When I was growing up, my parents would write my teachers a thank-you note at the end of every school year, a small token of gratitude for helping me with the first steps of book-learning. It’s a tradition I kept as I got older, showing my appreciation for the contribution to my education and growth as a person.
But there’s a group of teachers, some of my first, who have never received a note. Among them: an avian, an addict and a homeless fella who lives in a garbage can.
For as long as I can recall, I’ve been able to tell you how to get, how to get to “Sesame Street.” Its residents, a warm community of ventriloquized sages, at once captured my attention and imagination as a boy. Whether accepting the gang’s lessons or enthusiastically ignoring them — I might have had three cheers for Captain Vegetable with his carrots and his celery, but my dinner plate back then reflected otherwise — I never ceased to be entertained.
There was never any guise surrounding the programming, no tricks; I understood that I was watching an educational show that was different from, say, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” “Sesame Street” made it so that it didn’t matter. They were the cool teachers; learning could be fun.
“Sesame” taught on a number of layers, too: The lessons I picked up on weren’t only the ones that were intended. Sure, there was a pretty one-to-one correlation in Grover explaining “big, bigger, biggest” and “I before E except after C.” But it was long after I learned to count to 10 that I appreciated the patience I developed waiting for Count Von Count to finally get there (“ah ... ah ... ah”). And it was something special when I realized I loved “SNL” as a teenager partly because I’d been introduced to parody at age 3 with “Monsterpiece Theater.” The show even served as a cautionary tale on the dangers of corporate sponsorship, what with the programming suffering on account of the obvious shoehorning of words starting with letters by which each episode was brought to us. (An example of such product placement? “C is for Cookie” is the alphabetical equivalent of “You Got the Right One, Baby.”)
So deft at their craft, those “Sesame” monsters were, that they left the ultimate mark: After I outgrew their classroom, not only do I continue to recall their lessons, but I also feel the need to go back and visit them. Do I DVR each episode to make sure I don’t miss anything? No, not quite. But sometimes catching a doctor’s office waiting room television turned to Bert and Ernie imparts the warm nostalgia of sitting in on a lecture I’ve heard years before — it doesn’t seem that Ernie will ever quite put down that duckie. I guess he just doesn’t want to play the saxophone.
So as “Sesame” comes to the Savannah Civic Center on Tuesday and Wednesday, I think I’ll take my chance to finally write that note.
Dear Bird, Cookie and Grouch,
I can’t begin to say how much your instruction has meant to me for the past two and a half decades. Well, I sort of just did, but that only scratches the surface. Thank you for all you’ve done.
P.S. Cookie, don’t let the bigwigs get you down. You and I both know that cookies are more than a sometimes food.
Andy would like to visit the moon, but he doesn’t think he’d like to live there.