Sunday, November 8, 2009

Proud to be a Street kid

On Tuesday, Sesame Street will officially turn 40. According to the AP, Tuesday's episode will be the 4187th time "Sunny days" will be "Sweepin' the clouds away." Yeah, right. I think we hit 4,187 times hearing that theme song on our last road trip. They must mean "officially."
Now, 40 years after Jim Henson's "good idea" that TV could be used to educate and entertain became a reality, Sesame Street is shown in 140 countries worldwide. According to CBS Sunday Morning, that makes it "the longest street in the world," made even more remarkable by the fact that each country's version of the Street (or Plaza, or Takalani, etc), is not an English translation of the American show. Each country has individual characters and plots, and is aimed toward the needs of preschool children in that country--which is why a muppet on the South African version of Sesame Street is HIV positive, like a large percentage of the children there. Plus, of course, it's all put on by Sesame Workshop, which is nonprofit. As if I needed another reason to love Sesame Street.
So, while the media, and world, and even almighty Google pay homage to the home of Big Bird, Telly Monster, Grover, and company, I must admit that it's just not enough. I would be an ungrateful fan indeed, if I didn't take a moment to explain what Sesame Street means to me.
Like many children, I was raised on the Street called Sesame. Unlike many children, however, I probably had exposure to Bert, Ernie, and the gang for a longer period than my preschool years. My brother is nearly 5 years younger than me, and my sister nearly 12, making me one of the few teenagers in my school who knew about Elmo's daily happenings. Just as one of us grew out of it, another child was just discovering the secret zen of Oscar the Grouch. Heck, I logged a lot of babysitting hours, and was more than happy to let Zoe (my sister's favorite Muppet) share the load from time to time. A lot of what happened on Sesame Street has stayed with me over the years. Even though he died about a month before I was even born--thanks to reruns, I can't even talk about Mr. Hooper without getting choked up. You really have to hand it to Sesame Street for being willing to tackle head on an issue like death in a way that preschool children could understand. The fact that they pulled it off so well is nothing short of a miracle.
Although my rhythm is questionable, and I've got a lot more to move these days, I can still "Do the Pigeon" and "The Batty Bat." Thanks to my repeated viewings in my early years, my mother involuntarily shudders if anyone mentions the words "Follow that Bird."
Today, I'm proud to say that I'm raising a Street kid. Sam loves watching Sesame Street every day, and can name all the characters (except The Count, who is named only by a loud "Ah Ah AH!"). There's no way she would know all her letters by now if it wasn't for us singing the many many alphabet songs I learned on Sesame Street, and loudly sounding out the letter of the day along with the TV. One day, as we headed home from somewhere to "go watch Sesame Street," some nosy parent chimed in with "I never watched Sesame Street, and I don't let my kids watch TV either."
I don't know any other way to say this, but you were deprived. And your kids are deprived. Sesame Street is fan-freakin-tastic.
Part of what makes it so great, is that while it's educational, it throws in laughs for adults who are inevitably stuck watching episode after episode of their kids favorite shows. I know I get more laughs than Sam out of "Law and Order: Special Letters Unit" trying to find a missing M, or "Meal or No Meal," when the banker (Cookie Monster) tries to get contestants to trade a healthy balanced meal for varying amounts of cookies. In all reality, I doubt Sam really knows or cares who Jamie Foxx is, his appearance is all for me. I'll take that over Dora any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
So I'm grateful for Sesame Street. When it comes to educational programming, the original is still the best. In fact, my devotion to Sesame Street is so deep, that we decided to combine Sam's abiding love for Elmo with my excitement over the 40th anniversary this Halloween. Here we are at a trunk-or-treat with the scenery we made, Daniel as Bert, me as Ernie, and Sam as Elmo. We also piped classic Sesame Street songs from the windows of our car (and house on Halloween). Because we're just that proud to be a part of the magic that is Sesame Street.
Happy Birthday, Sesame Street! We love you!


Anonymous said...

Sesame Street rocks just the way it is, they should definitely not change the basic elements that have made the show work so well for all these years

Kym said...

I love S.S. I love to quote The Count. In fact, I was doing my impression of The Count just the other day and I was driving the boys home. I had my boys in fits of giggles. ;-) Awesome costumes Carly!