Get on Your Feet . . . and Buy the Tee!

By Erika Hoffman

My husband and I have season tickets to Broadway musicals at DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center). It’s our monthly date which gets us off the couch, away from the refrigerator, and forced to mingle with the outside world. When we were young, I’d have had trouble committing my husband to spend a night each month watching a musical. He was busy with work; I with kids, and season tickets seemed like a waste of money. Now, we find our evening among strangers listening to talented actors, watching agile choreography, and viewing a show – we might not have chosen on our own – mesmerizing and satisfying. Such was the case with On Your Feet.

I didn’t know much about Emilio and Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. Sure, I was familiar with a few of their songs but totally ignorant they’d created so many catchy tunes. Yes, I vaguely recalled they were of Cuban heritage but didn’t realize the impact it had on Emilio who came here at the young age of ten. Barely did I remember their tour bus suffered an accident en route to Manhattan, and Gloria had some injuries; the extent of those I’d not realized nor the impact on her career or the struggle for a come-back from her near fatal crash.

This libretto fascinated me, and there was a line that hit home. When the young couple wanted to produce a record in English and enthusiastically took it to their producer who had experienced enormous success with their records sung in Spanish, he turned them down. Flat! He bluntly informed them they were Latino singers, who sang for Latino audiences, and that Americans wouldn’t be interested in listening to their singing in English. He wasn’t going to take a risk on it and told them to stick to what they knew – the Latino community. After many protestations, Emilio had had enough. He got nose to nose with the fellow and declared: “Look at this face. Take a good look at this face. Because this is what an American looks like!” Emilio, played by Mauricio Martinez, dramatically delivered the lines making an impact on the hushed audience.

Intermission soon followed. I usually stay in my seat as does my husband.  But he decided to wander about the lobby. He hurried back and told me to come with him. “Why?” I asked. “I don’t want anything to drink.”

“Come on. I’ll show you.”

“Whatever,” I answered like a petulant teen.

When we reached the lobby, my husband headed to the tee shirt stand – something he never does because we never purchase souvenirs. Heck, we don’t even pose in front of the billboard to take a free cell phone pic. Yet, as soon as I neared the kiosk and saw the shirt, I smiled and assumed he was going to buy it. The tee shirt dealer had several choices, but the black shirt hanging above the stand was the one I knew my husband had his eye on. In bold letters, it stated: “This is what an American looks like.”

“You think he’d want a large or a medium,” I asked.

“Maybe they shrink,” he said.

“Mo stays so fit. He likes tight clothes.”

My husband held out his charge card and pointed to the medium shirt.

“Thirty-five dollars. Hmm,” he muttered.

“But it’s so perfect for him,” I assured.

“I figure he can wear it when he gets sworn in as an American.”

So, we bought the shirt and stowed it away for the day when we hear that our son-in-law is going to his citizenship ceremony. That day, I’ll wear my DAR pin, and my handsome, wedge-shaped eyed, Egyptian son-in-law can sport this shirt which states boldly: “This is what an American looks like.”

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman is a wife to one, a best friend to about six or seven, a past teacher to hundreds, a mother to four, a mother-in-law to three, a grandma to four under four, and a writer to thousands – hopefully!

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17 Responses to “Get on Your Feet . . . and Buy the Tee!”

  1. Erika Hoffman says:

    Mo became a citizen April 10, 2018.

  2. Nancy forer says:

    Yay, Erica!
    I’m “on my feet” bowing bravo…
    I love this story and I hope Mo loves his tee.
    So much to be happy about and celebrate!

  3. Vipul Mankad says:

    Your story raised my heart beat and brought out familiar emotions. As an immigrant finishing 50 years in America this June and a “naturalized” American Citizen (as if I was unnatural before taking the oath), I applaud all Americans like you who welcomed us. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. Maureen O'Brien says:

    What a great story, Erika. I too love the theater. And enjoyed “On Your Feet.”
    That was a nice twist/segue to your ending. And, congrats to Mo and the whole family!

  5. Brilliant story! It was my honor to paint your son-in-law’s portrait and to later celebrate when he became a citizen.

  6. margaret wren de st aubin says:

    Love this story and I’m so proud of Mo!! A great accomplishment and he is indeed what America looks like. Fantastic! Thanks for such an uplifting story!

  7. beth fallaize says:

    so proud of Mo. I am so happy for him and glad he is part to your American family

  8. Linda O'Connell says:

    What a heartwarming story.

  9. Cora Brown says:

    Wonderful true story. Congrats to Mo!

  10. Anna Riley says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I never knew this story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan. Inspiring! And congratulations to your son-in-law. I’m sure he’s enjoying his T-shirt!

  11. Eileen T Williams says:

    So proud of your family. What a wonderful story, an inspiration to everyone who reads it!

  12. Rose Ann says:

    An exciting time for your family and the shirt says it all! Loved that it was your husband’s idea. Special story!

  13. Sally M Moore says:

    What a lovely story about some special people!

  14. Claudia M Frost says:

    Sorry it’s taken so long to get around to reading the article. I enjoyed it very much and wanted more. Congratulations to Mo and Heather….so many accomplishments and exciting events in their lives.

  15. Maria Frangakis says:

    A wonderful story, Erica! Your husband had the perfect idea and you wrote about it with grace and sensitivity. Congratulations on the new American in your family and the one about to arrive. I predict he’ll be a very handsome little fellow.

  16. Jamie Weeks says:

    This story!! Love it!! Erika, not only are you a talented word-smith, but a lovely soul as well!

  17. Christine Jernigan says:

    I love how Huffman has woven in the dream world of Broadway into the American dream.

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