When I was a little girl, my mother introduced me to one of her favorite parts of her childhood, Free To be You and Me, by Marlo Thomas and Friends. Though it has been many years since then, the book still rests on the bookshelf by my bed, standing out amongst the novels and writer’s notebooks of my later years. It doesn’t just sit there though, more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself flipping through its pages reading poems and stories I have hundreds of times before. Looking back, I wonder why a book written for small children has continued to be so important to me in my teenage years.
Free To Be You and Me has impacted my perspective on the world. Two of the biggest messages throughout the book are the importance of being yourself and the falseness of society’s rigid gender roles. I grew up a frizzy haired, half-Jewish girl who never quite fit in. In this piece however, I found that being yourself was a good thing, despite what the neighborhood bullies might dictate. I still carry this with me, adapting it to realize that not everyone thinks the way I do and it isn’t my job to force them to think a certain way. As it says in the poem, Don’t Dress Your Cat in an Apron by Dan Greenburg, “A person should wear what he wants to and not just what other folks say, a person should do what she likes to a person’s a person that way.”
The joy of passing on Free to Be You and Me also gives it importance. I recently introduced the book to the children I babysit. Five-year old Ester absolutely adores it. She makes me read "Ladies First" over and over and over. It gives me pleasure to see her so interested in something I love so much and to know she is soaking up the positive messages that shaped me.
The memories brought about by Free to be You and Me are also significant for me. I remember watching the video and singing along with the songs when we were able to borrow it from the library. I recall being disappointed every time we had to return it...
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