If you could invite one famous person and his or her kids over for a playdate, who would it be?
I’ll give you a few clues about my first choice:
He’s a dad (or presumably a legal guardian), has a country house and a place in the city, drives a convertible, recently won an Emmy, and wears a lot of yellow.
I’ll give you one last hint: he buys a lot of bananas.
I think I just gave it away.
Yes, The Man with the Yellow Hat is my celebrity playdate crush and I am not embarrassed to admit that my idol is a cartoon whose child is a monkey.
Is that much crazier than turning to Madonna for children’s literature?
The key difference, of course, is that the Man with the Yellow Hat’s entire persona is based on his relationship to his monkey/child. And when it comes to remaining calm in the face of chaos, keeping a positive attitude, and oozing a PBS kind of Q factor, not even George Clooney can touch him. That’s why I’d love to have him over for some banana bread and homemade lemonade.
“How do you do it?” I’d ask The Man.
“How do I do what, Sarah?” he’d reply modestly.
“You know, keep it together. You’re living with a monkey. He built a compost pile in your living room, used bath toys to flood the entire apartment building, hid hundreds of jelly donuts under your couch, and doesn’t wear clothes.”
“You know a lot about life with a monkey,” he’d say, taking off his hat.
“I live with a two year old,” I’d say, refilling his glass.
But is that our only bond?
It’s hard to say with The Man. We don’t really know much about him. Sure, there’s the paper trail from the 1940’s—those incriminating books in which he smokes cigars and acts like an Ivy Leaguer recruited by the CIA. But most of his bio is sketchy.
I did find one interview with WGBH in which The Man conceded that yes, he’s an archaeologist and yes, George arrived in the US via suitcase, but other than that, and the rumor that his first name is “Ted”, there’s not much else.
I’m not sure I would either.
No, I’d get back to figuring out the key to his amazing disposition.
“So, let’s just say you’ve been selected to go up in space and save the folks at the space station but Professor Wiseman remembers you don’t have four hands so she sends your monkey instead,” I’d begin.
“Uh-huh” he’d say.
“And, for some reason they lose contact with your monkey while he’s orbiting earth. How would you feel?”
“I’d just be concerned about George’s feelings—I would imagine he’d be scared.”
“But you wouldn’t need to calm your nerves with a quick shot of vodka?”
“I don’t think so.”
“And suppose you find out that the entire commuter rail system is off track because George messed with the signals while you assessed sandwich sizes. Would you feel embarrassed?”
“I think most people understand that a monkey is not a professional train conductor.”
That’s a good point.
Maybe that’s his secret.
The Man looks at George’s curiosity as an expression of his nature, not as a threat to the decorum of the adult world. And, The Man doesn’t waste much time worrying about what other people think of him as a parent/friend/fictional cartoon character.
He’s free to be moved by George’s curiosity instead of trying to contain it—he’s upbeat, and forgiving, and energized to see the next day through George’s eyes.
“I’ve never seen you send George to time out,” I’d say as he and George head out the door.
“I’m the Monkey-Dad,” he’d say, tipping his hat a bit and striking a John Wayne pose, as he so often does, of casual contrapposto.
“Monkey-Dad, I have much to learn from you,” I’d say. “Ever thought about writing a book?”
Hum. A book by The Man with the Yellow Hat. Now that’s something to think about. And, I would think about it, too....after I cleaned up the damage George and my daughters did to the basement.
Photo of red carpet:
Photo of Yellow Hat: from a costume, which you can order.