Wednesday, September 06, 2006

(Some Sort Of A) Homecoming

In addition to everything his wife, three-year-old and five-week-old needed for a long weekend at the beach, Christofer lugged the Sony HDDV and sticks from New York to Nantucket this weekend. It couldn't have been easy -- baby seats, diapers, onesies, raincoats -- but it certainly demonstrated his commitment to Mister Rogers, and -- for that matter -- me.

Labor Day marked the five year anniversary of my first conversation with Mister Rogers. His spirit loomed over my entire weekend. It wasn't that we spoke of him (we did, often), or visited his family (The Crooked House had occupants, but I didn't feel comfortable knocking), or remembered him (we did, in the form of The Fourth Annual Mister Rogers Memorial Triathlon). It was worse than that. I felt a sense of weight, of responsibility, of almost-overwhelming distraction. All I could think is, "How are we going to pull this off?"

We shot a few hours of b-roll: Madaket Bay from Eel Point, Town Harbor from Brandt Point. But mostly, I just sat by the fire, and worried.

There was a sliver of serendipity tucked into the hurricane-soaked weekend. Inside a green file folder high a bookshelf strew with best sellers, my mom spotted a clipping from The Nantucket Inquirer-Mirror. It was a page of letters to the editor from the days following Mister Rogers death. Mine was included.

The letters helped me flesh out a few more people with whom to speak. "Meet The Press" anchor, Tim Russert, rented a cottage on Madaket and spent at least one Thanksgiving with The Rogers. Nantucket Director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society, Ernest Steinauer, presided over The Rogers' 25 acre donation to support the survival of the endangered piping plovers. And island residents George and Elaine Pappageorge, who also knew Mister Rogers.

I count on Madaket to provide some sort of palette cleansing from the frenzy of my day-to-day life in New York, and my day job at MTV News. It's quiet there on the edge of the island, even in a hurricane. I put my cell phone away, and leave my computer at home. I take long walks on Smith's Point, and discern how the sands have shifted from the year prior.

This year, though, lacked that tranquility. Perhaps it was the hurricane. Perhaps I was too invested in the place's calming affects. Perhaps the pace of my life is beyond repair. I don't know.

This I know: Chris and I will return. We will sit quietly in Mister Rogers study, and stare out to the sea. We owe him that much.

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