Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Garden of Our Minds

We raised our children in Mr Rogers' neighborhood. For three sweet years, when they were very young, we spent time each day with Mr Rogers and all his friends and neighbors. We were living in a wonderful old farmhouse, down the street from Tom's parents, in western New York, raising little boys and working from home. We loved how the gentle Mr Rogers and the strong values on the show supported what we were teaching our boys at home.

We seldom missed a day of Mr Rogers, and soon knew all his puppets and human friends, who seemed as much a part of our lives as our own neighbors. We loved the factory tours too. We saw how graham crackers were made, and crayons, fortune cookies, and even TV shows for Russian kids. (You can check out ten clips from shows of "How It Works" here.)

We loved the factory tours so much, in fact, that we took a few of our own. One day we packed up the boys and went to a factory that dyed wool and produced yarn. We spent a day with the spinners' guild, tending the vats of wool being dyed amazingly vibrant colors and watching people spin and weave. One day we drove to a university's extension program at Finger Lakes to check out the apples that were being propagated. We took the boys to a goat farm. And we spent time on several occasions at Mumford, a 19th century country village, complete with costumed interpreters in restored historic buildings, filling our minds with history first-hand.

But it wasn't just Mr Rogers' Neighborhood that got our creative juices flowing. It was also Reading Rainbow. Each day LeVar Burton introduced children (and at least two parents) to books that stirred their minds to encourage creativity. One such book was Barn Dance, a delightful story of animals sharing a joyous evening together in the barn. The show included some lively clogging and a visit to a man who made violins. In just five minutes we saw Jean Horner of Rockwood TN building a violin, from "an ordinary hunk of wood," as LeVar said.

The segment captivated Tom. He began to think about building a violin. He read about it; he watched videos about it; he studied violins in music shops. And one day, several years later, he selected an ordinary hunk of his dad's wood and began to craft a violin.

Part-way through his project we found a violin kit at the close-out sale of the music store in Stanwood. Tom put aside his original violin and made me a gorgeous, sweet sounding violin from the kit. The original one is not yet finished, but I have no doubt that it will be one day.

Our friend Brian Haight, who played with professional orchestras for several years, came over not long after Tom had completed the violin. He played it and complimented Tom on its nice sound, offering to play it at church for us! The day he shared his music on Tom's violin was a wonderful day.

Bian Haight with the violin Tom made
It was those sweet memories that were stirred when I saw the video below, produced by PBS. It's been around for a while and has over ten million views, so maybe you've seen it. But I hadn't seen it till yesterday. "There are so many things to learn about in this world," sings Mr Rogers. "It's good to be curious about many things..."

Those three years on the farm impacted our lives a lot. The seeds that Mr Rogers and LeVar Burton helped us plant in the garden of our minds -- our curiosity and desire to learn -- equipped us for much of what we have experienced through our marriage and parenting. Thank you, Mr Rogers, thank you LeVar. Thank you.

No comments: