Tallahassee hosts a "Kidsfest" event every year. In my time living here, I've only attended one. But I have to assume it was the best one ever.
My wife was there manning a booth, but I went as well and walked around with my then threeish year old daughter. There were lots of games and food and other activities, but I really can't remember much about anything other than one booth in particular. WFSU, the local PBS affiliate, had a booth and the highlight of this booth was none other than a guy by the name of David Newell.
Unless you're Tim Lybarger (our Fourth Chair guest on episode 72 of the podcast), you might not know that name immediately so I'll tell you who that is (as if the photo doesn't give it away). David Newell played the part of Mr. McFeely on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.
I had no idea that Mr. McFeely himself would be there and I was taken aback by his presence. Unfortunately, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood has not been something my daughter has had the opportunity to view very much in her lifetime, so seeing Mr. McFeely meant nothing to her. And she was only threeish at the time and my excited explanations were completely lost on her. Despite that, I felt she needed an autographed picture if for no other reason than I wanted to talk to him.
By no means have I met tons of stars, but I have had the chance to meet a few at conventions and the like throughout my life. In fact, I've talked about a few of those stars I've met before. None of them compare to meeting Mr. McFeely. He knew who his audience was and instantly knew that I was there not so much for my daughter, but for me. He signed photos for both of us and then before I could walk away, he asked me how I was doing. It was a bit surreal, but there was this sense that he genuinely cared about how "his kids" turned out. He wanted to know what my job was and then even gave me his business card before I walked away. There was an odd sense of familiarity about the exchange. It was like I was meeting an old friend of my dad's that I hadn't seen since I was 7.
Suddenly I wondered...all those times he and Mr. Rogers would look out at the viewers and talk to us, could they actually see us? Were they really talking to us? And did he really remember me from when I watched all those years ago?
Grown up-CT knows that's not possible, but right then and there, for a few seconds, I was five years old again and believed that he did.