CHAPTER 18


YOU, ME AND SESAME STREET

In the preceding pages I have written as a researcher who—in case there is any doubt—relished her assignment. I am also a parent, however, and I cannot tell you of the number of delights Sesame Street has precipitated for me and my children. Let me say without reservation: Sesame Street opens up new avenues of communication between parent and very young children. For me, this is its greatest contribution. Since many of you are probably compiling your own backlog of Sesame Street family stories, my personal vignettes need to be recounted here. It is only fitting, however, that I share one last insight with you about what Sesame Street means emotionally to all children.

On my last visit to the Sesame Street set, a little boy—he couldn’t have been more than 4—was also a guest. His father dutifully escorted him around to meet the show’s principals.

“Danny, here’s Mr. Hooper. Say hello to Mr. Hooper. Oh, there’s Gordon and Susan. Don’t you want to give Susan a kiss? And there’s Bob ready to shake your hand. Shake his hand, Danny.”

All of these things Danny did and enjoyed. It was a thrill to meet his friends. But it was also quite obvious that Danny was looking for something else. What could he have been looking for? At last Danny saw it. Tugging on his father’s cuff, he led him across the floor to a darkened corner where a strange apparition hung limply from a portable clothes rack. Carroll Spinney, through with his role for that day, had taken off his costume and hung it up in this out of the way corner. And there it was—the Big Bird body, like an empty eggshell strung over a hanger. The Big Bird face perched on the shelf above. It was obvious to everyone that there was no one inside. Everyone, that was, except Danny.

“Hello, Big Bird,” Danny crooned softly. “Hello, Big Bird. Hello, Big Bird. Hello, Big Bird.” He repeated reverently over and over again. Then ever so slowly he raised his right hand and gently patted Big Bird’s tail feathers. With a broad smile breaking across his freckled face, he turned away satisfied. Danny had done what he had come to do.
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