keep other people safe.
Anxiety took up residence in my brain, my diaphragm and deep in my soul. It eroded me in a way nothing has before. Every cough, sniffle and headache scared me until I couldn’t breathe. The anxiety of not being able to control anything made me want to control every aspect of my life. It wasn’t enough. “I am the one thing in my life I can control!” Aaron Burr had it right. He was also riddled with anxiety. I am not going to dual with anyone, but anxiety can be just as deadly.
Pre-COVID my life was pretty basic as a stay-at-home mom and care partner for Harlan and my mom. I ran errands, made phone calls, drove to doctor’s appointments for the six of us, and I did what I could to keep my house moving. Pre-COVID, my kids went to school and would socialize. I was able to have date lunches with Harlan. There was a definite rhythm to the days.
Since the beginning of COVID, I have watched an ambulance take Harlan, and I could not be by his side. My mother has gone in for major surgery, and I was not by her side. This nasty virus has touched every single person in one way or another. We are all scared. My family, my children have all stayed healthy. The pandemic is going to be a watershed moment in our lives and a time Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca will talk to friends about what they did and how our family coped with the changes. The very last song of the amazing “Hamilton” soundtrack is “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” and I get tears in my eyes every time I hear it. I am still here, and I will tell this story for the rest of my life.
Jennifer Steuer is an Albany mom whose busy household includes her husband, Harlan, and 13-year-old triplets Olivia, Benjamin and Rebecca. Follow her on Instagram: jennifersteuer.