Earlier today I found myself trying my hardest not to blubber like a baby in the middle of Shake Shack. I think crying is a good and healthy thing to do. But I was kind of mystified about why it was happening. I had set up camp at a table for lunch with two clear goals: to each a cheeseburger with crinkle fries and to sit there until I finished reading the Mister Rogers biography The Good Neighbor. I crushed both of those goals and it was wonderful.
Yet as I read author Maxwell King describing the death of Fred Rogers, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I took a deep breath, composed myself, and trudged forward. More tears. Why was this happening? King’s writing was fine, but it wasn’t particularly resonant emotionally. I knew that Mister Rogers had died. It happened a decade and a half ago. What was going on?
I grew up on Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. They aired back to back on SCETV. If you had asked me which of the two had more of an impact on me, I probably would have said Sesame Street. It’s blinding creativity combined with education, the let’s-put-on-a-show ethos of the Muppets, and its sense of humor has always been something that aspire to as I teach today. I liked Mister Rogers, but it wasn’t the show that I was anxious to show my own children. Not that there has to be a competition between the two, but they are inextricably linked in my head: the binary stars of my earliest memories of media.