I don't watch much television during the day. If I do it's usually when I am sitting down with something to eat. Actually, I watch when I am sitting down with something good to eat, or something messy. More often than not I just stand in the kitchen and look off into the yard and watch the maples grow as I eat a salami and mustard sandwich - true story.
Sometimes I watch - and laugh - at the news channels headlining a football controversy or a super-blizzard fixing to pummel the East Coast and neglecting the real news. Oh, I know, these things are important to folks and push ratings, I get all that. But, I usually just change the channel.
The Andy Griffith show is on often in the mornings on some station or another. I land on it and sigh in relief as I see Aunt Bee loading Barney's plate with mashed potatoes as Sheriff Taylor loads on cobs of corn near the perfect pot roast. You see, they need to fatten him up so he'll pass the deputyin' requirements so he can continue to work in Mayberry. They've even hatched a hair-brained scheme to stretch him taller. It all works out in the end.
"It all works out in the end."
Nick told me that about a book he really liked the other day. Let me go on record as saying a lot books for kids these day are full of dragons and demons and wizards and spells and, well, stuff that's sort of scary. I blame Ms. Rowling. And it's fine, for the most part.
But not for every kid.
I read - at Nick's request - the book he was talking about. It is called Pie and is by Sarah Weeks. It's not perfect, it's not important, it's not allegorical or deep. It is, in fact, a rather ordinary story. But, it is sweet and tender and full of wholesome and good people and, and, it has a happy ending.
A lot of characters die in many books for kids these days, I guess that's always been the case, Disney and all. Movies abound in which a parent is gone, or lost, or absent. Pets die, fortunes are lost, people suffer. Nick doesn't want any of that. I've mentioned before in this post and again in this one, that Nick used to run out of the room when the plot got scary or the music got ominous or the parents went on a trip. He used to say "I only like the endings!" by which he meant the happily-ever-after part.
I am the same way.
Could there be a happy endings gene? Perhaps it is the same gene that compels us to wear things on our heads as silly hats. Is it the same gene that makes our hearts beat fast when the brothers reunite or the main characters fight?
There is a scene in Pie where the main character insults her sidekick, an ordinary boy with a heart of gold, for not being smart. She hurts the boys' feelings and he lets her know that. She later apologizes and they make up.
When Nick suggested I read this book he told me there were a couple of spots that weren't too nice. That was one of the scenes he was talking about, the other was when they spy on teacher they suspect catnapped the cat that has the pie-crust recipe.
It's funny, some folks just gloss over or don't notice or understand it is just fictional characters doing fictional things and don't take the tensions and heartbreaks and joys and sorrows good prose can offer into their hearts.
And then there are people like me and Nick.
He also told me to be sure to read the epilogue. "It's really the best part." In it the girl grows up and keeps the pie shoppe open, the sidekick boy marries the other girl but they all live happily ever after, friends forever, the legacy of Polly the piemaker continues.
That's just fine by me.
Which brings me back to Andy. I feel certain that many of you, Nick and Zack included, may not know who Sheriff Taylor was, is - I never know which way to go with that - but you'd recognize him I'd bet. He is firm and kind and good and true. He's a widower and is raising a boy and lives with his Aunt and is the law in a small town in a Carolina in the early sixties. He does the right thing, almost always, and when he doesn't, he makes it right. Nearly every episode of the show is a morality tale and ends just as you think it should.
I often find myself as a parent thinking "what would Andy do?" I guess that's not the whole truth, I think I try to treat everyone as Andy might've. In fact, the storytelling voice I've chosen, the aw-shucks attitude, the non-controversial stance I use here is influenced by Andy. I admired Andy. I loved Andy.
I could go on and on about Mayberry and Andy and Opie and Goober and Gomer and Barney. I'll stop for now. I will say this though, it is important to let your kids know that you have heroes, role models, mentors, man-crushes. Boys - I know boys - need to look up, and they need to see you looking up and if they see Andy looking back down at all of us, they'll know they're safe and that everything is gonna be alright.
(I don't know if you get weary of the 'but wait, there's more to every story' thing I do around here. I am sorry if you are. Sometimes in the middle of things I don't want to stop and tell something different but I still want to say that thing and one thing reminds me of another and.... well, I have trouble ending things. I'm going to go ahead now and do that, well... now.)
There's more to the story about the book. Nick really related to the boy who was the main character's friend, the sidekick, Charlie. He's a sidekick kinda guy, Nick, he's loyal and faithful and a bit bumbling, hopelessly romantic and painfully devoted. Interestingly, there was a bit of grocery list Charlie had written:
Yes, misspellings, just as Nick would have. Perfect imperfection, I think. I am positive Nick would spell dozen as "duzzin" if he tried.
Also, Ms. Weeks, used an incredibly clever device to open each chapter, she includes a pie recipe, several actually. These simple recipes become somehow a character in the book. They are interesting pies, pies familiar and strange, pies you imagine smelling and tasting and sharing with a friend or loved one.
About halfway through the book Nick came out of his bed to ask me if we could make the chocolate pie recipe. We did. Nick did most of the work. He seperated the eggs, by hand, which is really the only way, and truly the funnest; he measured and spooned and stirred. He tasted cocoa powder for the first time - for the record I told him he didn't want to do that; he experienced the curious squeaky texture on cornstarch. The pie turned out a little soupy, we weren't patient enough cooking it over the stove, but it was damned tasty and, well, pretty unforgettable as well.
If you have a second, read that bit opposite the recipe. I'll wait.
That is exactly the kind of thing I want my sons to be reading. I want them to feel emotions for themselves. I want them to empathize with others deeply, respectfully. And, mostly, I want them to know they are cherished.
It all works out in the end...
From Marci's "... things you don't expect to hear from the backseat ..."
Dad: "No wrestling, please."
Boys: "I was just giving him a hug."
One last thing, if your child wants you to read a book they loved, do it. Marci and I always try to and it means the world to them.
I am glad you came by. Oh, I almost forgot. This is the cover of Pie:
...and you can get it at Amazon here.