The Crush I Never Outgrew

If you asked my husband, he would say that my celebrity crush is Sean Connery.  It’s not true.  I never think about Sean Connery unless someone is talking about James Bond.  I don’t think about actors or celebrities at all unless I’m watching one of their movies.  Then I might look them up on IMDB while I am listening to the movie, to see how old they were when it was filmed.  (I don’t know why I care, but it’s something to do while the movie is running.)

There is, however, one celebrity whom I fell for in a big way at a young age, and I’ve never gotten over him.

I was what people today call a “high spirited child,” and used to call rambunctious, stubborn, hot-tempered, wild, unmanageable, and a host of other vaguely unflattering but very accurate words.  According to my mom, the only time I wasn’t in motion was when I was watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which began to air on PBS the year after I was born.

I don’t remember those first couple years, but I do remember watching him when I was a little older, with my sister, who was four years younger than me.  I loved him then, and I loved him over the dozen years I watched him with the children I babysat, and I loved him even more when I watched him again with my own children.

I still do.

Mister Rogers was, in all honesty, the dad I wanted.  In the opening sequence, he could have been.  My father, too, came home at the end of his work day, changed from his suit to his casual clothes, carefully hanging everything in his closet, putting away his leather office shoes and putting on his canvas tennis shoes.  My dad always called them tennis shoes, never sneakers.

My father, however, didn’t talk with children.  He told us things like, “We’re washing the car this morning,” but he was no conversationalist.  He didn’t ask how our day went (nor did we ask about his).   He didn’t talk much at all, and certainly not about feelings.

I never doubted that my dad loved me, and I loved him, but I loved Mister Rogers, too, who showed me interesting things about how musical instruments made sound,  pretzels and crayons were made, and how to make an icebox cake.  An adult who acknowledged and talked about feelings, fears, and joys, who wanted every one of us to know that we are unique and important.  How could I not fall in love?

As a young mom, I didn’t wish I’d had a parent like Mister Rogers.  I wanted to be like him myself.  I wanted to be patient and gentle, soft spoken and calm, eager to teach and learn, respectful of my children as individuals and respected by them.

On my best days, I was.  We went on field trips and learned together; we built volcanoes and kept Venus Fly Traps; we talked and listened and read; we used our imaginations and our manners; and we talked about feelings and their expression.

On my worst days, I learned to forgive, both myself and my mom and dad, for our many shortcomings as parents.  I think Fred Rogers would have liked that.

(That’s a young Wynton Marselis on trumpet, with Joe “Handyman” Negri on guitar, and the house band:  Carl McVicker, Jr on bass, Bobby Rawsthorne on drums, and musical director Johnny Costa playing Fred Rogers’ “It’s You I Like.”)

I’m participating in a BlogHop today with the Generation Fabulous bloggers on the topic of Celebrity Crushes. It’s not a topic I’d have chosen, and I almost skipped participating because my immediate thought was, “I don’t have a celebrity crush; what would I say?”

I could not get the Linky to work for me, but if you’d enjoy reading about more celebrity crushes, the bloghop starts here.

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44 thoughts on “The Crush I Never Outgrew

  1. Love this. Excellent twist on the topic. I didn’t participate for I didn’t think I had a celebrity crush worthy of an entire post. You did a great job…and I promoted yours, in particular, on Grandma’s Briefs.
    Have fun with the hoppin’!

    • Yes, it always makes me a bit sad, and a bit confused when young moms talk about how much they hate the tv shows their little ones watch. I always want to say, “Turn it off and watch Mr. Rogers together!”

    • So many of the things he did were subtly important to children: the simplicity of a routine easing a transition being one. As a young mom, I remember being surprised how much my children loved little rituals of bedtime or meals, but I shouldn’t have been.

  2. I loved Mr. Rogers when I was little! I watched it when I was really small and then with my younger sister and brother.

    I found you through Organized Island, and clicked through because you use my absolutely favorite Mary Cassett painting for your profile picture. 🙂

  3. Wonderful post. I can think of Fred Rogers and my eyes fill with tears. He was such a role mode and such an advocate for children. Yes indeed, someone we should want all parents to be like.

  4. It is so nice to remember Mr. Rogers. I didn’t watch him as a child, but always admired his calm manner and also tried to emulate him as a parent.

  5. I remember when Mr. Rogers went on Johnny Carson one night, and the crowd started to laugh as he talked about his sincere desire to help teach children. He looked at them and said, “What is funny?” His sincerity hushed the crowd immediately. I think his simple approach to children was brilliant. I love that his puppets looked handmade and his kingdoms were born of cardboard. He worked the imagination. Good choice!

    • I’m glad they hushed. I remember Carson used to do skits imitating/mocking him; I always disliked those. I remember seeing him on the Tonight Show in the 80’s when Joan Rivers was guest hosting. She wore one of his sweaters.

  6. Watched him with my kids at 4:00 every day, just when tempers were starting to flare (mine, especially) and he was such a soothing interlude in our day. We used to sing his song all the day. Great post.

  7. what a beautiful post. i know i have to work on forgiving myself for the days i fell short. this year on my birthday i received notes from both my children on what i meant to them as a mom, once i stopped sobbing and smiling, i gave myself a little bit of a break. i think mr. rogers would love this post.

  8. Great choice – Mr Rogers is one of those people I’ve always felt blessed to have been exposed to. I realised the other day I compare so much of my tv choices (or lack of) with those feelings. Will this tv programme bless me? Definitely think he influenced my parenting too.

  9. I am so glad you decided to write this. I love Mr. Rogers too. He has also been a model for the type of parent I aspire to be. I have my bad days as well, but I think you are right, he would appreciate the kindness and forgiveness you show yourself too.

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