I watch quite a bit of children’s television programming. Much of which is public broadcasting television but with a 4 year old daughter that should be hardly surprising. I am intimately in the know about the Cat in the Hat (Who knows a lot about that!) and the daily adventures of Super Why. I myself loved PBS as a child and spent many hours curled on the floor of our family room following the daily activity on Sesame Street and being reassured by the quiet and steady guidance of Mr. Fred Rogers.
Mister Rogers Neighborhood taught lessons about kindness, that it was ok to have feelings of anger, sadness, joy…all were encouraged and supported. There was something in the way that the man in the zipped front cardigan sweater spoke that provided me and millions of other children with the reassurance that everything is going to be OK. Regardless of the way that you might feel or as overwhelming as a situation may appear the eternal truths of being a good neighbor, being kind and loving others would win the day.
Wesley and I listened to Mr Rogers explaining to how to talk to children in the early days after September 11, 2001, and wept at his calm way of explaining that what we see on TV might be scary, we can always look for those people trying to help and be reassured in the goodness of mankind. We laughed that even in our 20’s the person who could comfort us in those early days when the world seemed topsy-turvy also presided over the Land of Make Believe, provided the voice for a shy Daniel Tiger and wore blue Keds. But his words were comforting then and a few Christmases ago Wesley gave me the book pictured above. I think he meant it as a bit of a joke but I appreciated it. I admit that along with other books I have turned to in the past four months, this one with the red cover has been a solace.
The solid and simple words that speak of love, friendship and loss seem apropos. I am moved by the quote, “It takes strength to face our sadness and to grieve and to let our grief and our anger flow in tears when they need to. It takes strength to talk about our feelings and to reach out for help and comfort when we need it.”
People have graciously credited me with having amazing strength and grace in a terribly difficult situation. I hope that I do give that impression for the most part because I am committed to figuring out our new life. But there are many times when I am scared of the future that is not clear, I am angry and hurt at people’s cruelty or thoughtlessness and when I am just tired of keeping it all together. But I think strength is not having a stoic face and a plastic smile that indicates for the comfort of others that everything is fine. Because at its core, everything is not fine right now and in admitting that I am strong. To only talk about the rosy times and happy stories would be false. Julia and I have many glad times, most often when we are talking about Wesley in fact, but genuine emotions are real and should be shared. Tears should not always be blinked away, sometimes they need to fall. Or so say me and the man in the red cardigan sweater.