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  • Writer's pictureEric

Permission Granted

“This is one of the main reasons I believe that adolescence can be so fraught for so many. Just as we start to catch the barest glimpses of our true selves and begin to understand what it is about the world that fascinates and intrigues us, we often run right into people who aren’t ready to be encouraging and can be downright hostile to someone being ‘different.’”

There are many quotable lines from Adam Savage’s Every Tool’s a Hammer. (Atria Books, 2019) For me, this line from the introduction hits home. And, to be honest, Savage’s hard truth doesn’t always end at adolescence, does it? Many of us struggle right through adulthood feeling we need to cage important parts of ourselves, maybe the very parts that are most true to our spirit, those parts that most want to be freed. Why? Because to show our true and maybe quirkiest selves is to open ourselves to ridicule. It’s far easier and safer to allow society to dictate what is appropriate—for a career, for our gender, for our current age...

I’ll be launching a new summer series of library gigs soon. Yesterday found me in puppet repair mode, patching up and sprucing up Benjamin D. Dog, a hand puppet I’ve been using in various library and festival programs for maybe two decades or more. I love using puppets. I love the puppet-building process, watching as a couple yards of fabric and foam rubber take on shape and personality.

One of my favorite puppets is a scruffy tabby cat named Scratch. Many years ago, when I was still teaching elementary school, I had just finished final touches on Scratch, and I was truly tickled by what I saw. He came together far better than I had even hoped! Operating him was a breeze. (Not always the case with hand puppets.) His bright, shaggy orange fur and yellow eyes screamed personality. I had a band rehearsal that night, playing keys for a 50s/60s sock hop group, and I decided to bring Scratch along to show the guys. We were all teachers. We were friends. Surely they’d get it!

But they didn’t get it. After rehearsal that evening, I walked the guys out to my car and popped the trunk, eager to introduce them to this crazy new feline. There were raised eyebrows. There were long, empty pauses. Finally responses trickled in along the lines of, “You built this? Why?”

I was deflated. Heck, I can still feel the disappointment as I write this 20 years later.

And that is one of the reasons I love poring over books like Savage’s. My bookshelves hold biographies and autobiographies on Walt and Roy Disney, Jim Henson (Soooo many books on Jim Henson!), Phil Vischer, Fred Rogers, Sid and Marty Kroft, Raffi (Yes, there is a Raffi autobiography.)… Reading about these quirky creators who dove into their passions even at the risk of looking foolish gives me the courage to dive into my own quirky passions.

What are the books that have given you permission to be you?


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