“One, two, three, four five,
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten,
Sound familiar? Immediately stuck in your head even?
Then you, like me, spent an entire childhood watching Sesame Street in the early 80s, the best kids’ show just about ever.
Every morning before my afternoon kindergarten started and after my bowl of Cream of Wheat (with butter and brown sugar, of course), I would head straight to the basement in time to catch the theme song of the Street. Remember it? Who can forget? “Sunny day, sweeping the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet.”
And how sweet it was. I remember fervently thinking that one day I’d live there. Luis and Maria would be my neighbors. I’d get to look inside Oscar the Grouch’s can and see his house inside (and answer the question of whether it went underground because otherwise that would be one cramped living space). I’d get to taste Cookie Monster’s kookies.
Was I the only one who thought the sketches in between the “real” time spent on Sesame Street were the commercials? Trips to the crayon factory. The baker with the toque and swirly mustache standing at the top of the stairs and falling down them holding an increasing number of cakes, pies and parfaits. The Martians with unfortunate chins discovering the telephone. The letter J train engine that would join other train cars to make words: J-OIN, J-UMP, J-AR.
They all had a certain air about them, didn’t they? Something very entertaining, but a little dark too. Like, you wouldn’t necessarily want to be in the room with the falling baker. You definitely didn’t want to meet those Martians. Everything in those sketches was memorable, but just a little disturbing too.
Not so with the Muppets though, in my view. I had real, strong affection for Big Bird. He seemed like such a nice person. Always happy. Always welcoming. Kermit the Frog was likewise jovial. Snuffleupagus (I was fascinated by his eyelashes) was imaginary, but still keen on having a good time. Cookie Monster, well, not everyone can be smart, but he still seemed like a pretty happy camper.
The only one I didn’t like was Elmo, who was just being introduced to the show as I was growing out of it. Seemed too babyish for the likes of me.
Also, how long was an episode of Sesame Street? It felt like hours. You’d always get worried it was over and then you’d get Burt and Ernie in their single beds with Ernie telling Burt how thirsty he was. I actually just laughed out loud while I re-watched that skit (they’re all on YouTube).“Boy,” Ernie muses to an annoyed Burt. “Am I thirsty. Am I thirrrrrrrrsty. The only thing I am more than tired is … thirsty.”
Of course, I talk about all of this as if the show no longer airs. It still does, though no longer on PBS; in 2016, it moved to HBO after a 47-year run on public television. A lot has changed in that time. Luis got the axe with the move to HBO, as did all of the Sesame Street people. Oscar was originally orange. Snuffleupagus is no longer imaginary. But incredibly, it still remains extremely popular and relevant. One survey found that 95 percent of all American preschoolers had watched the show by the time they were 3. In 2008, it was estimated that 77 million Americans watched the show when they were kids.
I’m thankful I was one of them. Who knows how responsible it was for teaching us to read? Instilling core values? Encouraging music appreciation? And to that end, let’s wrap this up with another song Sesame Street style. Ready? It’s a classic.
Sing a song
Sing out loud
Sing out strong
Sing of good things, not bad
Sing of happy, not sad.”