Monday, June 26, 2006
Within just a few minutes of arriving in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Abbi called in tears to tell me her sister's boyfriend had been killed by a drunk driver. Five minutes later, my friend Dan Guttman called to announce his engagement to his girlfriend Lisa. A steady, steamy raind was falling from a cloudy sky. Still, the sun fought to shine through and I thought, 'This is it. This is life. Terrible and wonderful, tragic and magical in equal turns.'
The Hollingsworths -- Amy, Jeff, Jonathan and Emily -- were waiting patiently when Chris and I pulled up beside their slate gray colonial home. Inside, the table was set with fruit, crudites, Checx Mix and water. The family was warm, and welcoming, and as excited and nervous as we were. After about an hour of getting comfortable with one another, Chris began re-arranging their living room for the shoot. We set Amy up in front of the fireplace, lit the room, and rolled tape.
Amy and I spoke of her nine year friendship with Mr. Rogers, the lessons he taught her, and legacy he left her. She graciously shared her private letters -- including one he wrote in praise of the sunset as seen from his Crooked House on Nantucket. She spoke of his sincerity, his deep intention, and steady discipline. Amy, bless her heart, had been reflecting for days on how to best serve our project, and speak directly to the notion of "deep and simple." Time slipped by effortlessly. I felt so safe and comfortable as the fire died down, I found myself reclining on the family couch. The clock read seven o'clock. We'd been talking nearly two hours.
Somewhere in the middle of our conversation, I became overwhelmed by the scope of our undertaking. I began to feel unworthy of the task. Who am I to even begin to tackle huge themes like God, faith, meditation, self esteem, death and love? As we watched an interview Amy had conducted with Mr. Rogers some ten years prior, I told her I felt overwhelmed, and afraid.
"I just hope we can do this story justice," I said in near whisper.
"Benjamin," Amy assured me, "Fred always knew what he was doing. Don't second guess yourself. You were commissioned for a reason."
The Hollingsworths sent us on our way with a few cold sodas, and three bags of snacks just as dusk was falling. Chris and I talked the whole way to Chapel Hill. We have some six hours of sleep between us (twenty minutes of fitful sleep on the airplan notwithstanding) in the last twenty-four hours. I don't know where this road will end, but we're on it, and there's no way but forward.