I would like to greet you all in this new year, and talk about the Book Fair, but I am going to exploit my position as columnist to speak of something almost entirely unrelated to both, just to note a date of some importance.
Today, I have been informed, is the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of Hugh “Lumpy” Brannum, a poet and philosopher who had a lot to do with my view of the world. I speak of him as I do though I am familiar with almost none of his work except one role he played on television. See, Lumpy Brannum was the original Mr. Greenjeans on Captain Kangaroo.
I am fully aware that there are those who will speak of the important contributions to modern society made by Barney or by Sesame Street or even by Davey and Goliath, and I will not pause to debate any of those. But my generation learned a lot about life from Captain Kangaroo. Much of this we learned from the Captain himself, who maintained his cheerful and even optimistic attitude despite his experiences with the world. We learned that even after your best effort, sometimes the carrots disappear, sometimes the ping pong balls fall. We learned that no matter how hard you try, the Bunny Rabbits and Mr. Moose’s of the world would always beat you, and you just had to accept that.
What we learned from Mr. Greenjeans, though, was how to forgive the world even when our best ideas collapsed. He taught us that sometimes the world just isn’t ready, just won’t cooperate, no matter how many excellent bells and whistles you attach to your invention. When the Scotch tape wouldn’t hold that broken vase together for me, I understood that my theory was perfectly acceptable. The world just wasn’t cooperating with it. I got that from the affable Mr. Greenjeans. And the way he kept bringing his marvellous machines to Captain Kangaroo, the least futuristic Captain on television (he admitted he hadn’t quite accepted electric light bulbs). It taught me to work with the audience I have, even when it can’t quite keep up with my brilliance. (You have NO idea what a comfort this has been over the years.)
So my hat is off on January 5, 2009 to Mr. Greenjeans, the philosopher of early morning children’s TV. (Some people make this claim for Mr. Moose, but he was more the sarcastic onlooker…the blogger, if you will.)