Monday, November 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sesame Street

Thinking back in life, perhaps one of my earliest memories is of Sesame Street. Back in the days before the 24-hour cartoon and children's programming cycle, the Sesame Street hour was a cherished hour for families. For moms, it was undoubtedly a time for a quick shower, call to a friend, or chance to clean the kitchen without grubby hands following close behind. For children, Sesame Street was a chance to get away to a magical place of friends and sharing, monsters and learning.

When I was very, very young--about 2 1/2 or 3--I was pretty sick. Sesame Street was an opportunity to get away from the sickness. I would sit in front of the television, with my bowl in which to throw up in every few minutes or so, and take a magic carpet ride to that street so far away. I loved my sweet, lovable friend Big Bird and the silly frustrations of Kermit the Frog. I squealed with delight when Grover would get it all wrong as a waiter and loved trying to figure out "which of these is not like the others...which of these doesn't belong." (You know the song.)

Sesame Street not only provided me a happy place of wonderment and escape, but it provided a place for me to learn. It provided me background knowledge on counting and number sense. I learned letters, phonemic awareness, and the concept of blending sounds in order to make words. It taught sharing and kindness. It taught me the qualities to look for in good friends.

Over the summer I had the chance to sit in on a press breakfast on the new Sesame Street. It was magic...I'm not kidding. We watched a short retrospective on Sesame Street presented by President Obama. I was an emotional trip back in time. And then, after the breakfast, I met the REAL Maria, Grover, and Cookie Monster. I just cried...like a moron. I've met celebrities in the past...but none as big as these...in my opinion at least. I must have looked like such an idiot, but these were three of my very first friends. I felt like I had known them forever. I loved them and knew them so well through our relationship back in the '70s, '80s, and today. I was instantly the three year old standing in our little house in Gardena, California again. I had reverted back to the day I had packed my dark yellow suitcase with who-knows-what and announced I was running away to Sesame Street to be with my pals. I didn't care that it was in some place called "New York" (according to my less-than-amused mother), I was going to take a magic carpet...just like the song said. Finally my magic carpet had arrived.

To top off my awesome Sesame Street experience, Abby Cadabby made a special video for my two sons.  It is something that our family will always treasure.

On the eve of Sesame Street's 40th birthday, I salute the hard work of the Children's Television Workshop (CTW) and its fine educators past and present. Today, the CTW continues its mission to provide children fantastic learning opportunities through television--something that critics said was not possible before it aired. I applaud their effort to educate children on the issues that matter most in their homelands around the world. I thank them for creating happy television friendships, memories, and learning opportunities for my children. I wish Sesame Street a happy 40th birthday and a blessed and successful 40 more.

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