Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Catch A Falling Star

"The future is something you have the power to invent." Mary Schmidt Campbell

Call it karma. Call it fate. Call it a sixth sense. Call it coincidence.

Just last night, as my daughter sat in the bath, I stepped into the hallway for a second to pick something up off the floor. I stood there for a bit longer than I probably should have, talking to my wife who was standing a few feet away in the bedroom. Just then, I heard Penelope ask, "Where'd you go, daddy?"

And just like that, I turned into the entertainer I can be. I broke into my best Ed McMahon impersonation and blurted out "Heeeeeeeeeeere's.... Daddy!" And with the "daddy," I jumped into the bathroom, much to the delight of my daughter, who giggled and splashed in approval and demanded a repeat performance. Encore after encore ensued until I was hoarse and out of breath. My calves burned from jumping in and out of the bathroom nearly a dozen times in a minute.

Then this morning, news broke that Ed McMahon had passed away. Call it karma. Call it fate. Call it a sixth sense. Call it a coincidence.

No matter what you call it, this is another call to arms to parents. To all adults, in fact. Another example of how we are our children's links to the past, to our history, to our cultural references. Ed McMahon was more than Johnny Carson's sidekick. He was a guest in your living room. He was an American hero, a Marine fighter pilot during World War II and the Korean War. He was a role model before celebrities were shallow, self-important, and not all apologetic for their abhorrent behavior both on and off the screen.

Don't get me wrong. I am not delusional about the importance of Ed McMahon's contributions to society. He has no tangible, significant impact on my life except to provide the few catchphrases that I employ to this day. Is it important that my daughter know who Ed McMahon was? Not really. But she eventually, inherently, will because whenever I say a particularly ridiculous joke I'll shout, "Heyy-ohhh!" to ensure at least a courtesy laugh. Maybe she'll know Ed McMahon because she has a sidekick of her own. Luna, after all, is her straight man.

If you take anything from reading this post, let it be this: the American narrative, the American story, the American experience is still being written. The story is still being told. The events are still being planned. And it is up to you, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends. It is up to you to draw on the past to explain the stories of the present. It is up to you to plan the events to come by drawing on your traditions, your experiences, your memories. Our children demand it. But more important, they deserve it.

The future, our future, their future, depends on it.

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