Mister Rogers and Mariclare Barrett, a friendship: a puppet show for Nick and QB

Fred visits, photograph by Mariclare Barrett

This is the last in a series of stories about Mariclare Barrett's special friendship with Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers). The first story is herethe second, and third. Mariclare (Clare) is my husband Terry’s sister. (Clare has metastatic breast cancer, so when she visited recently, we made audio memos as a way to begin documenting memories.) Clare and her former husband had a close friendship with Fred, a friendship that began in 1982 when they interviewed him for an article in their magazine, Vegetarian Times. Their friendship continued until Fred's passing in 2003. The unedited audio is about four minutes. It's titled, A Puppet Show for Nick and QB. The text of the audio follows.



We were meeting with Fred in a hotel in Indianapolis. He was doing a program for children and we came the night before.

It was always hard to go out with him. Fred could never go anywhere without being stopped because he was so loved and recognizable. Everyone wanted to say hello and thank him for his work with children.

Fred said that a lot of foreign immigrants stopped him to say that they were able to learn English by listening to his programs because he spoke so slowly and distinctly. They could follow his language and the pictures and the illustrations of what he was talking about.

So when we were together, he didn’t like to go out unnecessarily.

We didn’t go to restaurants even though it would have been the logical thing to do when visiting him. As a consequence to that, I packed picnic lunches and dinners, portable meals. 

For this visit, our family had a hotel room with a bathroom. We laid out the picnic on the bed and enjoyed it together. Fred liked to eat good food. He was always very appreciative of a meal.

Fred carried his puppets in a suitcase with him when he made an appearance. So after our picnic he brought them out: King Friday 13, Queen Sarah Saturday, Daniel Striped Tiger, X the Owl, and Lady Elaine Fairchild. My children were amazed and delighted to see the puppets.

So Fred took the suitcase into the bathroom with Nick and QB who were eight and seven years old. He got into the bathtub! He put the puppets on his hands and made them come up above the rim of the tub as he did the voices. He told stories that included my boys. They were amazed and delighted to see the puppets from the neighborhood-of-make-believe and have their own little private showing. It was so great because it was just the same as the television show.

Fred said the characters had been with him for a long time. Each character was an aspect of his personality and expressed interactions and dynamics that he was familiar with. He performed things that he thought would help children in their relationships. 

In the bathtub, it was hilarious.

NOTE
Mariclare died September 6, 2015 after an extended illness.

10 comments:

  1. That's incredible. I grew up watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood and he is much beloved to me. Now, my son watches Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and the love continues all over again.

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    1. Daniel Tiger and love. It continues. Thanks so much for being, Melissa.

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  2. What a touching story! I will never see a bathtub the same way again! Thank you so much, Mariclare and Susan for sharing these insights into a personal relationship with Mr. Rogers. I have treasured these posts and am grateful for your personal stories! You are keeping the gifts alive!

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    1. Michael, I've heard Clare tell this story a couple times and when she gets to the part about Fred's idea to use the bathtub as the stage for the puppet show, I laugh out loud. He was so much fun. And Clare is the best story teller. There are sooooo many other stories.( Clare has such respect for their relationship, and has some other gems. I hope she shares them on her FB page sometime.) PS As always, thanks for being here and for your ongoing delight and love.

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  3. Oh now this is just a gem of a post. It never occurred to me that Mr. R's influence would radiate with folks for whom English was a second language. But of course. And to sit down and have a hotel room picnic with the guy complete with a colourful bathtub performance? So very special. Love how both he and Clare and her family accept this situation as normal. How very telling about their relationship.

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    1. Makes sense, doesn't it Kelly? Mister R talked slowly and clearly. To learn a language within a content of great kindness. And that bathtub performance--so great, yeah. Thanks for being here, Kelly.

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  4. What a sweet story! I have such fond memories of these puppets and was imagining it all as she was struggling to find the name of the cranky lady with the red nose.

    Even though she couldn't remember her name (you had it written down though) I knew exactly who she was talking about.

    How nice for us to hear this audio. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks for listening, Elda. After Clare told the story, she was a little distraught not to remember Lady Elaine's name, so we added them in. Clare continues chemo and that chemo-brain thing is--except for that name slip : ))

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  5. This series has been so fabulous, on so many level Susan - thank you for sharing Mariclare's extraordinary memories of such a delightful friendship.

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    1. Oh, Deborah, the series has been fabulous for me, too, and I'm so grateful to Clare for telling. Thanks for listening and being here.

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