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For Getting to Know Melissa After All

It’s ironic that I am going to share this story. When I reflect back on I still feel the sting and letdown I did on that day way back when.

For once I don’t even know when my story takes place. Oh sure I was there and remember my every movement but I have NO idea about the time or date. I can’t even give you a year. I am thinking sometime in the early 1990s and I want to say on a weekend in the summer but this is more of a guess than anything else.

The only thing I can say with any certainty is how devastated I was that day and how I know that was the root of the change I have been making in myself over the last twenty or so years.

CNN has had a special on this week called “The Person Who Changed My Life”. All of the anchors are sharing their stories about a parent, teacher, or mentor who somehow aided them on the path that they are on right now. I think this is in interesting question; in fact I plan on exploring it in depth in my next blog. At first I was drawing a blank but I see this story is perhaps the beginning of the one I want to tell next.

But first let’s take a look at the journey we have been on together in recent weeks. I have spent a lot of time discussing my love for the Roosevelt family ( and all of the places I have visited to retrace their steps. Without even trying I had already been to a site named for Teddy Roosevelt’s son Quentin, who died in World War I. You will remember that there is a street near my house, Quentin Road, that is named for him. Another place I frequent is Roosevelt Field (Mall), a former aircraft space that is also named for him. It is here where our story takes place.

It was a summer evening around 1991 or so. I would have been about ten years old give or take. I was shopping with my family which included my mother, father, and brother but he was too little then to play a central part in this story. That mall, if you haven’t been, is crazy big. Not Mall of America big, but big enough that after an hour or so I was over it. Especially at that age with no money. I was bored before I even got out of the car. I remember feeling like we had just gotten there when around the corner stood the chance of a lifetime.

One I would always regret not taking.

It was Melissa Joan Hart of “Clarissa Explains It All” and I could have dropped dead right there. There was a line of people waiting to meet her and get her autograph, on what I have no idea. I wasn’t close enough to see. I remember being so excited I was practically blacking out. The line was going fast and my parents were urging me to go up there. I took a few steps but my shock and nerves got the better of me and I changed my mind. I was so upset the remaining time we spent in the mall until I finally got the courage to go back. Sadly she had already left. I was too late. I missed meeting her and that ache remains in my soul. 

I might have remained calm on the outside but I was sobbing with devastation on the inside. It was a unconscious decision but now I realize that was the moment I learned I didn’t want another once in a lifetime event to ever pass me by. Especially when it was within my reach. 

Thinking of all of the celebrities I have since met and the sometimes random circumstances where they have taken place I can honestly say I have no regrets. Some people who were with me might, but I know I always force myself to do whatever it takes to make one of my dreams come true. Even if it is just stepping over a row of people to meet Michael C. Hall at the stage door. Sitting politely wouldn’t have worked and I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself ignoring my instinct to book it out of there. In the end it’s always worth your best effort. At least it’s always been worth my best effort, and it’s a strenuous one at that.

I knew this would come up eventually and now I finally have the perfect excuse to tell this story. I felt equal parts of dread and relief about sharing it. But the truth is what it is and I am nothing if not honest to a fault. Well mostly that is. I certainly do not mind throwing some shade my way.

The reason this story has resurfaced in me and now appears on my blog is because I have finally read the memoir Melissa Joan Hart penned in 2014. Appropriately titled “Melissa Explains It All: Tales from My Abnormally Normal Life” starts at the beginning of her life and career and details all of the fun she has had since then. How she met her husband, how each of her very successful shows came to be, and mostly importantly what she has learned along the way. Having access to that kind of insight was thrilling for a fan like me and I imagine many others. 

I’ve done the math and she is only five years older than me. That seems wrong but I checked it twice in Excel so I am positive that is correct. Wow we are peers. That gives me a confusing feeling because I spent so much time watching “her” explain it all to me.

“Clarissa Explains It All” ran for a few years in the early 1990s on Nickelodeon back when there were only cartoons on TV for children or adult programming at night for the grownups. This was the first show planned for teenagers. It was a big gamble that paid off. It was also the first show I remember regularly watching, like when it aired, because we didn’t have DVRs back then and I probably didn’t even have a VCR with blank tapes to record it. Those were the days of “Double Dare”, “Blossom”, and “Punky Brewster”. That’s how far back Melissa, Clarissa, and I go.

Since I received the DVDs of this show a few Christmases a go, I re-watch the show remembering what I felt like back then. A lot of shows are hard to watch once you are an adult but I felt like “Clarissa” was the real deal. It was so original, so hip (for the time), that it remains in a class by itself. Just a tiny piece of history before you grow up and reality sets in.

I always wished I had a pet alligator in my room named Elvis. Perhaps that’s why I had to hold this one in a swamp in New Orleans? 

Before Melissa was on TV she did many commercials as a child actor eventually moving on to Broadway plays. Frank Rich, the theater critic for the New York Times, made the following comment after seeing Melissa in “Imagining Brad”:

“Melissa Joan Hart delivers a precocious comic monologue with the worldly show-biz verve of a stand-up comedian more than twice her age.” 

That’s a big compliment especially coming from that man.

I love when Melissa is talking about her time on Broadway and how even though she was a kid she noticed how her costars treated the fans when out and about. In the play “Besides Herself” she noticed that her costar William Hurt, not surprisingly, was a jerk. I have read that elsewhere about him. But it taught Melissa to be kind, even when approached by fans during awkward moments, because without the fans there are no acting jobs. That is something I appreciate as an avid theater goer. It makes me wish all the more I had made my move back then in Roosevelt Field. Too bad I didn’t think this then.

I still wish I could get this book signed by her now. Meeting her would still be a thrill for me but unfortunately there is no longer a ladder in her bedroom window. 

It turns out we are both normal girls who grow up to be women with amazing stories sprinkled into the mix.

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