Some of you may remember sitting in your mother’s laps, or snuggling up next to your dad, listening to them read to you.
But my most vivid memories of being reading to are not of the people in my house, or even the children’s librarian at Jane Austen’s Village Public Library. My most vivid memories involve pictures on a screen and the voice of Captain Kangaroo.
Just remembering the jingly theme song for his show brings a smile to my face. I can remember the journey into The Treasure House, the not-so-hilarious knock knock jokes, the schemes of Bunny Rabbit and the hi-jinks of Mr. Moose, the charm of Mr. Green Jeans and the grace of Dancing Bear.
But most of all I remember Captain Kangaroo reading to me.
He read "Caps for Sale" and "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" and "The Little House" and "Make Way for Ducklings" and the book that still brings tears to my eyes, "The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Grey Bridge."
The image in these stories are burned into me. I know from reading them that unlikely things can really happen, that those who feel they are less than useful can prove to have a purpose, that the small are not without their effectiveness, value and power.
In January of 1972, Captain Kangaroo came to Washington, DC, to film location footage for "Americana Week." My father, a Senator from Virginia, was considered to be a Jeffersonian Democrat, and he was invited to accompany the Captain to the Jefferson Memorial. I was 10, and in the 5th grade, but my father knew how fond I was of the Captain and arranged for me to go along. (My younger brother declined, to my relieved delight!)
I knew by then that the Captain was an actor, and I enjoyed talking with him about his costume. He told me he had worn a wig until he was old enough to have his own long grey hair. In honor of the theme, he was wearing a red tie with his white shirt and blue jacket, and even his watchband was red, white and blue! Charlie MacDowell, who wrote about Washington for the Richmond Times-Dispatch and was a friend of my father’s, came along, too, and he reported that I gloomily commented, "And *I* have to watch you in black and white!"
I told the Captain that I didn’t much like school and really preferred spending the day with him, although we were outside and the weather was as cold and as grey as his hair. He said kindly, "It gets better, Songbird. It gets better."
Somewhere I have a picture of us standing there together, my daddy, Captain Kangaroo and me in a little girl’s raincoat, a funny expression on my face. But it is the picture in my heart that means more to me today, of a kind man who took the time to pay attention to an unhappy little girl, a kind man who brought Curious George and Ping the Duck and Ferdinand the Bull alive for me and so many other children.