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  • Writer's pictureBethany Mitchell

Mister Rogers

True confession time: I've said it before. I am a Pittsburgh girl. I lived in Baltimore and Peru. Even then I remained true to my black and gold roots. I have always considered Mister Rogers' Neighborhood to be home but we have a complicated relationship.

I have younger siblings, four of them to be exact, so I always thought that I was probably the oldest child or shall I say preteen to watch Sesame Street. I enjoyed it. It is a classic! My relationship with Mr. Rogers though was complicated. Of course, I watched his show. It was a feel good, happy, learn something, PBS staple in our house. I enjoyed when they zoomed in on a crayon and then we were at the Crayola factory. And the Neighborhood of Make Belive, what's not to love? King Friday, Lady Elaine Fairchild, X the Owl... Those were good times.

I liked Fred Rogers, too. Why is it weird not to say Mr. Rogers? I have good memories. And my brother Devon who has always had a flair for the dramatic, used to play Mr. Rogers. He would go outside to the front porch as the program began dressed in his favorite plaid sports coat and make his entrance and change into a cardigan to the tune of "Won't you be my neighbor?" (I wish I had a picture of that!)

It was all good. I enjoyed the show just like everybody else. The trouble started when my family scheduled a visit to the neighborhood now infamous in my childhood heart and memory. It was just across town in Oakland. I remember that specifically.

Mr Rogers was too good at his job. He made me feel like we were truly neighbors. I though that he had invited me personally and was excited to go and meet him! But then there was a prerecorded video apology. He was sorry but he wouldn't be there. I felt betrayed. Why wasn't he there? Eleven year old Bethany was devastated. I thought it was very rude and stopped watching.

Grown up me knows that Mister Fred Rogers didn't live on the studio and couldn't be there all the time. I guess I was like the school kids who think that the teacher lives in the school. I know that he was a very nice man who wanted children to feel good about themselves and people to do good in the world. He is famous for his sweaters, telling us to find and be the helpers and One Four Three Day which means I love you and is so named for the letter count (and allegedly the man's weight).

I see it now Mister Rogers One Four Three.

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