I didn't want Bud to feel like he was being excluded from the ceremony, though, so I let him know that when the day arrived, he could do or not do anything he wanted. We'd planned a very casual ceremony and reception, so there was plenty of room for improvisation. I told him he could say something, read something, sing something, watch quietly, swim in the pool, or spend the time on his laptop making PowerPoints. There were really no wrong answers.
Bud listened to his options, but didn't offer many thoughts as to what he'd like to do at the wedding, except for one: he wanted to wear a tuxedo. I explained to him that it wasn't really that kind of wedding, that Brian and I would not be wearing fancy clothes, and that it might be a hot day and a tuxedo might not be very comfortable in the backyard.
Despite that, he was insistent - he wanted to wear a tuxedo. We compromised on a short sleeve dress shirt with a tuxedo vest and bow tie. He added a top hat to complete the ensemble. But that was all the prep he seemed interested in doing, so I didn't push it and I waited to see how things would unfold.
The day before the wedding, we were at Nana's house doing all the day-before-the-wedding things that needed to be done, and suddenly, Bud decided what he really, REALLY wanted for the wedding:
He wanted Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Redman to perform.
You know them, right? Yo-Yo Ma, world-renowned cellist and Joshua Redman, jazz saxophonist and composer? Yes. That was all Bud wanted to make the day perfect: just one little appearance from these two big stars.
I explained that this was something we really couldn't pull off - that Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Redman were very famous musicians with very busy schedules, and since we didn't actually know them, they would not be available to come to our wedding.
We spent the rest of the day talking about Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Redman. Bud seemed sure that there must be a way to make it happen. They had both appeared on Arthur, after all. Why not our wedding?
As nighttime neared and Bud's determination seemed unlikely to wane, I reminded Bud that Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Redman appeared on Arthur as animated characters, which meant that their appearance was really pretend. I also reminded him that we could pretend, too, and that in our imaginations, anyone could come to the wedding - Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Redman, ANYONE.
Bud was delighted. ANYONE?
He immediately set about making a guest list. As it turned out, the people who would be coming to our wedding were all people who had also appeared as animated characters on Arthur. People like:
And, of course, Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Redman.
Bud spent a lot of time talking about the guest list and making guest-list-related PowerPoint slides.
Of all the guests on his list, though, it was Mister Rogers who really captured his imagination - because in our imagination, in our world of pretend, Mister Rogers could come to our wedding, even though we knew that in real life, Mister Rogers had died.
Bud and I have spent a lot of time over the past year talking about Mister Rogers' death. In early 2014, we lost my father, Bud's Papa and best friend in the world, who passed away after a difficult struggle with Alzheimer's. We've spent a lot of time talking about Papa too, of course, but I think it has been easier for Bud to process his loss from one step removed, by talking about the loss of Mister Rogers. And certainly, as we gathered for our wedding with the same people and in the same location where we'd gathered to grieve my father's death, it was understandable that Papa was as present to Bud as he was to the rest of us, and that the related emotion was almost too much for him to bear.
Enter Mister Rogers.
As Bud worked on his guest list, he suggested that we might hold the wedding "in loving memory of Fred Rogers." I told him I thought that was a wonderful idea. He went to bed with his guest list complete, excited for the day ahead.
The next day, a few hours before our guests started to arrive, Bud told me that he'd like to make a speech at the wedding. I told him he could absolutely make a speech and started asking questions to try to find out what he had in mind. Bud's answers were definitive; he had a clear vision of how he wanted this to play.
Yes, he wanted to give a speech at the ceremony. No, not the reception.
Yes, he wanted to use the microphone.
Yes, he wanted his speech to start the ceremony.
Yes, he'd like to write it out ahead of time so he could read from a paper.
In fact, he said, he knew exactly which speech he'd like to give. He wanted to give Mister Rogers' acceptance speech from the ceremony at which he received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award.
Bud got right to work. He pulled up the acceptance speech footage on YouTube, donned his headphones, and started transcribing. Once he had the speech typed up, we emailed it to our friends across the street so they could print it for us. We tucked it into a lucite frame, so it would have some stability in the breeze, and we were good to go.
Before we headed across the street for the ceremony, I did a final check with Bud to make sure he had everything he needed. His tuxedo vest, bow tie, and top hat were on straight and his framed speech was tucked under his arm. He stopped as we were about to head out the door.
"Mom?" he asked, "Can I take Papa's cane with me?"
My heart nearly melted on the spot.
"Of course you can, Bud," I said. "Papa would love that."
He ran back to the closet where Papa's cane had been hanging for more than a year, and hooked it over his arm. NOW we were ready.
We made our way across the street, where our friends were gathering. Brian had already gone over and was busy greeting people, and before we knew it, the yard was full and it was time to begin.
Brian and I stepped forward, and our friend, who was performing the ceremony, introduced Bud.
Bud walked up to the microphone.
"Oh," he said, "it's a beautiful night in THIS neighborhood!"
And then he started his speech.
So many people have helped me come to this night.Bud paused and looked intently at his wrist, where a watch would be if he were wearing a watch, and we all waited in silence for what Brian tells me was a remarkably accurate ten seconds. Then Bud lifted his head and continued.
Some of you are here. Some are far away.
Some are even in heaven.
All of us have special ones who have loved us into being.
Would you just take along with me ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are? Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you and your life.
Ten seconds of silence.
I'll watch the time.
Whoever you have been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel that they've made.Bud stopped speaking and stepped away from the microphone. The moment took my breath away, and as I wiped the tears from my eyes, I saw my soon-to-be-husband and our family and friends gathered in a semi-circle around us, smiling and crying and totally getting it.
You know, they're the kind of people television does well to offer our world.
Special thanks to my family and friends and to my coworkers in public broadcasting, Family Communications, and this academy, for encouraging me and allowing me all these years to be your neighbor.
May God be with you.
It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Even better than a performance by Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Redman.
And my father, Bud's Papa. How pleased he must have been to know the difference that he made.