Monday, September 1, 2008

Won't You Be My Neighbor

Oh I am so sad. I came across this article this morning telling us that PBS has cancelled "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood". What do they think they are doing?!?

We never missed watching Mr. Rogers when the girls were growing up. It was one of the few shows that they were allowed to watch on the TV. We were big on watching videos (they had seen A LOT of MGM musicals by the time they were ready to start going to school) but not big on regular TV programs. However, Mr. Rogers was the exception.

We would wait eagerly for that familiar piano music and that not particularly strong voice telling us that it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood and asking if we wouldn't like to be his neighbor. Oh! I would, I would! What color sweater would he have on that day? Would it be a button up sweater that told you that this was an older episode or would the sweater have a zipper. If it was a button up sweater would he get all the buttons "buttoned" correctly. We loved the episode where he didn't get them all correctly buttoned but didn't realize it at first. It just made him all the more human and down to earth. What would we be doing today? Who would we be meeting? We never knew what would be happening but we could be assured that it would be interesting, educational and gentle in the way that only Mr. Rogers could make it.

I have been using the royal "we" because my daughters weren't the only ones looking forward to Mr. Rogers every day. I watched as well. Who couldn't love all the characters that we would meet on a regular basis. There was the genial mailman, Mr.McFeeley, who had the worst wig in the world and was always bringing Mr. Rogers a video tape to watch or some other unusual item. We loved those video tapes because that meant that we would be learning about how something was made. Over the years we learned about crayons, graham crackers, dolls, toy hobby horses, pencils and so many other things.

Then there was the Chef Brokett, with his raspy voice and chef toque, who taught us how to prepare healthy (and often rather unappealing) snacks for us "kids" to eat. He seemed to be very taken with recipes that had peanut butter in them or so I remember. Also, there were lots of things with raisins.

Or perhaps we would go over to the shop of Handy Man Negri where, contrary to what his name suggested, we would learn about different musical instruments not how to fix a leaky toilet (although who knows, we might have learned how to do that as well).

There was always a visit to the "Land of Make-believe" where we would see King Friday XIII, Queen Sara Saturday, Prince Tuesday, Daniel Striped Tiger (who lived in a clock), Lady Aberlin (one of the few real people), X the Owl, Henrietta Pussycat, and my personal favorite Lady Elaine Fairchild who didn't take any guff from anyone. You just sort of got caught up in the lives of these make believe characters, most of whom were voiced by Mr. Rogers himself. We loved when there would be an "opera" performed by the people in The Land of Make-believe. There would be a multiple show buildup to the actual "performance" and then the big day would arrive and the entire show would be taken up with the "opera" often involving this fellow named John Reardon who I think was actually a professional singer. Our favorite opera was "Spoon Mountain".

Oh the memories. I will even admit that I would occasionally watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on my own, long after all the girls had gone off to school. He was my neighbor after all and don't you like to spend time with genial neighbors?

I am so sad to think of all the children who will miss his gentle smile and voice and will not know the magic that was Mr. Fred Rogers. If it is possible to get the episodes on DVD (and I have to think that it is) then my grandchildren, whenever they arrive, will be getting these that is for darn sure. And I will be watching with them.


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