“Oh, yes! Yes!” (pound, pound) “More! Oh, that’s so good! I’ve been waiting all day for this! Oh, oh, oh!” (pound, pound) “Don’t stop!”
Husband and I tried a new “Encourage the Grown Children to Leave the Home” technique last night. It might have been more effective if we hadn’t collapsed in loud giggles afterward, or if we hadn’t been sitting sedately in bed at the time, dressed in flannel pajamas, tucked under extra blankets, with reading glasses on and books out.
Blankets, you ask? Flannel? Yes. We had 15 inches of snow on the 15th of April – springtime in the Rockies. And it’s snowing again as we speak.
Husband and I figured, after all those years of mindful nocturnal parental care and caution, that it might be fun to try and embarrass the boys to death. It might help spur the dears to depart.
I’ve been thinking about death today, and departures, and helping, and helpers. Prior to yesterday, I’d have put the likelihood of my ever quoting Mr. Rogers on a par with my ever running the Boston Marathon. But Fred’s wise words are with me tonight:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
I grew up before the Fred Rogers era. Captain Kangaroo was my guru. My boys grew up in a post-Mr. Rogers neighborhood. Ol’ Fred was still around, but I found him so bland and boring and banal that I boycotted him.
It must also be confessed, to my lasting shame, that Fred struck me as a mealy-mouthed weirdo sex-offender type. Ever see those light switch-plate covers of a grinning man flashing open a trench coat? What was with that cardigan? At any moment, Fred might be apt to reach under it and bring out something to share with me and his neighbors. And it wouldn’t be Bunny Rabbit.
A college professor I esteemed once wrote on a critical essay of mine, “I find your gratuitous contempt unattractive.” Now, I really wanted him to find me attractive — I esteemed him, but I also had a wicked crush on him. That black mark cut me to the quick, and I remember it whenever I find myself making cutting remarks.
I still make lots of them, mind you. But at least I’m aware that they’re gratuitous and unattractive. Does that count for something? Will some self-awareness incline the scales of judgment toward purgatory rather than hell? I expect not. If I’m aware of my flaws, I’m therefore able to beware of them. Will Mr. Rogers forgive me? Saint Peter probably hired him to work the gate.
Helpers are unsung heroes. The Manchester, NH, police force recently “recovered” an expensive diamond ring swallowed by a thief during a botched burglary. Give a thought, here, to the law enforcement Helper stuck filtering through that inmate poop for swag. Yet we discuss it in a helpfully distant and removed sort of way that renders it harmless, like the bags of sanitized manure you buy at the garden center.
What becomes of an expensive engagement ring that has passed through the digestive system of a petty thief? Will the jeweler discount it deeply? Will it develop the luxury allure of a Tilley hat that’s been eaten by an elephant and then recovered, whole and sound, from the dung heap?
What would such a ring bode for a marriage? Regularity and perseverance, or constipated lack of movement, or an inevitable end in the toilet? What sort of man would buy such a ring for his intended? What sort of woman would wear it?
Mr. Rogers’ mother was right about the helpers. They are there to dig diamonds out of the dung heap. They are there to add luster to a world so seemingly full of shit. They are there to say, “Oh, that’s so good! Don’t stop!” They are there to help our race to the finish.