My first acquaintance with Mister Rogers was indirect. It was through parodies of him on shows such as Saturday Night Live. I can recall only one occasion on which I saw Mister Rogers himself on his own show. One of my very young nephews was staying with us, and the sound of the television woke me up too early in the day. I walked bleary eyed through the living room and saw part of the show my nephew was watching. Mister Rogers was singing a song about how kids can't go down the drain in the bathtub. It seemed odd to me at the time, but when I thought about it later it made perfect sense. I remember being very small and absolutely terrified of the toilet. I was sure that one day I would fall into it as it was flushing, and I would be inexorably sucked down into the mysterious place where the water went.
I was never afraid of the bathtub drain for the simple reason that until I was six years old, we lived in a house without one. All my early baths were in the kitchen sink or in a big galvanized steel laundry tub filled with water heated on the stove, so by the time I first saw water flowing out of a bathtub, I was too big to be frightened by it. But until I was five years old, the toilet scared me, and I can understand how a very small child might fear the possibility of being sucked down the drain with that swirling mass of bath water. So I guess Mister Rogers' reassuring little song was probably a comfort to many small children. Maybe if he'd been around when I was three or four years old, I wouldn't have had so many nightmares about the insatiable maw of the toilet. RIP, Mister Rogers.