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.