Even early on in a child’s development the notion of cool is very much in tact. I distinctly remember sitting criss cross applesauce on a cold linoleum floor as names were called for Student of the Month. Kindergarteners weren’t old enough to be eligible, but my 5th grade bus patrol leader was. As her name was called, she swooshed her side ponytail and fiddled with her scrunchy socks as if to say, “eh.”
She didn’t care. She was so cool.
As we grow older the cool quotient begins to pervade everything: makeup is supposed to look like we aren’t wearing any, career counselors instruct us on how to casually hand over a resume and we find ourselves reading relationship books on how to care less, thus ensuring the upper hand.
Enter: Leslie Knope.
She’s never met a person or challenge she didn’t care about. Hard. Like with an overstuffed three-ring binder hard. Leslie’s rule for relationships — romantic or otherwise — is simple: be unabashedly honest (and perhaps bring a little old lady stenographer along for the ride). This is evidenced in: The Trial Of Leslie Knope.
After Ben and Leslie’s workplace romance is discovered, Leslie is placed on trial for possible misconduct. Upon learning that her boyfriend has not only taken the fall, but in court proceedings has also proclaimed his secret love, she does the only thing she knows how: tells him how she feels. As Ben and Leslie stand in the softly falling snow, Ethel Beavers, (old lady stenographer) reads from the newest court documents:
Leslie (via Ethel): “Let the record state that I, Leslie Knope, love Ben Wyatt. I love him with all of my heart.”
Our eyes well up with tears, kisses are exchanged and love is very, very real.
Ethel: “Can I get a ride home? It’s freezing outside.”
And in just seconds we are sucker punched with comedic reality. The secret to not only Leslie’s, but Parks and Rec’s charm as a whole, is revealed: disarming wit. So disarming that in just a few months negative critics changed their tunes, and now seven years later their (and our) sadness to this show’s ending is on par with the loss of a one Lil’ Sebastian.
Once I sat down to write this piece, it started becoming a days-long event. I wrote, then added, and then added some more. Paragraphs were taking the form of pages because I was simply too fearful of leaving anything out. Without even realizing it I was honoring Leslie Knope in the best way possible — by gushing too much. So much gush it could fill one of her famous binders.
Leslie’s original vows to Ben topped off at around 70 pages, but due to a last minute wedding she didn’t have them on hand. She wondered out loud if she should go grab them and then, true to the show’s character, she took a breath, looked her almost-husband in the eyes and said exactly how she felt. So, I shall try to do the same …
Parks and Recreation, you have for the past seven years managed to create characters that made us laugh, then cry and then somehow usher laughter in again. Thank you for allowing a kind woman in a smart pantsuit to gush over her friends, hug them tightly and bestow them with the most thoughtful gifts imaginable.
Thank you for allowing sardonic April to fall in love with goofy Andy and for them, upon receiving medical insurance, get every procedure known to man. But more so, thank you for having Chris Pratt live up to his name and pratfall into an ambulance (many of us re-watched that on tough days). Thank you for allowing your characters to not get everything they wanted, yet always dusting them off and getting them back up. Thank you for bringing Rob Lowe back into our homes, but this time in a running suit made of synthetic bees’ wings.
Thank you for allowing a kind woman in a smart pantsuit to gush over her friends, hug them tightly and bestow them with the most thoughtful gifts imaginable.
Thank you for bringing “Treat Yo Self” into the lexicon and teaching us that girl best friends do more than throw drinks in each others’ faces. They listen well, occasionally argue, and then throw one heck of a Galentine’s Day!
Thank you for somehow uniting our country in the power of government, yet at the same time highlighting our frustration with it. Thank you for waffles with Madeleine Albright, face touching Joe Biden and for hiding in a coat closet with John McCain. And, finally, thank you for Ron Swanson’s smile.
Even the crankiest of mustaches can’t betray the sweetest joy. You made thoughtfulness attractive and caring cool. We shall forever have a hole in our hearts in the shape of Parks and Recreation.
We love you, and we like you.
Do you watch Parks & Recreation? How has the show inspired you and do you think it will be missed?
Top image via Wired; bottom image via Danny Feld/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images