It’s so simple you’ll laugh, but this I believe… Sesame Street has shaped my life. Maybe it’s because I’m a grouch myself, maybe it’s because I was their target audience, age 2, back in 1969. Either way, I now sit with my four-year-old, and I really get it. Literally… I get the celebrity appearances and “in jokes” (when I recognize the celebrity), and as my daughter sits transfixed, wearing her one-piece footed pajamas, she clutches her lamb, christened Lambie, and I’m taken aback.
I remember watching, transfixed, with my own stuffed animals. I recall sitting, Indian-style, in train pajamas, their ribbed cuffs itching and inching their way past my ankles. The letter of the day would float across the screen. Somehow, its relatives and neighbors, spilling from my bowl of Alpha Bits, would migrate from lap to mouth, the sugary coating never quite registering on the tongue. At some point, I was joined by an Ernie puppet of rubber head and open mouth, cylindrical sponge arms, the signature turtleneck.
But to be fair, this is all apparent, right? What child doesn’t recognize the all-consuming importance of a chocolate chip cookie, the joy of a rubber duck, the treasures of a trashcan? And so, as my Ernie puppet was bequeathed to younger siblings, joining their Cookie Monster with rattling eyes and Oscar of matted fur, the more traumatizing lessons surfaced too: the anguish of being green, that growth comes from facing fears (if not taming them), the momentary hardships of sharing toys—and talents.
Sesame’s lessons, in retrospect, also have bearing on my adult life, my work as a teacher of college writing. Working together and giving others their due? These are the basics of peer review and MLA documentation. The “one of these things is not like the other” song becomes an analogy for developing focused paragraphs. Remember Grover and The Monster at the End of the Book? A metaphor for writer’s block, the fear of moving forward, the potential for joy and self-knowledge at journey’s end despite—no, because of—the messes.
The more relevant message, though, still resonates in my living room. Now, as my daughter chuckles at the mishaps of the brothers Noodle, I’m slowly becoming cognizant (yes, repetition is key to Sesame) of my actions and the emotional tsunami posed by a seemingly innocent response—“no,” or “don’t”—when hopes run high. And unlike her classmates who’ve moved on to the Cartoon Network, my child is excited to hear REM sing “Shiny Happy Monsters,” to scream “Dad, it’s your song!,” which is my cue to propose a dance-off. So, in our living room, in front of the bank of windows that face our street, I dance, whether dressed for the day or still wearing my ratty bathrobe. As we spin, the cat, our neighbors, passersby, as always, act the judge.
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