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Trial Balloons

Go See Sinatra

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

"You're going without me?"

My not-yet-6-year-old daughter stood resolutely between us and the door.

"Yes," I said. "Your mom and I need to go."

"Without me?"

"We only have two tickets."


My profoundly puzzled daughter asked this question in complete sincerity.

The story that answers it began several weeks before that moment of familial crisis in a midtown Manhattan hotel.

I was driving to work one March morning in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. -- listening to talk radio.

The lead local news story that day had nothing to do with politics or government but had global significance.

Seventy-eight-year-old Frank Sinatra had collapsed on stage in Richmond, Virginia. He could not finish his concert.

Sad to admit, my first reaction to this tragic news was consummately selfish. I had never seen Sinatra sing. Now, I believed, I never would.

But the next Sunday morning when I opened The New York Times, I changed my mind.

There was a large advertisement for a series of concerts Sinatra was scheduled to perform at Radio City Music Hall in April. Tickets would go on sale later that day. I decided instantly that my wife and I should go.

This would require some serious financial and logistical planning. But the first step was urgent: buying tickets before they sold out.

I was on the phone that day as soon as they went on sale and ordered two tickets for the show scheduled for Saturday, April 23, 1994.

Next, I needed to find a place we could stay in New York and someone who could take care of our three young daughters when we were at the show.

The latter was easy. My sister, who lives in Queens, immediately agreed to watch the girls -- who were then not-yet-6, 2 1/2, and 10 months old.

After some research, I found a small suite in a not particularly nice hotel in midtown Manhattan that would fit us all for just about the maximum I could afford.

I reserved it instantly.

In the intervening weeks, we listened to Frank Sinatra every evening -- everything from his classic recordings with Tommy Dorsey to his biggest hits from the 1960s.

My not-yet-6-year-old daughter not only decided she loved Sinatra, she decided she had a favorite song: "You Make Me Feel So Young."

Then came that night in that midtown hotel when she stood blocking the door as we prepared to leave her behind with her sisters and her aunt.

"You're going without me?"

When we did walk out of that hotel room, my wife and I were not sure we would get to see Sinatra that night either. He had canceled his concert the night before -- at the last minute. Would he show up tonight?

He did -- and the concert he gave was incomparable. He sounded like the Sinatra of the 1950s. He sang songs that were and always will be classics.

When we described the show the next morning to our not-yet-6-year-old daughter, it only deepened her remorse.

We had gone without her. She believed she would never see Sinatra, and I regretfully believed she was right.

What a memory it would have been for her to be at that show -- to not only know, as a young girl, who Sinatra was, but to have seen him sing.

Then The Washington Post arrived at our door the next Sunday morning. Sinatra was going to give yet another concert. This one would be at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland -- on a day very close to my daughter's sixth birthday.

This time, I knew I had to get three tickets -- and, fortunately, neither the finances nor the logistics would be as difficult as the show at Radio City.

And, yes, my daughter was sitting there -- as a just-turned-6-year-old girl--when Frank Sinatra sang, "You Make Me Feel So Young."

It turned out to be one of his last concerts.

I was reminded through that sequence of events in 1994 of a lesson my parents had taught me by example when I was growing up. One of the keys to being a dad or a mom is to make happy memories for your children.

No, they do not have to cost money or be difficult to plan -- like going to Manhattan to see an aging Sinatra. They just need to show that you care.

So, if the chance is there, if there is a realistic opportunity to actually do it, don't let that moment pass you by: Get three tickets, and go see Sinatra.

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