I introduced Emma and Henry to Mister Rogers this week. We’ve grown a little tired of Blue’s Clues over the past few months. And by “we” I mean Marla and I. Despite years of episodes it seems like Nickelodeon plays the same 25 episodes over and over again. It doesn’t seem to bother the kids one bit but it was putting us to sleep.
I loaded up the TiVo with a number of new shows to try out: Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street and Mister Rogers to start with. (The TiVo helpfully suggested The Backyardigans, “Go, Diego, Go” and the rest of the Nick line-up.)
We watched a little Sesame Street one night and it was about what I remembered. Oscar was a grouch, Big Bird was still a little goofy and, well, Bert was Bert. There were still lots of friendly minority neighbors and I learned a little Spanish. (I still remember agua, abierto and cerrado from kindergarten. I have no recollection of Elmo as a child but there was LOTS of Elmo.
We moved on to Mister Rogers the next night. This was originally against Emma’s will. She wanted nothing, nothing to do with Mister Rogers, claiming he was scary. (She had, of course, never seen him before.)
So I did what any good parent would do: I forced her to watch Mister Rogers.
I was relieved and excited to watch Emma soaking everything in about the show as she watched. Henry got into it, too. Once the episode was over they played “trolley” for the rest of the night, crawling around on all fours and doing their best to mimic Trolley’s “ring ring” talk. Now they beg for Mister Rogers at night.
I freely confess that I adore Mister Rogers. I watched him all the time as a kid. My favorite episode? When he visits the graham cracker factory. Episode 1520, “Day Care” and it airs in early August on most PBS stations. Hooray! I even wrote a song about him for a high school band. I’ll have to dig that up and post it.
I was, In fact, supposed to meet Fred Rogers when I was in college. I was spending the summer working for the youth program at Smyrna First UMC with Mark Winn. Mark, too, was a big Mister Rogers fan. He had arranged to meet Mister Rogers one afternoon for lunch and I tagging along.
We arrived at the intended time and location and waited. And waited. And waited some more. After a few hours we gave up and headed back to the church. I imagine that these days we’d be sending each other text messages and calling mobile phones instead of waiting endlessly.
As it turned out poor Mister Rogers was sick as a dog. He called the church office the next day to apologize and explain the situation. Mark put the phone on speaker phone and I listened, enraptured. I can’t tell you much of what was said that day, unfortunately. I was completed distracted as Fred Rogers said the word vomit over and over again in that friendly, matter-of-fact way he said everything.