I couldn’t have been more than 3 or 4 years old when our parents bought our first color TV. I have sketchy memories of this, but from the photos I’ve seen, the TV was small, one of those classic 1980s sets that sat on an equally ’80s TV stand in our living room.
And, of course, there are many photos of me sitting in front of the TV completely and utterly mesmerized. If you look closely, you probably can see my cheeks turned up into a smile, too. I’m sure I even danced around happily the day that little set waltzed into my life.
My world was now in color – glorious colors of every shade of the rainbow. Everything was now vibrant and alive with a new sense of awe and wonderment.
But it wasn’t so much the TV or the fact that the grass on TV actually was green instead of gray that mattered to me so much back then. I was too busy relaxing and exploring my favorite of neighborhoods: Sesame Street.
It was a simpler time, perfect for a simpler generation like mine. This was long before Barney hopped around. Long before a certain Teletubby found himself criticized for his fashionable purple purse.
It was sort of like “Cheers” for the younger set – the place where you always were welcomed with open (albeit usually fluffy) arms or wings, and everyone always knew your name.
The innovative PBS children’s program turned the big 4-0 this week (though the median age of the cast is about 5 or 6) amid a flurry of media appearances (Oscar the Grouch and Elmo are making the talk-show circuit), and a special season premiere extravaganza with a guest appearance by none other than first lady Michelle Obama, who taught the neighborhood about the joys of planting a garden and healthy eating. I wonder how that will go over with Cookie Monster.
I don’t know about you, but I tuned in to see the big event with that same childlike glee I did more than 20 years ago. Everyone seems to have their favorite Sesame Street resident. My mother always liked Bert (maybe because he was so bossy?). My sister was fond of Snuffleupagus. I like to think I was Grover’s biggest fan. To my childhood innocence, he seemed so wise and worldly; he always had the answer. I always could count on him and his chums.
That’s how the show was to me and the thousands of others in my generation who learned our ABCs, 123s, and the importance of loving each other and the Earth. Big Bird and his bunch were our family. They always were there for us. They made us smile. They made us think and, of course, taught life lessons, even if we didn’t know we were learning them at the time.
The show’s creator, Joan Ganz Cooney, recently remarked on the genius behind her vision. From the show’s inception, she vowed that “every piece of information would be entertaining, and every piece of entertainment would be educational.”
That vision is still alive and kicking. Studies have shown that my generation and generations thereafter that watched Sesame Street start school ahead of the curve. They know their letters, thanks to the Count. They understand basic phonics, thanks to Elmo, and they have a better grasp of concepts such as math, thanks, again, to the Count.
I’m just left with one question, though: Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street? It’s time I properly thanked them.