An Ode to Mister Rogers

By Lisa Sugarman

I’m in love with Mister Rogers.

Ok. There. I said it.

Not the I-want-to-throw-him-on-the-kitchen-table kind of love. (Although that red-zipper cardigan was pretty hot.) What I’m talking about is more of a love and respect of his “way” than of the hunk of a man he was in those sexy canvas boat sneakers.

I’m not admitting that I drive around town singing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” because then I’d lose all credibility. (I actually just think it in my head, which really doesn’t count.) What I will say, though, is that it was plain-Jane Fred Rogers who taught me this: we way undervalue the simple little day-to-day things in life.

I think we all have the tendency to think of the little, repetitive things we do everyday as monotonous, but we shouldn’t. We should think of them more like we think of comfort food– the things we depend on to be the stabilizers in our life and settle us when we get rattled. You know, the things that create a sense of normalcy and routine. Things like grocery shopping and dropping off the drycleaning and taking our kids to and from school are the little anchors that keep us from floating out into open water. In the same way that when we’re stressed we reach for things that sooth us like deep-fried Twinkies (but that’s only used in case of a real emotional emergency.)

And Mister Rogers was the master of simplicity and routine. Every day it was the same thing—a lot like watching Bill Murray endlessly repeat the same day in Groundhog Day. The way Mister Rogers walked through the door every afternoon and traded the coat for the cardigan and the loafers for the Sperrys. He did the same things the same way every day. And in doing that he gave us things we could always count on and that equals security. And we all crave that on some level. And that’why I love him.

He proved every day that there’s comfort in routine. And no one loves routine more than me. Just ask my husband Dave, he’ll tell you. Although he’ll probably tell you how he thinks I’m just outside the crosshairs of normal because I love the mundaneness of life so much. But I can’t help it. I do. He’d definitely tell you that I actually do come home every afternoon and trade my clogs for my nappy old fake Ugg slippers and an eggplant hoodie cardigan (buttons, tho, no zipper). He’d also make fun of how I love the morning drive down Atlantic Ave. when I’m taking my kids to school. I love passing the same people, in the same spot every day, holding the same green Fiestaware mug, waving to people I know who are doing exactly the same thing. I can tell you exactly where I’ll pass Amanda or Janet or Judy or Steve and at exactly which point on my drive my coffee will turn ice cold. But I love it because it grounds me to my life.

In his uncomplicated and unassuming way, Mister Rogers glorified the beauty of consistency. He showed us every day that the little routine things aren’t really as mundane as we think they are because there’s comfort in routine.

The ordinary little things we have to do every day have incredible value and purpose. And Fred Rogers, in his own unique little way, made the inconsequential seem consequential.

And because of it, he could be my neighbor anytime.

Lisa Sugarman lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts. Read and discuss all her columns at facebook.com/ItisWhatitisColumn OR read her blog at https://itiswhatitiscolumn.wordpress.com.

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