Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Fred (or, Friends and How to Spell Them).

Dear Peers,

I met with my beautiful group of women artists recently, and the notion of friendship came up, and Mr. Rogers.  It reminded me that I have been meaning to talk to you about Mr. Rogers. 

Fred Rogers had a wonderful sense of ceremonial time and ritual.  There were several distinct worlds, circles, of intimacy.  There was the outside world, which he would enter from, and the inside world, which he would change garments for, and then there was the Other world, the imaginary world, where a cat could look at a king. 

These spheres were close neighbors.  The Neighborhood of Make-Believe was just the other side of the wall of his house. Right next door.  It was these sections you really looked forward to- the royal family and the castle, the beguiling architecture of Make-Believe.  There was a kind of elder in the land, a witch, a shaman really; she had supernatural powers.  There were kindly animals, too; cats, tigers, an owl.

Mr. Roger's put a very high value on friendship, and there were many examples and parables to demonstrate the proper way to be a friend, and there was a wonderful song, to further ingrain the ideology.  I loved it especially because it was helpful to me in spelling the word friend, which I always tried to spell f-r-e-i-n-d.  I had a great love of writing when I was young, and I wrote letters and cards to friends, so I had need of spelling mnemonics.

He would speak low, only to you, or rather, to me.  It was an intimacy of the kind that certain radio voices possess.  He suggested, I remember, that you do something without being asked.  That you seek out a way to serve, find something to do for those you love, and do it- without prompting or cajoling.  It was a kind of astounding notion to me.  I tried it, secretly, to see if it worked, if people would respond in gratitude and happiness as Fred Rogers suggested.  I remember I did something for my Mom, but I don't remember what it was specifically.  She was thankful, and happy, and I saw what a powerful societal tool this was.  I tried several things, and I felt very deflated when I found that people didn't always notice that you'd done something for them.  I kept at it though, and I reasoned that the more you did these kinds of things, the less you'd be disappointed in people who might not notice.

Fred Rogers is in vogue right now, and there will soon be a film.  I don't know that I will go to see it.  Many years ago I heard some criticism of the Mr. Rogers show, and it didn't fit my personal narrative.  I guess I am not sure I want to take the time to reject whatever they tell me my experience of my childhood really meant.