Friday, December 6, 2019

My Friend, Fred


Image result for mister rogers stamp

For those of us lucky enough to be born at just the right time, we had the privilege of growing up with Mister Rogers.

I can still remember every nuance of his program, every quirk of his. The shoes, the fish, the trolley.

I remember wearing a light blue coat dress and white patent shoes and boarding a real trolley with my grandfather in Pittsburgh to see Mister Rogers speak. Our seats were very high up, and he looked so small sitting in a straight backed chair on an otherwise empty stage.

I remember the joy, again in Pittsburgh, again with my grandfather, as I flipped through the channels with my three-year-old son and landed on WQED. In a second my whole childhood came rushing back to me. I was excited, but also trepidatious.  I was about to introduce my oldest friend to my only son. Would he understand why Fred Rogers was so special to me?

Last year we saw a Mister Rogers documentary; this year brings us a Hollywood movie. So many think pieces have been written about Fred lately. I stumbled on these two recently. I hope you get as much out of them as I did.

When we were saying goodbye, I thanked him for all he had taught me.
“I think that it is very important to learn that you get that largely because of who you are,” he said. “I could be saying the same words and giving the same thoughts to somebody else who could be thinking something very different.”
I remember protesting. I was just trying to say thank you.
“It’s so very hard, receiving,” he said. “When you give something, you’re in much greater control. But when you receive something, you’re so vulnerable.
“I think the greatest gift you can ever give is an honest receiving of what a person has to offer.”
He was impossible to thank.


Within a half-hour of my bingefest, our youngest two children, then ages 5 and 7, came to ask me to help them with some homework. They sat down on the bed beside me and peered at the television as I looked over their worksheets.

In the episode I was watching, Mister Rogers had gone to a restaurant in Pittsburgh to show his young viewers how restaurants work.
“Mommy,” asked my young daughter. “Who is that nice man?”
“It’s Mommy’s friend, Fred,” I explained.

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