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March 1, 2005 / Kate

And now for something significantly less disgusting

I just wrote a lovely post about my neighborhood and how much I enjoy its charms. It was a nice post. You would have liked it. But unfortunately my computer decided to eat it for brunch. So let’s talk about my love of Mister Rogers instead.
Notice my use of the word love. I love Mister Rogers. I was a Waldorf child and was not allowed to watch television (or play with plastic toys or dolls with facial features, etc).
When my parents got divorced, however, my mother had to find a job to support the two of us and she started cleaning houses so that she could take me with her and not have to put me in daycare. My special treat while she was cleaning was that I could watch Mister Rogers. That was the first and only television show I ever watched as a child. It was mesmerizing. I am not a big fan of TV, but I think it was therapeutic in a way, honestly. It was a scary time in my life because my parents were going through a nasty divorce and my mom and I were poor and living in a friend’s basement. They did a messy job of explaining things to me and I was left in the dark a lot. Mister Rogers was a predictable and soothing character in my life. He had such a way of explaining things in his calm, sweet voice.
To this day, if I happen to see his show on television, it invariably makes me cry. I once saw an interview of him and I cried all the way through it. In that interview he said that the space between a child’s eyes and ears and the television is sacred space and what one chooses to put on television for a child to see should be chosen with great reverence and care. He took that seriously and I am grateful.
On the day that my grandfather died, I grieved because I never knew him and I missed having a grandfather in my life. He was not able to be that for his grandchildren. He was a person that caused a lot of pain for others in his lifetime and I grieved because of that.
That same day, Fred Rogers died and I wept as though he had been my grandfather. He was for me what my own grandfather could not be. Thanks, Mister Rogers.

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11 Comments

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  1. toni / Mar 1 2005 12:58 pm

    I, too, grew up in a TV-free home. I got to watch Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow and Square One at a friend’s house. And boy to I love cooperation, counting to ten in Spanish, reading, and math. Seriously, I do love those four things.

  2. ErikWithaK / Mar 1 2005 1:36 pm

    You were right, less disgusting. That was so calming. Probably one of the best posts I’ve read in awhile.

  3. jess / Mar 1 2005 3:13 pm

    Lis should read this.

  4. Lis / Mar 1 2005 6:40 pm

    Lis read this.

    I grew up in a tv-free home as well. Three people in one page…I bet that doesn’t happen much. And the one and only tv show I watched was Mr Rogers–at my grandma’s house. And I have a lot to say on the subject. I LOVED Mr Rogers. And I still do. Sometimes when I wonder how something works(like the post office) or how something is made (like recycled bottles and paper) (which is often), I wish I could watch a Mr Rogers’ episode about it. Mr Rogers creaps some people out, and that bothers me. I think we’re not used to men acting like he did, and that makes many people uneasy, but honestly believe that he was just a good man. I knew a kid who got to make a wish throught the “make a wish foundation” and he wished he could meet Mr Rogers. “Make A Wish” flew him and his family to wherever Mr Rogers lives and set up an afternoon with him. Mr Rogers was wonderful to them. They all enjoyed each other’s company so much that they decided to have dinner together than evening and then met again for breakfast before the family left town. He went way above and beyond the contracted amount of time and was engaged with the kid and his family. That story changed my life because I got to believe that the Mr Rogers I loved on tv was worth loving. He wasn’t an actor, he wasn’t some jerk who was going to let me down when some child porn scandal broke out.
    Another note: one day, in my grandma’s car, when I was a beginning talker, I was asking for “Mr Rogers.” My grandma calmly explained that we were on our way out and that it wasn’t a good time to watch tv. I kept saying “Mr Rogers! Mr Rogers!” and my grandma grew increasingly confused…knowing that I wasn’t a dumb a kid, so I must have understood that we were in the car and not in the house with the tv. So, she started guessing. She pointed the the steering wheel and looked at me inquisitively…”this?” she questioned. “Do you want this?”
    “Mr ROGERS!” I demanded. She motions to the seat belt, the windshield, the radio…all to no avail. We’re both painfully frustrated, so my grandma takes me out of my car seat (we must have been parked) and allows me to get whatever it is that I’m asking for. I reach into the side pocket of the driver’s side door and pull out this lint remover that I’d seen my grandma use a million times. “Mr Rogers” I finally repeat contently, as I get fastened back into my seat, grasping my treasure.

    To this day, none of my family members can figure out why I called that thing Mr Rogers. I knew that was what it was called. So, to all of you Mr Rogers lovers out there, does he ever use a lint remover?

  5. Kate / Mar 1 2005 6:47 pm

    Oh Lis! I am so glad you love him too. About the lint remover, I’m not sure. I enjoyed your Mr Rogers stories. Yes! I learned so much from that show too! Really interesting stuff. Like one time he took us to a bowling ball factory! With Mr McFeely.

  6. jess / Mar 1 2005 11:06 pm

    Four TV-free homes and counting.

    I’d forgotten all about the lint remover, Lis – I LOVE that. I also really enjoyed the ‘how things are made’ episodes – that is, the ones that I watched when I was older and home sick and we had a TV and Mr. Rogers was geared towards kids my little brother’s age.

  7. cartoons! / Mar 2 2005 3:16 pm

    I liked the one where they made crayons. All that colored wax made me want to be a crayon-maker.

  8. toni / Mar 2 2005 6:08 pm

    I’m just not there with you all. Mr. Roger’s never was my favorite. That said, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the crayon episode. The other thing I liked was one time he was talking about soccer and he said something to the effect of, “At first I didn’t like the sound of it, because I thought it was about people socking each other. And I don’t like hitting. But then I learned what soccer is, and it’s a good sport.” Or something like that. I thought that was sweet.

  9. Kate / Mar 2 2005 6:45 pm

    That is so sweet! He was so simple. That’s why I love him.

  10. MrIncredible / Mar 5 2005 1:16 pm

    Mr. Rogers trivia…
    Fred Rogers was one of the US Marine Corps top snipers in the Vietnam War (I think that one?). Anyway, he has marks on his arms for every person he killed which is why he always wore long sleeved sweaters. When he came home from the war he was so shocked that he was compelled to sow love in the world in whatever way he could. This is strikingly apparent when he looks at the camera and says things like, “Do you like your mommy? Why don’t you go tell her how much you like her. I’ll wait here. Go ahead.” Then of course you go. “Mommy. I just want you to know, I REALLY LIKE YOU!” Follwed by a big hug of course. Then you go back and he actually waited for you.
    He was from Latrobe, PA which I have the privilege of driving through every time I go to the Antiochian Village in Ligonier. There are streets, restaurants, and buildings named after him. And if you are ever so inclined, if you go into the Rolling Rock Brewery there is a room there entirely dedicated to him with a lot of the original puppets in it.

  11. Kate / Mar 5 2005 1:44 pm

    Yeah, I heard that. Maybe I will go to the Mr Rogers Mecca as a graduation present to myself–>

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