The e-mail came in late Tuesday evening. A producer from the Today Show was trying to reach the wife.
[Catherine] is of HIGH interest for a live segment tomorrow AM on the real “Modern Family” — I know it’s a holiday but was hoping she was available …
It’s been a crappy week in our house. Too many issues, too little time. Both kids have been sick with strep. The wife’s adjusting to a new teaching job. I’m in book hell. We needed new windows, and the workmen were tromping through our house with reckless abandon. Mold found in the basement. On and on. Nothing most folks don’t go through—just a lot at the same time.
Hence, when the e-mail came in, Catherine was napping. Deep sleep sort of nap.
I woke her.
“You’re not going to believe this,” I said, “but it looks like the Today Show wants you on.”
“Ha ha,” she said, only half awake.
“No,” I said. “I’m 100-percent serious.”
She popped up. “Are you kidding?”
Again, I assured her I was not. She popped out of bed, made some calls. About an hour later she looked at me and said, “I can’t believe this, but I’m on the Today Show tomorrow morning!”
Some background. My wife—my amazing, smart, talented, loving wife—is a family coach. This is her website, and she’s beyond fantastic. When people have sleep issues with their kids, they call her. Feeding issues. Behavioral issues. On and on. Obviously I’m biased, but she’s a master. The best I’ve ever seen. The Today Show, conveniently, was doing a piece on the modern makeup of American families.
That said, before yesterday she had v-e-r-y little media experience. She’s watched as I’ve done the different requisite book whoring stuff, and she certainly understands how it all works; what’s involved, etc. But, prior to this week, her three main spotlight moments were:
A. When Dr. Ruth hosted a TV show in the early 1990s, she attended as an audience member and asked a question during the Q&A session.
B. As a student at Bucknell, she was interviewed at a post office while sending off a last-minute gift. On the screen, beneath her name, it said PROCRASTINATOR.
B. She once was a guest on a talk show on our local AM radio station.
Hence, as she prepared for Today, I told Catherine she was being called up from A ball to the Majors. Then we amended it, agreeing she was more like a junior high ballplayer being asked to take an at-bat for the New York Yankees.
That night, Catherine slept, at most, an hour. She was, naturally, excited. Nervous. The worst thing one can do is think of hundreds of thousands of people watching, and she seemed to be thinking about hundreds of thousands of people watching. When the alarm went off at 5 am, she popped out of bed, took a shower and headed off for the city. She told me she’d be on at 8:19 am, and that was that.
I counted down the seconds.
Sitting in front of the TV, our kids by my side, my hands were coated with sweat. My heart was beating fast. This was 8,000,000 times more exciting than any of my own television appearances. I’ve seen how hard Catherine works; how deeply she cares; how badly she wants to help people. Social work is the ultimate non-ego profession. It’s selflessness personified, and the idea of her being acknowledged warms my heart.
The segment started. She was seated across from Matt Lauer. She looked gorgeous—hair perfect, makeup perfect. Just beautiful. The questions came fast, and she answered perfectly. Short. Quick. Tight. I warned her the night before that the biggest challenge, TV-wise, is time. This was a 3-minute segment. There’s very little time for elaboration, or interpretive insight. One must give precise answers, and never, ever, ever blather on.
She didn’t blather.
By the time the segment ended, and Matt thanked “Catherine Pearlman” for her insights, I wanted to cry. It was one of the greatest highs of my life. I’m still feeling that high.
Shortly after she agreed to appear, Catherine asked me whether I thought it was wrong for a Jew to take such a gig on Yom Kippur. She felt somewhat guilty, and I understood. However, to me, there was never any doubt. When an opportunity like this comes along, and you’ve worked your entire life in a field of goodness, you have to take it. You absolutely, positively have to.
God, I’m guessing, understands.