Yesterday James took me to the studio where he works as a camera assistant for the NBC TV show Chicago Fire. The place is enormous, taking up at least two city blocks, and the surrounding streets are jammed with trucks, security, catering setups, trailers, not to mention many city emergency vehicles. The buildings we wandered through house the stages for both Chicago Fire and its sister show Chicago PD. We'd walk through what looked like a basic backstage area and then suddenly be in an enormous fake bar, or fake locker room, or fake hospital corridor, or fake bunk house, or fake police sergeant office. The difference between reality and fakery became difficult to determine. Unlike a theater set, a TV set has to mimic the tiny close-up details that a camera will catch. The sergeant's office walls have to have chips on the wall where the actor leans back in his desk chair during a scene. The interrogation room has to have rusty stains that might or might not be blood. I'd linger in one of these hyperrealistic rooms and then walk into the next one, also hyperrealistic, but this time filled with crew killing time between shots: say, lying around on the fake bunks or leaning up against the fake walls. I began to feel as if I were at Madame Tussaud's and the guards were playing "am I real or wax?" tricks on me.
But everyone seems to love James, from his bosses to the catering staff, so that was of course delightful. He always has had the trick, ever since childhood, of knowing how to project public eagerness, curiosity, and good cheer. And the rest of his family has always been impressed and amazed, since we are not so good at that.
In so many ways, this whole trip has been a magical event for me. That noisy little get-into-everything boy has transformed into a smart, hardworking, funny, reliable, curious, and extremely loving man. How did I get to be so lucky to be his mother?