Dear Hugh Jackman: A Birthday to Remember

The week before my niece’s twelfth birthday party, I got a call from my sister asking if we (my son, husband, and I) would dress up as Ayla’s favorite stars for the event. I knew there must be a story behind this. There was. My sister wrote it in her own words, and I felt the message of dreams and family was meant to be shared with a wider audience. Enjoy.

Dear Hugh Jackman… A Birthday to Remember

Making My Daughter’s Dreams (Sort of) Come True

By Bridgit M. Goldman

It was a wintery February morning. Strewn across her desk were letters to various musicians and celebrities:

Dear Hugh Jackman…

Dear Ingrid Michelson…

Dear Eric Whitacre…

When I inquired, my 11-year-old daughter brightly informed me that she was inviting them to her twelfth birthday party. Her birthday was not until June.  

Oh, I thought. Was she lonely? Was this a cry for help? Yikes!

“Ok,” I said, “How can I help?” For the next few months, Ayla composed letters. Old school style, I found the addresses and contact information for where to send them.

By May, only one (most awesome and amazing) letter recipient wrote her back: Eric Whitacre, one of the greatest choral composers and conductors of our time. I’ll love him forever for his lovely note and the look on my daughter’s face when I told her he had responded. But, unfortunately, he informed her that he could not make the party.

As June approached, she decided to invite her aunts, uncles, and cousins. I wanted so much for Sara Bareilles or Steven Wilson to just show up and surprise her!  Arghhhh!!! How could I make it happen for my sweet smart beautiful girl? I tell her every day how much I love her, accept her, and recognize her gifts, but how could I show her?  

As family affirmatively responded about her party, an idea began to take shape. Why don’t I ask if they could dress-up and act like the celebrities she had invited to attend? I started asking, and everyone was excited! With gusto, they designed costumes, practiced music, looked up accents, and were in on the surprise for Ayla.

The day came and Ayla ran outside to meet her guests. First, Aunt Becca emerged from the car as Sara Bareilles with a long-hair wig, polka dot dress, hat, and guitar… WOW! Ayla looked puzzled. “Happy Birthday, Ayla! It’s Sara, and I’m so happy to meet you,” said Aunt Becca.

A small curious dawning appeared on Ayla’s face. As she turned around she met 6’ 1″ Cousin Luke strolling toward her with a blond wig tied in a ponytail, super-hero posture, and in his deep baritone said, “Hi Ayla, I’m Eric. It’s so good to meet you!”  Ayla smiled, she was beginning to understand. When Uncle Patrick was seen with his brown slicked back hair, 3-day-old stubble, and an outfit that just screamed Hugh Jackman, Ayla began laughing so hard, she could not believe it!  

Meanwhile, inside Aunt Ellen had donned her best Ingrid Michelson outfit and when we all walked in, she played “Be Okay” on the ukulele, accompanied on guitar by her fiancé, Uncle Larry, as Steven Wilson. As everyone converged, we all joined in the song.

After the music, her “celebrity family” greeted each other staying in character—pretending to meet each other and saying kind words about each other’s work. Ayla was laughing so hard she was crying. Her celebrities had come, but not as strangers, rather as those who recognize how special she is, accept her, and above all, love her.

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