When I was six years old, I totally had a crush on Prince Tuesday. So along with my first childhood love, my first childhood friend is gone.
I don’t even remember how old I was when I started watching Mr.Rogers. I only know it was at that age when I was still telling time by what show was on TV. When Mr.Rogers came on, I knew that right after it would be Sesame Street, and then Reading Rainbow, and then my mom would be home from work, and that’s all that mattered at the end of the day anyway. Mr.Roger’s o’clock always came after the mundane routine of watching the Price is Right with my grandmother after she gave me a bath and made me lunch. It was like the true beginning of the day.
I tuned in to Mr.Rogers mostly for the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, which was so much cooler than my Virginian suburb. I watched because I knew all the words to the songs before I was five, and I knew how to make a crayon by the age of six. By seven, I was convinced that if you gave me a piece of sheet metal, I could make it into a saxophone. Mr. Rogers always reassured me that within my tiny little three-foot-5 frame was a world of possibilities, and that I really was special.
I was Asian in a place that wasn’t California or New York way before it was cool. This was before people started eating sushi for dinner or the hip new villain archetype was the Chinese gangsta. Mr.Rogers told me that it was okay to be different, and that I shouldn’t listen to the kids who would taunt me by pulling out the corners of their eyes to make slants and make ching-chong noises at me. It was okay to be afraid of going to school, or going down the drain in the bathtub.
With Mr.Rogers goes my memories of a world where I knew everyone’s name, a sort of inverse, pre-school version of Cheers. In my heart, I will always remember my first circle of friends. I had the coolest friends ever, royalty and nobles and talking animals.
My room mate just told me a story she read on some Trivial Pursuit type game. Three guys had stolen a car, but when they found out it belonged to Mr.Rogers, they returned it with an apology.
It should’ve been a thank you note, because any kid of my generation and the generation before us owes Mr.Rogers a huge debt of gratitude. Even if you were not one of the millions of kids who tuned in after naptime or before heading off to kindergarten, you owe him for the kids who did, the kids who said please and thank you to you and held doors open for you.
Rest in peace, Mr.Rogers. You will always be my neighbor.