My memories of Barbra Streisand are tied up with my memories of my father. When I was a kid he would play her music for me: concert cds and older stuff. I remember watching her 1994 concert with him on TV, her triumphant return to the stage after 27 years. He gave me a biography of her life the size of a dictionary when I was just old enough to read a book that big. I think secretly he thought I could one day follow in her foot steps.
I’m sure that as a theater nerd I would have found Barbra on my own, but probably not as early as I did because of my dad. I remember devouring her biography, feeling a connection to her by knowing so much about her life and how she grew up. For some reason I connected very strongly to her Brooklyn roots (I guess I have always been a displaced Brooklynite), and really appreciated the fact that she always knew she would be a star. This was back when I thought that if you wanted something bad enough and told enough people, it could be a reality. I thought believing I could be famous, just like she did, would be enough to get me there. And this was before The Secret. Either way, I loved the book, loved her music, and absolutely loved watching her perform.
In 2006 when she toured for the first time since 1994, my father and I were in a very different place than where we had been in 1994. He and my mother were in the middle of a separation and divorce that was taking years to finally end. They had finally just sold my childhood home, which at that point was more a point of hostility than a happy home, and were going to be living apart. I felt emotionally abandoned by him, since he had made choices that had lead him away from our family. For a long time my parents were “separated” but living in the same house. When he was home, he was a shell of the person I had known for the first 18 years of my life. In 2006 My father and I were not speaking because he had become a man I didn’t know anymore. My father, who taught me how to have a reasonable and rational argument had become someone who was impossible to reason with. I couldn’t get through to him, so I walked away. To be clear, I have no regrets from this time. I was trying to protect myself.
So when Barbra came to town, I felt that I had to go. I had to experience her voice live and I had to feel close to my father again. I remember having this revelation that I had to be at Madison Square Garden for her show and I had to get a ticket that very minute, for fear that it would be sold out. I was on 7th Avenue in Park Slope and all but ran to Ozzie’s (RIP Ozzie’s, I miss you!), where I knew there were computers I would use. I felt this incredible sense of urgency and necessity. It didn’t matter that the ticket was upwards of $200, my connection to Barbra was my connection to my father and I was trying to close the circuit.
I went to the show, by myself, and when the overture started (it was the melody of “People”), I cried. I didn’t miss my father, I was still so angry at him, but I cried for the loss of the man that he once was. The one who I loved to watch enjoy Barbra sing. Who would conduct the music coming out of the stereo and appreciate so much the art of what she was doing. Barbra gave a great show that night, and I wished that everything was different so that my dad could have enjoyed it too.
And now its 2012 and again everything is different. After all these years, about 10 to be exact, my father has started paying attention again, has come back. Since my wedding a year and a half ago, he has been reaching out, reentering my life. He calls me and takes me to dinner and doesn’t forget to be in touch. For father’s day this year, the first time I have celebrated in the last 10 years, I was able to give my dad tickets to Barbra’s Back to Brooklyn concert, which was at the Barclay Center last night. Not only did I feel that he deserved the experience, I was finally in a place that I wanted to go with him and share the concert. So finally, last night, I was able to sit next to my father and listen to Barbra sing. I got to watch him nod his head to the music and be excited by the talent in the room. He was so appreciative and, in the end, didn’t want to leave.
Barbra is incredible. After all these years she still has a voice that sends shivers down your spine. It feels your whole being with sound. She has such amazing control and presence live on stage and has the whole audience, all 20,000 of us, eating out of her hand. And it’s amazing to here all my old favorites live: Evergreen, The Way We Were, People, and, without a doubt, Happy Days Are Here Again. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to experience her live twice, in two such different ways.
I don’t want to say that I have forgiven him for everything that he has put my family through over the years, but I do feel that our relationship is in a positive place. I think the best way to put it is that I had to mourn the father that I had as a child. That person doesn’t exist anymore for many reasons. He is a different man now, and in the last year and half I think I have gotten to know my father all over again. Every phone call or email is a victory, every successful dinner is a milestone, and last night we created a memory that I know will go a long way towards repairing our relationship permanently.