Like many people my age, I grew up with Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I used to like watching him at my gran’s, and even today I can hear the theme song in my head every time I come in for a landing on an airplane. The way the show started, with the little cars and houses looks just like landing in San Diego airport. Except San D is much dirtier.
I have a rather fantastically large ability for make believe. I play RPGs today, I make up stories, I envision ‘what if…’ all the time. To entertain myself at meetings, sometimes I dream about what would happen if so-and-so asked what he really wanted to know, or if such-and-such finally lost it an went postal. On the way home, I imagine what I’d do if I lived somewhere else, or hadn’t hooked up with Ipstenit until later.
I day dream. A lot. Every day. Frequently.
This is normal. Mr. Roger’s land of Make Believe, with the puppets and the train was my favorite part of the show. That was the best part, because you didn’t have to be you for a little while. You could say ‘I’m the Princess, trained to fight the evil monsters! Raaaawr!’ I think you can sense a certain violent bent to my fantasies. They’re not all like that, but I have an allergy to overly happy endings and princesses who can’t kick ass.
As I grew up, I continued to watch Sesame Street, though now that it’s reached it’s pinnacle of Elmo-ness, I wince a lot more. Not that I hate Elmo, but his insistence of talking in the third person (Elmo thinks that’s great!) grates on me after a while. I can only hope that they’ll allow Elmo to grow up, which is not all that uncommon on Seselme Street. I also lost a bit of respect for the show when they made Snuffy ‘real’, since it was kinda cool to have that imaginary friend only you and Big Bird could see.
And there again is my obsession with make believe. I enjoy it. I like letting my imagination run buck wild and often all wrong. This is as much the doings of Mr. Rogers as it is Albert Einstein. “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” said Einstein. I’ve always taken that to mean that without imagination, we’d never be able to apply our knowledge.
The reason I waited a few days before posting my happy memory of Mr. Rogers is because it’s not all happy. While I do love him for telling us every day ‘I like you the way you are. You’re unique and special.’, I have issues with his neighbor mentality.
He always said ‘We’re going to see our black friends today.’ or ‘This is our Jewish friend.’ The descriptive addition was something I used to ignore. Now a days, I wonder if he felt the need to separate the ‘other’ people from himself. I don’t think he was racist, but I do wonder if it meant that these friends were something less than the ones without the qualifier.
Perhaps I’m digging too deep into his intention. Maybe he was just trying to point out how all our friends are unique and special, and was trying to honor their special-ness. It’s hard to say, and I can’t exactly ask him. I’d like to think that he was as good a person as he seemed. Still, now I can’t be as sure as I was as a child.
Never the less, I will remain special and unique. I will be a person whom others will like for who I am, the way I am.
And I will always play in the land of make believe.