A Remembrance of Fred Rogers (1928-2003)

When I was a kid, three of the most influential forces on my life were Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. From the antics of the Muppets and humans asking us if we knew the way to Sesame Street to Rita Moreno screaming, "Hey you guuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuys!" to the trolley that took us to the Land of Make-Believe -- that was my childhood, really.

Fred Rogers died of cancer today. This was a man with genuine love of childhood and imagination. He encouraged kids to be creative and to be good to each other, two messages that go beyond worthwhile and into necessary. There aren't a lot of people in the world one can call genuinely good, but Mr. Rogers definitely fit the bill.

When I was a little kid, I got a tiger puppet, whom I named Daniel Striped Tiger after the tiger on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. For years, that puppet was almost surgically attached to my hand; Daniel was my best friend and confidant, particularly during a trying time in my grammar-school life when I was miserable at school and needed a sympathetic ear. I've always been inordinately fond of tigers, and I still have my Daniel puppet. When I got the news that Mr. Rogers was dead, I immediately went and put the puppet on its old spot on my right hand, and then I hugged the puppet with my left.

I make my living telling stories, which means I'm a regular passenger on the trolley that goes to the Land of Make-Believe. And I know I'll see Mr. Rogers there next time I take that ride to drop in on King Friday XIII and Queen Sarah Saturday.

Rest in peace, my old teacher.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go hug a tiger puppet again.....

[First posted on sff.people.krad at SFF.net on 27 February 2003.]


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