First: A quote from The Office.
Ryan: It’s Kevin as Cookie Monster from Sesame Street.
Dwight Shrute: Is that the program where all those puppets live in the barrio?
Dwight Shrute: I love that show.
I’ve been watching a lot of classic Sesame Street with Abby this summer. My brother and sister-in-law gave us a set celebrating 40 years of those educational little furballs and multi-ethnic families living in their brownstone ghetto of Anywhere USA, and I have been amazed at how many of the clips I remember watching as a child.
Today we saw the aliens (“Yip! Yip!”) discover a radio. We watched the two-headed monster sound out the word “telephone.” We watched Ernie panic that his snowman would be cold and hungry if left alone outside (he stole Bert’s hat and scarf to keep the snowman warm). And we watched Big Bird give all of his grownup friends portraits he had drawn.
(My apologies for the lousy quality.)
I wasn’t ready for this. I remember watching Sesame Street as a kid, and I remember seeing some of the episodes where they discussed Mr. Hooper’s death (I must be remembering reruns because he died before I was two years old). I remember associating Mr. Hooper’s death with the death of my great-uncle Paavo, a Mr. Hooper-like figure in my mind, all grizzly-bearded and suspendered and smelling of licorice as he did. It was the first tangible memory of death that I have, and I would be willing to bet that Big Bird helped me through it in ways that I could not at all understand at the time.
Maybe it was that realization that brought me to tears today. Maybe it was Big Bird’s earnest assertion that he would just give Mr. Hooper his portrait when he got back from being dead. Maybe it was seeing one of the harshest parts of life laid bare with such simple, honest humanity; seeing Big Bird, the perpetual child, being forced to grow up just a little bit and being better off for it.
I wept through the entire scene this morning, chest hitching, tears pouring down my face. I was torn apart inside. (Who knows what Abby thought of it? She seemed content to continue drawing on her Aquadoodle while I had an emotional meltdown on the couch.) It was like I was a child again, forced to confront the anger and confusion and emptiness of knowing that someone that I loved was gone.
I had to turn Sesame Street off after this one. I knew that the odds of something this wrenching coming up again was low, but by the time that Big Bird’s friends had gathered around him to mourn Mr. Hooper’s loss together I don’t think that I was emotionally ready to handle the “Here, Fishy Fishy Fishy” sketch.
Thank you, Sesame Street, for everything.