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What Lin-Manuel's Parents Knew

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I came to my obsession with Lin-Manuel Miranda much later than most people. I didn't discover him until well after tickets to Hamilton had reached mortgage-payment levels. I tried my best to catch up without actually ever seeing the play. I searched news stories and You Tube videos about him, and -- if I do say so myself -- I did pretty well in becoming a fan of the first order.

The pieces of his life that struck me most, though, weren't his trips to the White House or the interviews where he told about his dismal days as a DJ at Bar Mitzvahs in Queens or how his bus driver taught him old-school rap on his long rides to and from school in New York City. It's watching Lin as a little boy that led me to my fascination.

My favorite is a video of him when he was about eight years old. He is doing a video book report on The Pushcart War. As narrator, he's dressed in a little boy suit and tie, reading from copy. He changes into costume several time as the plot progresses. His father is behind the camera, his sister in charge of cue cards. In one extended scene, his mother, his abuela and his great-grandmother play the parts of striking teachers, marching around the room, holding signs and chanting, "No Tax." Convincingly.

When I was eight, book reports were relegated to pencils and lined paper. But I recall with great clarity, the times I got it into my head that I could sing or dance (usually at the same time) with the likes of Doris Day or Peggy Lee. I would prance down the stairs into the living room, where my parents would already be seated on the couch and give them my rendition of a song I'd heard on the radio. Standing ovations every time. It never once occurred to me I was mediocre at best. Never once. It came to me much later, slowly, when I had moved on to my next potential occupation. I decided I'd be a writer instead and my parents changed course accordingly.

These days I spend lots of my time with a little boy who's four. He is partial to acting out Fairy Tales in great detail, with voices and inflection we never fail to marvel at. He's not shy about giving out (or abruptly rescinding) parts to the adults in the room. We're all thrown into the narrative, whatever it is at that moment. We have no idea if he will still be loving this so much in another year, or if we'll be riding another train with him by then. We know we're just along for the ride.

Broadway was a long way off on the day of Lin's video book report. But everyone in the room knew their parts by heart and played them with relish anyway. They circled around him, holding their props and reciting their lines. And saying -- without saying it directly -- "This is the most terrific kid ever."

I turned out to be a pretty pitiful singer and dancer. Lin-Manuel Miranda is waking up to find the world crazy in love with his talent. Isn't it funny, then, that he and I have something in common. The best thing. We both came from a home of standing ovations.