In the wake of the Boston bombings, this Mr. Rogers meme made its way around the Intertron:
This made me happy for two reasons. One, Mr. Rogers was basically the mascot of my entire childhood and nostalgia is my kryptonite. All you have to do is show me a clip of the Duck Tales theme song and I will become your slave. Guys, it’s bad.
Two, the words in the picture are pure and true. The fact that so many other people found rest in them reassured me that life was not all terrible. My daughter who turned one around the same time soon decided that Mr. Rogers was the only person she wanted to watch, and this was fine by me because he beats all the magenta-colored cartoon characters on TV 9,327 to one. The more I watched, the more I remembered the man who was Mr. Fred Rogers. And I’m convinced he was one of the most wonderful people to ever grace our planet. Here’s why.
Every single one of them. Mr. Rogers was going homespun back when Etsy was just a glimmer in its mama’s mama’s eye. Supporting the uterus you came from is probably the most local thing you can do.
2. He validated your feelings and helped you find the tools to deal with them.
Ever feel like the only way to deal with your frustrations is to glue gun your flip-flops onto your feet to keep them on and to pin eleventy billion pictures of the life you’ll never have? Try being a kid. Kids do with what they have. If they get angry, sometimes they bite because they have teeth. Sometimes they throw because they have arms. A lot of times, they internalize their anger or sadness until it comes a-bubblin’ up later on to hurt not only themselves but others too. Mr. Rogers taught kids (and adults) to vent in safe, productive ways. He gave them a vocabulary to express the emotions they were entitled to. He saw them as humans, which, it turns out, they are. I know. I was surprised too.
3. He was a borrower who treated his friends’ stuff like it was made of gold-plated diamonds fused to Faberge eggs.
Mr. Rogers didn’t hoard every precious thing he could find. In almost every episode, he came through that door with some random item – a snow globe, a VHS of the making of cereal, a whirly gig – that one of his neighbors had loaned to him, and he treated those random items with respect. I never borrow anything because OMG TARGET NEEDS ME NOW. Yeah, Target doesn’t need me. We could all do a little better to borrow instead of buy.
4. He clearly decorated his own house.
Um, so, Mr. Rogers’ curtains were ugly. They always kind of reminded me of this sofa in the back of my grandparents’ house that smelled like mothballs and had 900 Cheerios jammed between the cushions. But it was OK that his curtains were ugly. Instead of hiring out the decoration of his pad, he probably did it himself and aimed to please no one. There was no Pinterest back then but even if there were, he would still march to the beat of his own home décor drum.
5. He did not endorse any products.
I am all for talking about stuff that I love. I am an adult (they tell me), and usually I am telling other adults about the crap that I’m obsessed with. But kids don’t have as keen a filter as adults do. Just saying the word “Cookie Monster” to my daughter makes her pass out in sheer delirium. Mr. Rogers got this, and he didn’t try selling stuff to the kids who looked up to him. His role was one of helper and guide, not purveyor of sugar-coated toys. He didn’t want to take advantage of them, and that’s why when Burger King created an ad based on the persona of Mr. Rogers in the ’80’s, he insisted that it be removed.
6. He made time each day for make believe.
Our mind is a place that is plastic and meant to be explored, but often we shut off our relaxed, artistic inclinations when we become adults. Not Mr. Rogers. He did not use his adulthood as an excuse to be stoic and practical all the time. Whenever Trolley pulled into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, Mr. Rogers’ thoughts could wander and they were allowed to be ridiculous and borderline nonsensical. Seriously nonsensical. How is Lady Aberlane – a real live person – the niece of King Friday XIII – a puppet? My brain cannot wrap around this. But Mr. Roger’s brain? It could, and he convinced me that it was totally normal and awesome.
What was your favorite thing about Mr. Rogers?