When I was fifteen I went to Las Vegas. I know what you’re thinking … Fifteen … Vegas … what a great destination for someone who can’t drink, can’t gamble, and can’t stay up past 9. But it was my grandfather’s 70th birthday, and the man was fond of throwing big soirees in his own honor. And so there I was.

There are only three things I remember clearly from the trip. The first is the mini Beef Wellingtons that we ate (You know what they say about never forgetting your first love).

The second is the party favors that we left with — two CD’s comprised of all of my grandpa’s favorite songs. There was a little Patsy Cline, a little Willie Nelson, some Whitney Houston, a few numbers from Fiddler on the Roof … These were the days of portable CD players, so I spent the flight home familiarizing myself with his eclectic taste in music.

The third thing I remember clearly is arriving at the baggage claim back in Milwaukee where I ran into some friends who had also been out of town for the weekend, who informed me that another friend of ours had been killed in a hunting accident.

It was the first death of a peer I’d experienced, and I hadn’t a clue how to process the grief I was feeling. I put my headphones back on and pressed play, but all of a sudden I found it impossible to listen to any of the music — there were no lyrics on this or any other CD that could fit the way I was feeling.

Luckily, Chauncey was a big fan of “Stranger on the Shore” by Acker Bilk, and I put the wordless clarinet solo on repeat. For two weeks. To this day it’s the first thing I turn on when I’m grieving, and even though I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, for those first few moments after it comes on, I’m back at that airport in 2001.

My whole life has a soundtrack like that … it’s amazing how music can transport you. “Band on the Run” by Wings takes me back to my childhood living room in Wauwatosa, and while it’s playing I could recall details about that room that I’d never be able to come up with otherwise.

Any track from Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack to “The Mission” and I’m in my childhood (and forever) happy place outside of Lander Wyoming. I can literally close my eyes smell the sagebrush.


We went to Disney World the year Aladdin came out, and I wore this wind suit for most of the trip:


Now every time I hear “A Whole New World”, I can feel that Windbreaker again as if I actually have it on, can smell the gallon of Salon Selectives hairpsray holding the curl in my ill-advised bangs … can recall exactly how uncomfortable those wind pants were after I’d peed in them. That was the day I learned to never wet your pants unless they’re at least somewhat absorbent.

“Don’t Stop Believing” comes on, and I’m back in college. I can close my eyes and smell the stale beer. And I’m 99% sure so can everyone else who’s gone to college since 1982 … it’s like the American binge-drinking anthem.

Anyhow, this is a very roundabout, long winded intro to my point — and that point is that in the soundtrack of my life, I’m afraid the year 2018 will be missing. I’ll never turn on the radio and be transported back to these days, because I can’t think of a single circumstance where a radio station will choose to play “When You’re Sick, Rest is Best”.

We listen to Daniel Tiger every single hour of every single day. In the car, at home, on Tv, on the phone. In a boat, in the tub, in our coats, on the rug.

It is so engrained in my head that I’ve started spewing the lyrics out as part of everyday conversation, much like I do with lines from FRIENDS and old Dane Cook one-liners.

The other night Eric and I were out on a date and he said he had to use the restroom, and without thinking I responded by singing “When you have to go potty, stop and go right away … flush and wash and be on your way!”


In public, I did this. To my husband, who is not three. And is not a cartoon. And is not a Tiger.

I do love Daniel Tiger. I love what it is teaching my kids, and I love that it’s a spin off of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. But it’s different, too. Mr. Rogers was a saint, but he was removed enough from the family scene that you didn’t hate him for it. He was just a neighbor, and a really really good one.

I can get on board with that, because I can see a saint of a neighbor and admire that. Seeing a saint of a mother is harder to swallow, because it immediately highlights my flaws. In fact I’m convinced Mrs. Tiger exists only to make me feel worse about myself.

In the last episode we watched, Daniel and Prince Wednesday wanted to have a beach day, but it was raining. So that wretched little tiger lugged a bunch of sand into the house to make an indoor beach.


Granted, the Tiger Family’s living room furniture looks a lot like beach loungers, and it seems like every picture on their wall features Daniel at the beach, so you can see where he’d be confused. Where they found such easy access to all this sand, I don’t know. But I do know how I would have reacted.

When Mrs. Tiger walked in and discovered her living room had been taken over by the hardest substance in the world to clean, she did what any of us would do. “Oh, I’m mad,” she said quietly. “I must calm down.” And then she took a deep breath and was instantly calm, offering the kids some alternative ideas for indoor beach play.

I can correctly identify a feeling, too, but I’m not nearly as good at diffusing it. This is exactly the kind of thing that drives Evelyn to look at me with a quivering lip whenever my voice rises above a whisper and say “Mommy, you forgot to take a deep breath and count to four.”

Where is the show with the terrible, shouty, impatient Mom that my kids can compare me to and thus feel better about who is raising them?

I digress. My point is that this Tiger family and their friends have weaseled their way into our every waking hour, and I’m making a conscious effort to pipe some different music into our house.

And if my kids protest, which they will, I can just sing them this song and all will be well in the world.