Good Morning America Called On A Tuesday Part I
As I cleaned, I exchanged about half a dozen emails with Barbara. Most of them were her sending me details about the interview: questions they might ask, things they wanted to video us doing: me washing dishes, Mel with the baby, Tristan riding his bike, both of us making dinner, and so on.
I asked her if I would be paid and if I could get editing rights, and she said that ABC does not do either. Finally I asked her one more time if there was going to be a negative spin on the story, and she sent me a long and gracious email telling me that most people at ABC had seen my essay as a strong statement, a victory of sorts, for both stay at home moms and working mothers. Staff had been sharing it in their offices and discussing it in hallways. It was crazy to think that something I wrote was being discussed at ABC headquarters, or at least I assumed they had a headquarters, and that they saw it as something significant.
I felt better about the interview, but I was still nervous. And honestly, until I saw the finished product, part of me was still worried that I’d find myself the subject of scorn.
Mel and the kids came home around 4PM, and by 4:30 PM a black Ford pickup with a shell over the back pulled into our driveway.
There was no camera crew, just a guy named Paul. He was in his mid to late 40s, with a full head of combed-back grey hair. He dressed in Portland style hiking clothing, but had a rich LA tan. He introduced himself as being from Good Morning America, and asked if I was Clint Edwards.
Paul, Mel, and I chatted for a while about the shoot, some of the things he was supposed to videotape, where he could set up his camera, and how they were going to interview me on speakerphone.
“It’s going to be strange, but you two will get used to it.” Then he told me that he was a contractor who also worked for the Today Show, Inside Edition, and a number of other popular TV shows. All in all, he was a very friendly person with a bunch of stories from working as a cameraman for nearly 30 years.
Most of the day Tristan, my 7-year-old son, said he refused to go on camera. He’s a big personality, much like his father, but he doesn’t like his picture taken. At one point he asked, “Do I have to be on TV?” It wasn’t until Mel’s mother bribed him with Legos that he agreed to be on film. Norah, my five-year-old, on the other hand loved every moment of it.
We started filming in the driveway. I was helping Norah ride her pink bike, while Mel held the baby on the porch, and Tristan rode his roller blades. Paul had his camera inches from Norah’s face. For the first few moments of all this, Norah had a confused look. Obviously she was trying to make sense of it all. She kept looking at Paul out of the corner of her eye, and Paul kept saying, “Just act like I’m not here.”
Really? I thought. You act like you’re not here. See if that helps.
About ten minutes into filming Norah pulled me down and whispered into my ear, “Isn’t this all so very wonderful?” She had a dreamy look in her little blue eyes that seemed to say, “I’m star struck.”
After that, we couldn’t get her away from the camera.
Although bribery helped to get Tristan in front of the camera, it didn’t entice him to be well behaved. Most of the time Paul was at our house, Tristan acted like a lunatic. He started by throwing toys at the wall every time the cameraman filmed him. At one point, as we were on the front porch cooking hotdogs and burgers, Tristan started digging a hole in the front yard with a hand shovel. When I asked him why he was doing that, he sat down in the hole and said, “Because it’s funny!”
Norah responded by placing her hands on her hips, and saying, “No, it’s not Tristan! You are making the camera man sad!”
I looked over at Paul, who was filming the whole thing with a large grin, and suddenly I was fearful that all of America was going to see my family as something dysfunctional. The kind of people who dig holes in their yard and then fight about it.
Around 6PM Mel and I were sitting next to each other at our dinner table. White, bee hive shaped lights were to our right and left, a boom mike was over our heads, and next to Mel, at face level, was a large metal arm holding an iPhone. On the other end were two friendly female reporters, one in LA and one in DC, and before us was Paul behind a camera, a large monitor showing what the camera was recording. All three kids were in Tristan’s room.
Originally they wanted to interview Mel and me together, but Aspen, our 3 month old, just wouldn’t have it. The moment they started interviewing the two of us, Aspen started crying.
I was interviewed first, while Mel went into Norah’s room to feed the baby. They asked me questions about the Washington Post essay, why I wrote it, the specifics of the argument Mel and I had, and why I changed the way I thought about our marriage. I summed up the essay, told them that my wife was wonderful and amazing and that her bluntness has bettered my life. I told them that they weren’t really here to see me, but her. I just wrote down what she said. I told them about how my own mother was a single mother, and how she worked days at the power company and evenings cleaning houses, only to come home, and stay up late cleaning our own home because of the pressure she felt to keep up with other Moms at our church. I told them that I wished this essay had not gone viral because I’d like to think that we as a society were past this sort of thing.
None of this made it on the show.
Mel and I swapped places. I couldn’t hear what she told the interviewers because I was in our bedroom, holding a crying baby. But after the fact, Mel said she told them about her day, the demands of being a stay at home mom and a college student. She told them that she didn’t remember the specifics of the argument that sparked this essay because it was so long ago, but she remembered that it happened and that our marriage got better after it. None of her answers made it on the show either.
All together, Paul was at our house for nearly four hours. After he left, and the kids were in bed, Mel and I chatted about how stupid we must have sounded, and how grateful we were to have it all over.
“These people must not realize that we are too boring to be famous,” I said.
Mel laughed and said, “Way too boring.”
Then I said, “I’m really surprised you went through with all this. You get so nervous in front of people. Why did you do it?”
Mel thought for a moment. Then she said, “Because I knew it was important to you and your dream of being a writer. I did it because I love you.”
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.