Talking Story

One day Mom called me in from playing. She gave me a tuna fish sandwich and some carrot sticks and said there was a brand new TV show just for me. I don’t remember eating lunch, but I do remember a big yellow bird and a monster in a trash can.

For years, Sesame Street kept me company while I ate lunch. Later, when it switched to late afternoon, I knew when it was over, Dad would be walking through the door.

I haven’t watched Sesame Street in decades. My kids seldom watched it, probably because by the time they were born there were so many shows—entire channels!—just for them, that Sesame Street was lost in the crowd. But last night I watched Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Celebration on PBS.org, streaming it when convenient, freed from my childhood angst of clock-watching to be sure I didn’t miss it.

I knew when it started that things could not be the same, but I was still shocked to hear Not Big Bird’s Voice and Not Grover and Not Kermit and Not Oscar.

Seeing Bob made me tear up. He’ll always be in his thirties and forties to me.

There were no palm trees or beaches on Sesame Street, and that in itself was endlessly fascinating. Kids wore shoes ALL the time! They lived in big brick buildings with gigantic concrete steps they could sit on. They could walk on sidewalks to Mr. Hooper’s Store where there was not a single crack seed jar in the joint. And while kids were shown running and playing on grass in the opening song, I never saw kids doing that on Sesame Street.

No wonder they wore shoes all the time.

A loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter.

How did anyone buy a single stick of butter? And why a container of milk, not a carton? Didn’t mainland milk come in a waxed paper cartons with Lani Moo or hibiscuses on them?

So many questions!

50 years later, people still remember the songs, sketches, characters, and the promise of Sesame Street.  Muppets and humans in all shapes, sizes, ages, abilities, and colors were portrayed as family, and by extension, so were we. Sesame Street created a television community that stretched from Hawai’i to New York and beyond. In a time when people are theoretically more connected than ever, there’s no show like this one that rallies children from all walks of life into a community. There are simply too many choices now.

A little ironic, don’t you think?

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