I have been fascinated by the play “Hamilton” recently. Even though it’s been out and popular for well over a year (and my wife is a theater teacher), I never looked into it. Until my good friends, The Brown’s, went and saw it when it came to Chicago. (if anyone wants to get me tickets to either the Chicago or Broadway editions, we’d be friends for life. It’s FANTASTIC and an epic undertaking. And that it’s all (mostly) true is all the more remarkable)
One of the themes of the play is your legacy and who will tell your story after you are gone and the concept of time. It’s something I’ve been wrestling with. Only a few people get to live on in history – the President’s Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, Michael Jackson, etc. But most of us just live the “simpler” life – hopefully get married and raise kids (if we so choose) and grow old into retirement and relaxation to watch our grand-kids grow up.
Hamilton was not content with that. He wanted to be remembered. As a black man raised by a single mother in Memphis, my experience somewhat compares to Hamilton but then pales. At least I had my mom and no cousin I lived with committed suicide. And there was no revolution in my childhood – even though race relations in America both spoken and unspoken are a kind of revolution.
I’m happy with my life. My friends, my family. My two kids who love me and need me to provide for them. My wife who loves me and tries to make me a better man. My sister who I get to enjoy seeing grow up and grow in her marriage, career and just as a person. My mother who gets to enjoy the fruits of her labor after years and years of struggle and going without so she could raise me and my sister to adulthood (and beyond. I mean, she still mothers and supports and guides us to this day). Maybe it’s a part of getting old that you think about the future and the end.
The relative I most think about is my grandfather, E.C. Burnett and my grandmother, Emma Jean Burnett. I pale in comparison to him as a person, even though he had his flaws. I am proud that my son shares his middle name. He was a man of great pride and stubbornness but he gave so much to so many. I got through school with minimal debt because he made it a point to open a savings account for me when I was a child. Instead of pouring me over with the latest toys, he had a bigger game in mind. And let me tell you, leaving college debt-free was better than any Nintendo game or G.I. Joe figure. My grandmother – her gift of knitting and crocheting is on display in the blankets in my house and the PERSONAL touch she put on things. What a legacy. It’s not that they were cheap – she was a creator. It’s phenomenal to know that both my son and daughter have had pictures with and “played” with something created by my own grandmother who hasn’t taken a breath on this Earth in almost 30 years.
I guess all this to say – I hope that my future grand-kids will think fondly of me. I hope my friends will say I was good to them and there when they needed me – and made them laugh a few times.
That’s a pretty good legacy if you ask me.