Kids Thirteen in 2013 on February 13th!
Although I am posting this after Feb. 13, 2013, I began writing this post on Feb. 12, 2013.
If there is one date in all of my childhood that I can remember by date, it is Feb. 12. I can recall memories but have no idea when or what happened, but every year when Feb. 12 rolls around, I think about this time.
For those who know me or have so generously given me their time to tell my story, I was raised by my very elderly grandmother, Rose LeVande. By all intense and purposes, she was my mother. She was an old lady from the Old Country, barely 5 feet tall. She had old lady hair, old lady hands and wore old lady clothes. She didn’t know her birthday, but I would speculate that she was about 78 years of age when she was left to take care of me on her own. I was 3.
There was an inexplicable sadness and romance to it all. She had poise but could barely walk. She was tired but she had grit. There was a heaviness and lightness to this one-of-a kind relationship all at once. I couldn’t fall asleep unless she was next to me. She used to watch TV all night, and when I couldn’t sleep she’d yell, “Go to sleep Medadietz!” That was how she pronounced my name, “Medadeitz.”
Every morning she would cook me hot cereal for breakfast, with a very big, strong cup of coffee. Her days consisted mainly of sewing and soap operas. She had a big, bulky color TV three feet away from the edge of the bed that always lost its signal. I called her “Nanny.” When Nanny’s signal went out, I used to hit the TV with my hands or kick it until it came back in. When I would come home from school, I would stare at her through the windows, hoping to catch her attention but she never noticed me staring in at her through the window. There she was on the edge of her bed watching TV with a magnifying glass and the volume blaring loud.
Yes, she had me hooked on General Hospital by age 7, but when I was a little kid I watched The Magic Garden and Sesame Street on that TV. When those two ladies on The Magic Garden would sing , all my troubles melted away. They were warm and kind and I couldn’t wait to see them. We didn’t have many modern world necessities, much less cable television. It was just myself, Nanny, and that over the air television signal which kept us company. In those days, shows aired at specific times and kids’ shows weren’t on in the evening. I would anxiously hope that by some miracle Sesame Street or The Magic Garden would come on. When a Channel 13 telethon was on, I was excited because that would bring me one step closer to Sesame Street.
The mission of public television’s spirit is to serve disadvantaged children who otherwise don’t have access to the same early childhood opportunities as children who have a better start in life. I was was one of those children and clearly it shaped how I see things until this very day.
She died on Feb. 12. My cousin handed me her wedding ring, which I’m wearing today. When she died, I had a sick mother to take care of. There was no money. There was chaos and desperation and it was the moment in life where you choose to go down one path or another. As a very young child, my grandmother instilled the notion that education and taking advantage of being an American were two very important things. If there are two things about public television that I love and believe in the most, it’s that education can be an equalizer-to a degree. If we can get instill a love of learning early in a child’s life, no matter what those child’s circumstances are, it is a way to a better future. And, public television was also meant to be an equalizer. It was meant to give a voice to those who otherwise go unheard.
I admit that I never got over Nanny’s passing. When the one person you have in this world who makes it all better goes, it was a traumatic thing for a 15 year old to process.
The videos I have made for children are not just videos for children. They are also videos for those who long for their own happier childhood and who want childhood to be a happy, light place where learning is fun. I am certain that even in the moments when I would fear losing Nanny, that I was actually happy because I loved her so much and she was present right there, and I wondered why couldn’t it always be this way.
The videos I create for children somehow, somewhere tell this story of Nanny and I, and my story reflects the mission of those who genuinely create for public television. That my videos began airing on Kids Thirteen on virtually the same anniversary as my grandmother’s passing was a reminder to keep that story alive and present in my work.