Les Mis

imgresMany years ago…twelve years?  Fifteen? I don’t remember exactly, but “many years ago”, when my children were still very young, my sister Mary introduced us to the musical “Les Mis”.  I don’t remember details, but I do remember that we suddenly found ourselves in possession of the “Dreamcast” DVD.  Kate and I fell in love with the music, the romance, and drama of it all, and we began to listen to it almost every afternoon, as I made dinner.

My two little boys, then only about 6 and 8 years old, loved to stack up pillows in the hall to make the “barricades”.  As the musical played, they would act out each event. Poor Paul would come home for dinner to find us shouting out the lyrics to “Red; the blood of angry men!  Black; the dark of ages past!” We were absolutely swept away by the magic and power of that music.

Over the years, the soundtrack to the musical of Les Mis became a part of our family history.  Mary and I took our daughters to see a production in Boston when they were only teenagers. And one time Kate and I were so engrossed in singing along to the soundtrack that we completely missed our highway exit, and had to travel some eighty miles out of our way to get back to our route.

So we come to tonight.  The film version of the iconic musical had come out, and my sister Mary had already convinced us that it was wonderful.   I had to go and see it! I had to!  Kate was just as determined as I was, and we made a plan to meet up tonight at the local theater.  I bought the tickets; she bought the popcorn.

We were both excited and happy as the opening credits began to roll. This would be so much fun!

Only, it wasn’t fun at all.  It was beautiful, and epic and gorgeous.  The acting was absolutely stunning, at least to me.  I came home more than half in love with Hugh Jackman, and dazed by the power of Ann Hathaway as “Fantine”.

But my eyes are swollen, my heart is aching, and my throat is raw.  I cried and cried and cried, through the whole two and a half hour event.

You see, I was there at the movies with my little girl.  I used to sing to her, “Come to me, Cosette, the day is dying…..”  And here she was, right beside me, her hand held tight in mine.

I was there, healthy and strong, and sitting with my girl.  Knowing that I have two friends who had to endure the death of their own little girl, a kindergartener, this past summer.

I was there, knowing that my two boys, my activist sons, were safe in their apartment, most likely making music of their own as the music in the theater filled my heart. No one was shooting at them.

As the film went on, I tried to keep my composure, watching the naive boys on the barricades as they tried to create a revolution in the streets.  I tried to focus on the excessive drama and romanticism of the story. I tried to laugh at the obviously fake butterflies flitting by as Cosette and Marius met and fell in love through the wrought iron fence in the moonlight.

And I was doing pretty well, too.  Right up until the moment when I was caught completely off guard when the little boy, Gavroche, the mascot of the Revolution, was gunned down in the street, and the camera focused in on his beautiful, innocent child’s face.  That was when life and  the movies collided for me, and I couldn’t begin to stop my tears. His face in that moment was the face of all those innocent children killed in Newtowne. I had to hold my hand over my mouth to stop from crying out loud.

I used to think that luck and virtue were somehow connected, that those of us who live charmed lives must somehow have proven ourselves worthy.

I don’t think that anymore.

Now I know that finding myself hand-in-hand with my daughter is a gift that is not of my making.  I know that my sons’ trips to New York and Chicago as part of the Occupy Movement, and (more importantly) their safe trips back home, were merely some kind of cosmic luck.  And I can’t begin to know how long that luck will last.

Every day is a gift.  Every family visit, every shared dinner, every song, every meal, every laugh; they are all gifts that are bestowed by a benevolent universe on those who happen to drift past.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”

18 thoughts on “Les Mis

  1. Strongly written and a proper reflection of your personal feelings and emotions. For me it wasn’t Gavroche’s death that got to me – it was the power of Samantha Barks singing the beautiful melody of On my Own. As she sang the rain washed over her face – in the theater, every where I looked people were sniffling and running their own hands over their faces to wipe tears.



  2. Oh Moms, I have tears in my eyes too. I love that show and have seen it multiple times — including an amazing “black box theater” experience just last January (or was it the year before). I’ve been worried about seeing it — is the movie up to the stage version.

    I hadn’t thought of the connection to Newtown, though. I’m not sure I’m ready for that.

    It sounds like a wonderful experience with your daughter, though. And every opportunity to realize how precious people are is a joyous one.


    • Elyse, I had the same reservations about the film, having seen the stage production and several “concert versions”. But it was so much better than the stage show: you see the true emotions on the faces of those incredible actors. Wow…..
      I am absolutely planning to see it again, but not for a little while. My heart is still too sore.


      • Thanks, Moms. I’m getting terribly varying reviews. My brother hated it (but then he often pulls out videos for us to watch that are horrible), so I figured I would probably like it. My husband, who adores the stage show, is concerned. I am sure we will see it though. Probably, sigh, in our family room like all the other movies that we don’t ever get to in the theater.


  3. I saw it in Boston back when I was in high school. I was mesmerized.

    Your words brought tears to my eyes as well, I can imagine how you felt watching the movie. I am trying to be more mindful of all the blessings I have in my life today, and not be so fearful of tomorrow anymore.


    • It’s such a fine line, isn’t it? Being able to focus on the beauty of today without regretting the past or fearing/anticipating the future.
      I hope you see the film, and I hope you love it!


  4. I am so glad I read this. I am in the Gili islands in Indonesia with my husband and all three kids. We are rarely all together so will treasure the next few days as we travel through SE Asia (it’s easy to get on each other’s nerves in our travel conditions, but your post is a great reminder to let stuff go). On a different Les Mis note: My daughter and her boyfriend who met in college and have lived i California all of their lives, discovered they both attended the exact same production (same day and time) of Les Mis in London six years before they met (they both kept the ticket stubs). The coincidence is even more uncanny, because we were seeing the play during a 20 hour layover between flights from Vienna to SF and he was there with a high school band trip. 🙂 I think we will see Les Mis in Kuala Lumpur (I will be thinking of you and probably weeping).


    • What?!? SE Asia? Yikes, I am sitting in snowy Massachusetts…….
      What an amazing trip! And how wonderful that you are all together to enjoy it. You guys live an adventurous life!
      I can’t even tell you how much I love the story of your daughter and her boyfriend! That is just the coolest thing, ever!
      On a similar note, my daughter met her boyfriend when they got arrested together with Occupy Wall St. As we came out of the movie last night, she said, “I guess I got that whole “meeting the love of your life at the Revolution” thing, huh?”


  5. Momsheib: I’m so happy for you that you got to share Les Miz with your daughter. It sounded like such a special experience. I went with my daughters as well. We are conflicted (more like at war) as a family over our review of the movie. WW and I are ex-actors and I’m an ex-opera singer. Les Miz is our favorite musical of all time as a family. WW and my oldest daughter and my sister think the movie is a masterpiece, and I liked it a lot but my youngest daughter and I couldn’t acquiesce to the director casting actors who can sing rather than outstanding singers who can act. (Russell Crowe’s singing made my teeth hurt!) So far, we’ve agreed to disagree. Ha! Regardless, the story is magnificient and I’ll buy the DVD as soon as it goes on sale, but will listen to the concert version when I want to bathe in the stellar voices.


    • Eleanor,
      I so agree with you on Russell Crowe! I was actually tapping my feet (loudly) trying to get him on tempo! And I went to the movie ready to cringe over Ann H and “Wolverine”, but something about the power of the acting overcame my feelings about the singing. Still, though, when I need the MUSIC, I’m listening to the concert version (over and over and over). I’m glad that you were able to share it with your family, as I was.
      I’m still grieving over Gavroche…..!


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