Growing Up in the Neighborhood: Mr. Rogers to Daniel Tiger

Mr Rogers and DanielThe Then

I had a spare grandparent. And this grandparent visited me every day, was interested in what I was doing, asked me questions, talked to me about my feelings and told me the coolest stories that involved a land of make-believe…

He also taught me how crayons were made.

For many, it was always easy to make fun of Mr. Rogers and his show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but I never could. Even as an adult, I look back on it fondly. Yes, I loved Sesame Street, Saturday morning cartoons, Donald Duck, Looney Toons, but Mr. Rogers spoke to me… directly to me.

I think one of the reasons I felt so close to the show is that my grandmother was a very popular kindergarten teacher. No, popular doesn’t do it justice, she was a celebrity in her hometown. When we would visit stores together we would have grownups of all ages approach her to say hi and give a hug. And my grandmother, with a skill I cannot imagine having, could always see the child behind the older eyes. She never got a name wrong, never.

When I think back on conversations with my grandmother, it always feels a lot like how Mr. Rogers speaks during the show. That patience. That unblinking interest. That humor that seems to hide behind the wink and smile. Continue reading

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Life’s After Thoughts

I don’t believe in ghosts.

I can say, for example, that someone died in my bedroom  (It is an old house) and I have yet to see any specter on a dark moonlit evening. No screeching screams demanding I leave the premises; nor have I felt even the slightest presence in the room. For my children, it is the refuge they go to after a bad dream or to seek comfort. There is nothing there to scare them away.

One of my favorite stories about the “unknown” comes from my little brother when he was a kid. He and one of my young cousins got their hands on an Ouija board and decided to talk to demons. He came running up to me later declaring that they had spoken to Satan!

I, being the arrogant teenager I was at the time, said something like, “Oh yeah? How did he spell his name?”

My brother proudly replied, “S.A.T.I.N.”

The Reason

My grandfather, my last grandparent, passed away earlier this year (I wrote about writing his obituary here). To say my grandparents had an impact on my life is to put it mildly. Next to my parents, they were one of the most important influences on my life. They were my safety net and they caught me numerous times while growing up. Continue reading

Nine Thoughts On Turning One

Today, my daughter turns one.

It may seem selfish, but my kids’ birthdays always become a moment of reflection for me. They are milestones and milestones usually have that impact on a person, no matter if they want it or not. Yet, as first years go, this one seemed to speed past, leaving a soul wondering where all of the time went and why it had to go by so fast.  Here are nine of my initial thoughts on her birthday and the last year…

1. I have heard that many say when your babies age, it makes a parent feel older. That has yet to be the case for me. Maybe I have a touch of the Peter Pan/young at heart thing going you see in the movies, but having kids has made me reclaim bits and pieces of my own youth. I wear brightly colored shoes now, I know all about superheroes, and I can read Fox in Socks incredibly fast. To be honest, I like being this guy, I like being a dad. In a way, it is a gift my kids gave to me… If that doesn’t sound too Hallmarky. Continue reading

My March 2012 Update

Now that I am three months into this experiment that is my blog, I’ll like to give some updates on some of the things I have written about (I’ll probably do this from time to time).

Writing here has been an interesting experience for me, and I think I am a better writer for it, but really who am I to judge?

My update is in three parts.  

Part I: School Days…

I never considered myself popular when I was a teenager. Oh, I had some close friends, but pretty much that is where it stopped for me. I really didn’t need more. Strangely, this reality changed for me 20 years after graduating from high school and just over the last 5 or so days.

See, on Tuesday, I learned that my old high school was closing and merging with our arch rivals. On Wednesday, I realized it was definitely stirring some emotions, so I sat down and worked on an essay to explain my thoughts around it. Continue reading