Daniel T. Tiger was my favorite inhabitant from the land of make believe. i liked him more than henrietta pussycat, lady elaine, and king friday.
But really, when i think about Mr. Rogers, i always think of sister #4. There’s quite an age-gap between us. i’m 8 years older. so, you figure when she was prime age for mr. rogers– 4 and 5, i was prime age for Solid Gold– 12 and 13. by some strange confluence of television programming, mr. rogers neighborhood and solid gold ended up on at the same time one weekend. i’m not sure how that worked, it must have been some sort of mr. rogers marathon on PBS or something.
i, of course, wanted to watch Solid Gold. how else was i going to be up-to-date on the hippest, hottest tunes of the week? she, of course, wanted to watch mr. rogers.
and, of course, we fought. we fought long and hard. i think we both cried. she was a tenacious little bugger. i can’t remember exactly, but i’m pretty sure she kicked me. in the end, mom had to intervene. sister #4 won. she plopped her smug little butt in the middle of the living room, in front of the giant Curtis Mathis console TV and watched mr. rogers for an eternity. i sat on the arm of the couch and glared at her the entire time.
that’s probably my most vivid memory of mr. rogers. well, that and the story my friend todd told me over lunch the day paul wellstone died.
todd told me about his weird childhood, growing up a jehovah’s witness. he was left alone a lot and didn’t really fit in. but he watched mr. rogers and that show proved to be a great comfort to todd. he loved mr. rogers with a passion only a little kid can muster. and he carried that passion through his life. a few years ago todd sent an e-mail to mr. rogers thanking him for everything. todd told mr. rogers how he helped him feel special and worthy and loved. and mr. rogers responded in kind, thanking todd for the e-mail and what not. hearing the story from todd’s lips, i nearly cried.
so, in honor of mr. rogers and sister #4 and todd and everyone who grew up as a special neighbor, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.