These immortal words were uttered by my good friend Gary, upon the birth of my daughter Jocelyn. He was quoting an illustrious line from a Dick Van Dyke show that spawned a generation of great “new baby” presents.
I have always been impressed by the comic genius of Dick Van Dyke – in fact I and my friends have been loyal fans for years. We have passed this love of this classic TV show down to our kids; but not just by watching the shows together.
It started with my friends Gary and Debbie buying my oldest daughter a tricycle when she was born, because Buddy rode in on a small bike the first time he met baby Ritchie. When Rob said, “Why did you get him that? He is only a little baby!” Buddy replied “It’s a little bicycle, they can grow up togehter.”
That was the beginning of a years long tradition – after each of our kids were born Gary and Deb bought us some great big gift, along the same lines. And we did the same at the birth of their daughters. Alicia got a basketball hoop, Andrea recieved a convertable riding car, Bennett got a tent with a periscope (to protect himself from all the girls) and Simone got a boat/sand box.
When our last baby Abigail was born Gary and Deb were hard pressed to come up with a gift. In the eleventh hour and Gary turned genius. He sent the publicity photo shot of Laura holding the newborn Ritchie to Mr. Van Dyke telling him the whole story of our “competition” based on that scene from the show. He got the picture from a trivia book about the show. Of course, both families owned a copy. Remember when you couldn’t just look on line to find out everything you wanted to know about a TV show?
Unbeknownst to us, they waited a month or so for a reply. Unbelievably, Mr. Van Dyke not only replied, he autographed the picture with a “To the Collen Family on the birth of their daughter Abigail. God Bless” written across the top of the print.
After that we couldn’t have any more kids — how could you top that?
We still enjoy watching the shows with our families. They are so well written and well acted that they are classically funny. So many other TV shows that followed “borrowed” from the Dick Van Dyke show’s plots. We had a complete set of all the episodes before it was available on DVD. My first husband video tapped the shows when they aired on WSBK in Boston as reruns.
Being a fan led to watching a clip of Mr. Van Dyke celbrating his 90th birthday at Disneyland, which led to reading his new book KEEP MOVING. Living proof of the theory that we have to keep moving or we will crumble and die, Mr. Van Dyke spells out the secret of his longevity. The book is filled with wonderful anecdotes that give the reader an insight into his personality. His tips and truths are words to live by: “Tip: Forgiveness is the best sleeping pill. Truth: A spoonful of sugar really does help the medicine go down.” One chapter contains a great interview with his longtime friend and mentor, Carl Reiner. But most importantly, the book is filled with hope and love. Love is the basic pricnciple that keeps Mr. Van Dyke moving after all these years; we should all keep moving towards it.
Van Dyke is a big proponet of smiling and greeting everyone, most of the time accompanying his smile with a dance! He speaks of the joy that comes from the service of continually trying to make other people’s lives a little better.
The signed picture which we received from Mr. Van Dyke was his words in action.
© Jane F. Collen January 5, 2016