Title: Good Neighbors
Archive: Dolphin Haven, Peep Hut, Agony and Ecstasy - anyone else, please ask :)
Disclaimer: I don’t own anyone. Rats.
Feedback: Please! With a Speedy Delivery on top? Good, bad, and ugly welcome………
Summary: Marie introduces Logan to one of the few good parts of her childhood.
Comments: Unbetaed and written through sniffles. I had the great good fortune to meet Mister Rogers in person about nine years ago, standing in line at a Giant Eagle in Oakland (a grocery store in a Pittsburgh neighborhood, for the non-Pennsylvanians among you…..). It took me a second to recognize him (he was wearing a suit, not the sweater I always picture him in my mind’s eye) but I immediately began gushing as soon as I realized who he was. I was amazed that he was just like he is on the show - patient, kind, pleasant. I remember telling him that I was home on vacation, but that I was finishing up law school and that it was important to me to use my degree to help others. He was one of the few people who didn’t laugh or roll his eyes or give me a cynical ‘yeah, right.’ He made it seem like that was the best thing he’d heard all day :) It was a three-minute conversation in the grocery line, but it’s a memory I’ll always cherish. I remember a public quote from him that I’ve always liked a lot, something along the lines of - we all have just one life to live here on earth, and we all must choose whether to use our talents to inspire people to degrade this life or to cherish it. He did an excellent job of getting millions of children off to a good start on the latter :) Goodbye, Mister Rogers, and we’ll miss you - good neighbors are hard to find.
“What’s wrong?” Logan knew that tears on Marie were never a good sign, but he didn’t think he’d done anything to screw up their burgeoning relationship and all was quite on the human/mutant conflict front. He was at a loss for what had upset her.
“Oh, nothing - just, someone died.”
That was certainly news to Logan. “Who?”
“Mister Rogers.” Marie sniffled and turned back to the television. Logan wracked his brain - was that the old janitor? Or maybe the cook that retired last year……. “I know it’s kind of silly to cry about it. I mean, I never really knew the man. But I used to watch him all the time when I was little. I kind of grew up with him.”
Now, Logan was thoroughly confused. This was someone she’d grown up with, a relative? He didn’t think she’d kept in touch with any family back in Mississippi - and what did she mean about ‘watching’ him all the time? “Marie - ”
“Shh. This is my favorite part, the trolley. Come on, sit down with me. Let’s watch.” Logan crinkled his eyebrow but sat down beside Marie on the floor, copying her Indian-style posture. He watched the television, then looked at Marie as tears gave way to a small smile at the sight of the little trolley rolling up to the red-sweatered man sitting beside it. Logan’s attention was captured by Marie as her expression became completely unguarded, as she let herself get lost in the words the man said and the responsive dings and whistles of the small trolley. He still didn’t quite know what was going on, who had died, or why Marie was suddenly enthralled by a trolley and this unassuming grandfather-ish man, but he knew he did like that look on her face. She looked innocent, and joyful, and even with the tear-tracks lingering on her cheeks, she looked absolutely radiant. Marie caught him looking and, sparing him a glance, took his hand in her gloved one. “I think I remember this episode - this one is the one where he makes a little sand castle.”
“Marie,” Logan began softly, not wanting to break her mood but wanting to put at least a dent in his confusion, “who died?”
Marie cast him a soft look, with something pitying in it. Now, he was more lost than ever. Why should she be pitying him? “That’s Mister Rogers, the guy on TV. I used to watch him all the time as a kid. Haven’t you ever seen this show?”
“Aw, darlin’, I’ve never watched a kids show in my life. This is the guy you were cryin’ over?” It was more than a little uncharacteristic to see her cry over someone she didn’t even really know - heck, she hardly ever cried when she herself was hurt, let alone over some TV character.
“Yeah….I’m really going to miss him.”
He was caught by the tone in her voice. Whoever the television guy was, he obviously had meant a lot to Marie. “It’ll still be in reruns, won’t it?”
Marie nodded, but her words were cut off by a fresh burst of tears. “I know it seems kind of silly,” she finally began to struggle out, “but it’s like a little part of my childhood died, and I - I - you just hate to see the good ones go, you know? It seems like there’s a new bigot or jerk put into the world every five minutes, but here’s a guy who dedicated his life to inspiring children, teaching them, making them feel loved, and now he’s gone. It’s just - it’s just sad.”
Logan nodded, and squeezed her hand. She got the tears under control again and scooted closer to him so that he could put his arm around her. He took the hint, and snuggled her in close. “I can’t believe you’ve never seen this show.”
“Guess I’m missin’ out,” Logan offered, sincerely. Anything that meant this much to Marie, even if it still seemed a little silly to him, must be kind of good. They both watched in silence as small puppets told the story of a missing violin in the land of make-believe. Holding her, Logan could almost picture a little Marie watching the show, just as entranced then as she was now. As the trolley dinged and left the puppets behind, the red-sweatered man reappeared again. Marie had been right, this was the one where he built a sand-castle. Logan watched and listened as the man spoke in an even, soothing voice, giving positive encouragement to the mailman, Mr. McFeeley, who’d dropped by to help but who was less than skilled at the intricacies of sand construction. By the end of the program, when Mister Rogers was changing out of his sweater and tennis shoes, Logan was watching just as intently as Marie. As he sung to the camera about ‘good feelings’ and made his way to the door, Logan shifted Marie to hold her a little tighter. He could see why she’d found this reassuring, a good part of her childhood. He couldn’t remember his own childhood, of course, but he was glad that there was something back there for Marie that was worth a little nostalgia, even if it now also meant a few tears. “That was nice,” he commented, with genuine emotion.
“Yeah,” Marie said wistfully, “it was. I’ll really miss him.”
“Me too,” Logan replied. “Me too.”