Monday, April 11, 2016

The Neighborhood of Make Believe

After an idyllic weekend in Chicago my husband and I came home to chaos. When I landed in Detroit my mother-in-law (who was watching our son) texted me that both she and the baby were sick. They both had a stomach bug, and she hadn't told us while we were gone so we wouldn't worry (which was extremely considerate). I picked up my needy little guy and headed home assuming he probably had a quick bug and was on the mend. 

Over the next week Norovirus raged through our home making my son, my husband and me all very, very sick. The week is a blur. On Wednesday, my sickest day and before my husband got sick, I don't even remember the day. I barely left bed. I knew I was sick because I didn't even care what was happening in our house. Usually I want to be with my husband and son, and I didn't even have the energy to be curious about why my son was squealing with joy downstairs. 

By the time the weekend rolled around we were all starting to be on the mend, but we were exhausted. The second weekend in April came in like a lion with snow accumulation and freezing rain. It was gross, and with the weather and our illness we barely left the house. 

Days with a 15-month-old child when you're all recovering from illness are long. My son wakes up around 6 am, and naps for two hours if we're lucky. His bedtime is 7 pm, and that is a very long and exhausting day when we're sick and barely leave the house. I'm not opposed to my child watching television, but I definitely believe in a balance. Until recently Will hasn't really been too interested in TV, but he was sick and snuggly during this week. We ended up watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood for hours. 

Growing up I was a huge fan of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. I loved it so, so much. I grew up an hour south of Pittsburgh, and I think it was a childhood requirement to adore his Pittsburgh based show. I particularly loved the forays into the Neighborhood of Make Believe and visiting my favorite character Henrietta Pussycat (meow meow). Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is a spinoff of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and takes place in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. While children's television programming generally makes me cringe, I love the nostalgia of the show. Daniel even sings part of the Mister Rogers' theme song and changes his sweater and shoes like Mister Rogers. Precious. 

Fred Rogers/Daniel Tiger. The cutest.

As I watched hours of Daniel Tiger over the last week, I came to the realization that the Neighborhood of Make Believe is the perfect city neighborhood. Daniel Tiger and his family and friends get to their destinations by walking or riding Trolley. Main Street in the Neighborhood of Make Believe is a vibrant street filled with local businesses. There is lots of parks and green space.  The neighbors work together and help one another out. There is diversity - not only racial diversity of the human characters but tigers and owls living together in harmony? Priceless.

As a cityphile I would love for my neighborhood to be just like the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Daniel Tiger and his friends and family live in an unspoiled community that could be the model for every great place. Maybe it's the sickness, but I've spent a lot of time thinking about how amazing it would be to live in the Neighborhood of Make Believe. We should all strive to be good neighbors, walk and take public transit, shop local and utilize our green space. Also having a tiger as a neighbor would be pretty bad ass. 

The incomparable Fred Rogers once said, "You can think about things and make believe. All you have to do is think and they'll grow.” That also applies to placemaking, but it starts with that vision and takes someone willing to see it through. Let's all strive for a beautiful day in the neighborhood. 

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