Unique ‘Mary Farfisa’ Episode, A River In Space, touches on old age, Alzheimer’s


By Jim Cheff, The Meteor

‘Mary Farfisa’ is a series of radio plays for children, created by writer/artist Jim Cheff. It ran for two years on Radio Sunnyside in Flagstaff. It now can be found online, every Saturday morning, on The Meteor (meteor.news). Mary is an eight-year-old girl who travels the Galaxies on her spacehorse Briscoe, looking for songs and sounds and music and noise to share with the Universe.

In A River In Space, Mary and Briscoe discover a long, winding river, floating in Outer Space. On the river’s bank is a ‘Rest Home for Fading Stars.’ They meet an elderly, short-tempered Sun whose light has just about gone out: Mr. Corona used to be strong and radiant, and he warmed lots of planets. But now he’s gotten small and old, and all those planets have moved away.

Mary decides to sing some songs at the Rest Home, to entertain Mr. Corona and the other old stars that live there. She’s and Briscoe are surprised when the old stars return the favor, and perform an impromptu concert of music for them.

Like all of Mary Farfisa’s adventures, A River in Space is full of lively music and funny lines. The tone of this episode becomes more serious, however, as it explores the devastating effect of Mr. Corona’s loss of memory, due to Alzheimer’s.

“Many kids see, first-hand, the effects of aging and illness in the older members of their families,” Cheff says. “My hope was that this episode could help a bit with their feelings about that.”

Cheff’s own mother suffered from Alzheimer’s and, in the last stage of her life, could not remember things that happened only a few minutes before. “But she liked to sing. And it was amazing how she remembered the lyrics of songs, word for word, and they would just pour out of her.”

In A River In Space, the residents of the Rest Home sing rousing renditions of songs from their youth. It highlights the important role music plays in everyone’s life, and what a memorable presence music has.

A River In Space certainly provides the saddest moments of the unfailingly cheerful children’s series. But, as Estrella, a caretaker at the Rest Home, explains to Mary: “We can’t always stop sad things from happening to people. But we can always do something to make it a little easier for them.”

Elementary School Teachers Invited to Play A River In Space for Their Class

Teachers are invited to play A River In Space for their classes, and talk to them about it: “Do you have older people in your house? How are older people different? Have you ever asked them what songs they remember from when they were kids? What songs do you think you’ll remember, when you are an adult?” A free list of Discussion Questions, plus a picture that kids can color, is available from Jim Cheff. It can be requested by email at jimcheff@suddenlink.net.

Listen to Mary Farfisa A River In Space here…

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