Monday, March 3, 2008

Every person you can know and every place that you can go

Like most Americans of my generation, my childhood was defined by popular culture. Sesame Street was a personal favorite. Many a night I was serenaded to sleep by the Bert & Ernie Sing-Along album (though all I remember about that album now is that it contained "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt"). Though my wife did not share my bordering-on-obsession with Sesame Street, she is, nevertheless, a full member of my generation, so she remembers the day that Mr. Hooper died, for example. It's a part of the bond that we share with each other and with almost all other Americans who grew up in the 1970s.

A funny moment in grad school made the generational bond all too clear to me. There were about twenty of us in a class on Beowulf. Because most of us had just started learning Old English the previous semester, we spent a good part of every class parsing words. Once we got kind of stuck on a particular conjunction in the text. The professor, trying to help us out, asked what the function of a conjunction was. Virtually in unison, we said "Linkin' up words and phrases and clauses." The professor, who was European and a good twenty years older than we were, stood speechless at our sudden collective understanding. We, on the other hand, realized that, whatever our regional differences, wherever we had completed our undergraduate work, whatever our various fields of interest, we were one. At least where Schoolhouse Rock was concerned.

So you can imagine the warm feeling I had the other day seeing my two small children watching and enjoying the Schoolhouse Rock DVD we had ordered from Netflix. It felt very much like passing the baton. But the pièce de résistance, the moment when my nostalgic love for Saturday morning cartoons intersected with the career that forms a large part of my identity, occurred when I heard Older Monkey (who is 5) saying "I'm a noun!" which was then parroted by her 2-year-old brother. My two kids jumping around the living room, exclaiming themselves to be nouns while the strains of "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here" filled the air...well, this is what it means to be truly alive.

Oh, and by the way, Happy Birthday to me.


Michelle said...

Happy Birthday!

I too have fond memories of Schoolhouse Rock! :-)

Jeffrey J Cohen said...

Happy birthday and many more!

The favorite Schoolhouse Rock song sung in my house: "It was a hairy bear / It was a scary bear / We beat a hasty retreat from his lair / And we unpacked our adjectives ..."