“Barbara Manatee…you are the one for me…”
I grew up in a cool time. From the early ’70s on, my siblings and I lived like suburban Huckleberry Finns. We would fly in and out of the front door, off on adventures that our parents didn’t ask about, or show any concern toward.
We were free to run around the neighborhood with about 40 kids we knew. Just between our family and the one across the street there were 13 kids! We had no problem coming up with games, pranks, construction projects, ways to light things on fire. Typical kid stuff.
It was also a time of fabulous Saturdays. We would hunker down in front of the TV with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, Quisp or King Vitamin and watch the morning kid’s show lineup. When I was young, it included Warner Brothers cartoons and Hanna Barbera live-action nonsense (HR Puffinstuff, The Bugaloos, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters) and Schoolhouse Rock. The best of all was American Bandstand at noon. We felt so cool seeing our favorite artists live on television and “voting” during the annual couples dance contest.
Then we’d be out the door until the streetlights came on and we had to go home for the Saturday night bath for church the next day. Like I said, it was cool, especially because we had Mr. Bubble to look forward to every week.
Even though I raised my daughter like a total helicopter mom spazz, and every playtime and sport was organized, I still think she had a better childhood than I did. And I don’t regret being really involved in everything. It was a blast to be her coach, recess mom, field trip mom and Brownie leader (did I mention that I was a helicopter mom?) because life is too short not to act like a big kid.
One of the things that stands out about the difference between her childhood and mine was Veggie Tales. In case you aren’t familiar, Veggie Tales was an animated series of Bible stories placed in different times and settings, complete with vegetable characters like Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato. The first time I saw one, I thought, “Why in the world wasn’t someone clever enough to tell Bible stories in a hip and hysterical way when I was a kid?” I felt cheated.
Written by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki (who ended up setting up shop in Wheaton), these shows were so incredibly funny. Like Bugs Bunny cartoons, they worked for both adults and kids. My daughter and I watched a handful of them on video on rainy afternoons and were hooked. We especially loved their silly song interludes in between scenes that were so obscure as to be hilarious. One of their songs “Barbara Manatee”–a love song written to a manatee–became a nickname of sorts for my daughter. Over a decade later we still call her Anna Manatee.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I use doTERRA essential oils and saw a Facebook listing that caught my eye. As I looked closer, the seller’s name was Lisa Vischer. Vischer. Vischer. Where do I know that name from?
WAIT A MINUTE! Could she be related to PHIL Vischer? Like a stalker I clicked on her FB profile and sure enough, she was Phil’s wife! SHE WAS JUNIOR ASPARAGUS! For the uninitiated, Junior Asparagus spoke in a little kid’s voice and played part in many of their stories and vignettes and was so adorable. In one of the videos, Junior sings a song, “God is bigger than the boogeyman; He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV…” that we would sing when my daughter was frightened. Junior and all of her vegetable compadres helped me parent my child!
So again, like a stalker, I sent a PM to Lisa Vischer telling her the above story (without as much drama–I didn’t want her to report me to some local authority). She sent me the cutest response back, saying that she was happy that their videos were a blessing to our family. Then she said the cutest thing that I could just hear in her little Junior Asparagus voice: “Please pass along Jr’s greetings to Anna Manatee”.
I’m such a dork that it was like getting a phone call from the president. I immediately messaged my daughter at college who thought it was very sweet, but wasn’t as effusive in her excitement as me. How could she not be excited that I got a message from Junior Asparagus???
I think we clearly know who the more mature adult in this mother/daughter relationship is. That’s okay. I’m going to go put on a Veggie Tales video this afternoon and listen to french peas speaking in a french accent, and laugh until I cry.