By Gordon Hughes
The American Dream is under assault. It’s under assault from many different directions.
Oh, you can name them yourself. I don’t need to list them even though it is indeed a very long list. One of the assaults has had a major effect on my lifestyle. As an avid West Villager who has lived here for the past 23 years and as a Broadway producer/investor it has been Covid. Covid has turned my life upside down. The three musicals, Diana, Come From Away and Company, that I had on The Great White Way were all shuttered at the end of July. I am afraid to start anything new until the vagaries of the pandemic have settled down.
My co-op on Bleecker Street, which I love so much, is cared for now by a good friend so all is secure on that front. I have retreated to my farm in Southern Chester County, Pa. In so doing I have thus far avoided COVID’s many variants. It has made my farm a way station for New Yorkers who test negative, to spend some relaxing time with horses and wild creatures like deer, fox and raccoons. It is a chance for them to get away from Gotham and a chance for me to stay connected to the city I love.
Now that I have led you along let me get to the heart of the matter and why I have hope for not only our country but so many strong individuals and in this case one particular family—a family that has been separated for the past two and a half years, and a family that exemplifies the American Dream.
The tale begins with a remarkable chef who works in my rural village restaurant-butcher store. Think of Zabar’s with a dining area. Over the years we got to know him and delighted in his exciting menus. The connection developed because he was from Santa Barbara California and my wife and I are from Southern California. Over the years as we traveled back and forth, he would give us a list of Santa Barbara restaurants to test. Always a hit and just by chance where his family members worked/owned.
Well, as travel restrictions were lifted and vaccines and boosters were taking hold our excellent chef, now friend, could finally get to see his family again. There was a major family tradition about to take place and it was time for his family to come east, gather and celebrate a young woman’s fifteenth birthday and a coming of age. This is a very big tradition in the Mexican American community. I am not using names here as I don’t want to embarrass this family. My wife wanted to do something special for our friend and extended an invitation to his immediate family members who were visiting Chester County. She invited them to visit the farm for a dinner. Well, they came, and it was amazing. Most of them had not seen one another for over two years. They ranged in age from 80 to five years old. I watched as this marvelous scene developed. Stories were told in both Spanish from the old folks and English by the younger ones. What struck me most were the kinds of jobs the older family members had in comparison to those of the younger ones. It was the true American dream. Each generation climbing the economic ladder. All the stories and history playing out at a farm table in my back yard. From the family’s arrival in California in the early 1930’s to family members living all over the country and allowing me to listen to those stories. It was like reading a novel or a history book. It was something I have never experienced.
I will be forever thankful for that afternoon and evening. As people were getting ready to leave six-year-old Hiram, whom I had spent some special time with, as he was very shy and spent a great deal of the day by himself with his smart phone playing games, came up to me and said, “May I give you a hug?” I got tears in my eyes, and we hugged. That little boy may grow up to be a doctor, engineer or, who knows, President someday. So that is why I have hope in the American dream. I have renewed hope for people. I have renewed hope for my country. It was a truly eye-opening experience for me and one I will never forget.