Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Treasure of the Trash

In the autumn immediately following the summer in which a Canadian faux rocker purchased at a discount store the first incantation of an instrument that would one day bring him fortune and fame, a new children's television show made its broadcast debut. It has been four decades since children first asked grown-ups how to get what has since become a favorite address for us bi-peds of all ages. On November 10th Sesame Street will turn the big 4-0.

I am, like most of us who are my age and younger I suspect (Hell - I hope), a child of Sesame Street. Every one of us who watched it had our favorite resident of the 'hood. Mine was the cranky curmudgeon with the flip-top pad. Call me a sucker for the misunderstood conscience of Sesame Street. Or maybe I just had a soft spot in my little heart, which has not grown markedly since I was two (or at least so I have been told), for the only fella on the block who had both a pet worm and a pet elephant and who did not favor public sing-alongs.

Regardless of your favorite character or your favorite element of Sesame Street it was - and I presume (not having seen an episode in decades but having enjoyed spending more time than was necessary to write this piece) - and it remains an invaluable tool for teaching children of all ages and sizes. It taught all of us significantly more than our ABC's or how to count - although it taught us those lessons wonderfully well. The value of Sesame Street was - and is - what it teaches each of us about life, including all of that incredibly important stuff that we learn in places other than school.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned in this life and for forty years it has taught them to us. If you too have been off of the Street too long and have perhaps forgotten all that you learned there or you doubt the staying power of those lessons, then remind yourself of how deftly and how beautifully it handled a subject that all of us shall have to deal with at least once in our lives. Sure he is big and yellow and......well, a Muppet but Big Bird was Everyman - even if just for a moment was he not - as he came to grips with the death of his friend Mr. Hooper.

If it is indeed true that forty is the new twenty, then Big Bird, the Count, Grover, Kermit and my man Oscar have another generation or three to entertain and to educate. Here is to hoping that gentrification never takes hold at the most important block that television has ever dedicated to children.

And here is to hoping that regardless of how old we are and regardless of what life subjects us to that we always remember how to get there.

-AK

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