The Chicago visitors are in their thirties, out for a fun night. As they gather, I hand out business cards. Handshakes all around and then another round of Fireballs in the raucous bar. Soon I’m arm-wrestling the young guys, insisting we use our left hands, giving this older writer a small advantage since I’m lefthanded.
Finally, it’s time for Kim and me to leave. I thank everyone. As we move through the crowd toward the exit, a young women, a part of the couples we’ve spent the night with, approaches and asks, “Can I speak with you for a second, Mr. Olesker.”
I answer, “Sure, but you have to call me ‘Jack’.”
She draws closer, her voice lowering. She talks about a difficult childhood, her father verbally abusive to her mother. Then she says “I waited all week for Care Bears. It was my oasis.” She pauses for a moment. Then, her voice choking with emotion, she says, “I want to thank you for saving my childhood...”
I’m a tough guy, raised on Chicago’s mean streets, all my fingers broken from fights in my youth. I spent my Air Force hitch in helicopters as a search-and-rescue medic. And then I went to L.A., which made everything else seem like a cakewalk.
But this young woman had touched my heart in a powerful way. I never knew, until that moment, the impact some of my writing for children’s television had on others. I never knew this was the real reason children’s television writers write. Voice trembling, she asks if she can hug me. Unable to find words, I open my arms. We embrace. Then we separate, her eyes and mine welling with tears.
It was a night to remember.