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[personal profile] wook77
Everything I Needed to Know About Life, I Learned From Sesame Street (and Mister Hooper)

Sesame Street's anniversary makes me grin and shake my head and realize that I'm getting old. I grew up on Sesame Street. To really get an understanding of how much Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, Electric Company and Mister Roger's Neighborhood meant to me, I need to explain where I grew up and what little exposure to the outside world I had.

I lived out in the middle of bumfuck. We had 20 acres, most of which went back to woods with deer that would walk around our orchard looking for fruit. We had a garden that was a few acres big and we, for the most part, grew all of our veggies and fruit. We made our own jelly, canned our own tomatoes and I cannot tell you how awesome it was to steam up our own asparagus.

My driveway was half a mile long and we owned a snowplow that broke more often than it worked. We lived in a huge dip in the road and that dip resulted in me, literally, walking uphill both ways to school. In the snow. My walk to the school bus was over a mile long. One year, for Girl Scouts, as part of our environmental awareness campaign, we had to count the cars that drove past a major intersection near our houses at rush hour. I had 3. All day. For sitting at that intersection for 4 hours.

So all this is to say that there's a reason we only got three stations, the local ABC affiliate, the local NBC affiliate and PBS. Cable? HA! We would've had to pay for the poles to go down our street and our driveway!My family and I devoured the PBS because it was either that or movies (rented from the nearest movie rental place that was a 30 minute drive away and was a mom-and-pop store) as far as young children went. We watched everything. 3-2-1 Contact was huge in our house. I learned about electricity and helping others and science. Mister Roger, on the other hand, scared me. It had something to do with the changing the sweaters and the shoes. IDK, my little kid brain was weird. Or, god, Captain Kangaroo. That show ROCKED.

But, by and far, the most popular show in my house was Sesame Street. I remember Gordon, Luis, Maria, Linda, and Bob. I remember signing along with the songs and dancing about as Big Bird and Oscar taught me about caring and sharing. I remember learning a bit of Spanish and that pinball routine where they taught you to count. (and I might still sing it) here is a link and you'll be singing it for hours afterwards. It's addictive.

I remember learning about death when Mister Hooper died (offscreen) of a heart attack. I remember my mum and dad sitting down with my older sister, my older brother and me and talking to us about how sometimes, when people get old, their hearts give out. I remember crying and wondering where Mister Hooper was because who was going to run the store and sell paperclips to Bert if Mister Hooper wasn't there.

I just rewatched it again and, I'm not ashamed to admit, I still teared up and sniffled.

God, I cried for weeks after, always searching for Mister Hooper. And, to add to my chaos and confusion on death and the permanence of death, we watched Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. Mister Hooper was right there! So my mum had to go over it again.

I like that the episode doesn't talk down to the kids. It doesn't make it cutesy or illusionary. It doesn't preach and prattle. It simply says "here it is and there's no explanation, sometimes". There are honest emotions from the cast. I like that the men were tearing up, not just the women. Boys can cry and that's all right. It's awesome.

In all the years then and since, Mister Hooper has remained a pivotal character for me not just because of that first learning of death, not just because he showed me that you can sometimes be grumpy and still care but because he showed me generosity and how to embrace differences.

I didn't really know what it meant to be "Jewish". I was a white Catholic kid. I hung out with other white Catholic kids. I went to Catholic school. So, in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, my mum got an opportunity to explain both the Jewish faith and how it differed from Catholicism. We went over holidays, celebrations and beliefs. My mum did a great job in explaining how it was all right that we believed different things as long as we treated one another with respect.

Mister Hooper did that. In the movie, Bert sacrifices his paperclip collection to get Ernie a soapdish for his rubber duckie. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Bert, Ernie sacrifices his rubber duckie to buy Bert a box for his paperclip collection. When they exchange gifts, it crushes both of them to realize what they've lost but they're happy for the other. Then Mister Hooper knocks at the door, gives them both a gift and explains that he doesn't celebrate Christmas but he understands the concept of the season. After all, it's better to give than to receive. As a kid, I was happy when I saw that Bert and Ernie got their paperclips and rubber ducky back. I didn't realize that I was learning the "give than receive" through multiple formats but now, as an adult, I appreciate the way that it was handled.

I highly recommend the movie for everyone with little kids. My family and I, even though we're in Philadelphia and Tucson, still watch the movie every year. It's a tradition in my family. It tackles a wide variety of things from the spirit of the season, trying new things, respecting differences, dealing with name-calling, santa claus, traditions, running away, believing in yourself and others, and more.

It's a bit dated with the clothing but, IMHO, still better than any other holiday special out there. The music is catchy, the lessons are subtle and it's got Mister Hooper. What more do you need?

Watch it on Youtube but buying it helps support PBS.

Sesame Street, IMHO, is what's great about children's programming. It doesn't whitewash issues that kids confront day in and day out. It doesn't hammer them over the head with the moralistic choice. It's not heavyhanded or simplistic or a series of easy choices. It deals with things head on and realistically. Death is taught in a believable way that I can't see Dora the Explorer ever really doing. Handicapped children are shown to be as active and dynamic as they actually are, playing in realistic manners rather than being pushed off-screen or having their disability blown off. Race issues are confronted head on with Gordon talking to Big Bird about why his skin is darker than Bob's. Big Bird loses his house in a weather-related catastrophe and there was no instant fix.

I appreciate that. I think we should all appreciate that whether we're parents or not. Teaching children that their concerns are valid and that there are no instant fixes for issues help children learn to think for themselves and realize that they aren't always going to get what they want. I like to think that there are members of fandom that would do well to watch Sesame Street more and learn from it.

What's your favorite episode of Sesame Street? What do you remember from it? What's your favorite muppet?

My favorite guest appearance is Johnny Cash. Two appearances :P. Don't Take Your Ones To Town and the best one evah. This one launched my love of Johnny Cash.

and oooh!

Date: 2009-11-11 04:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] froggie.livejournal.com
Um I am totally bawling at that video. I totally forgot about that. I was really young at the time and don't really remember very much except that I loved Sesame Street. It is really really weird seeing characters from your childhood dealing with death.

Um brb bawling.

Date: 2009-11-11 04:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com
HOMG ME TOO! I watched it and instantly teared up as Big Bird came on screen because I knew what was coming.

According to Mister Hooper's wiki entry, Big Bird still has that drawing hanging over his nest as of 2007. GOD. HE STILL HAS IT HOW MANY YEARS LATER!?

Still crying. I'm sorry to have made you cry too :(


Date: 2009-11-11 04:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] froggie.livejournal.com

(totally still crying ) <3

Date: 2009-11-11 04:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] waxbean.livejournal.com
I enjoyed reading this, Wook.

And I'll tell you this, I LOVE watching (new school!)Sesame Street with my girls. Of the New School characters, I adore Murray and his lamb!

Date: 2009-11-11 07:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com
Thanks! Sesame Street helped shape my childhood so much.

I haven't seen Murray. :/ I watch "Play with me Sesame" when I can't sleep cause it's on late at night on Noggin or Sprout (or my tivo :D). I love the way that they interact with children and never talk down to them. They use language that's kid friendly but not patronizing. It's brilliant.

Date: 2009-11-11 05:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emiime.livejournal.com
Oh man. I'm a wreck now. But in a good way. ♥ Mr. Hooper's death was the first I ever dealt with or understood (as I imagine it was for much of our generation) and watching that just brought back all those memories again. The adults on the show at that time were so awesome; they were each and every one a role model for me, and seeing them go through that was like it was happening in my own family. Sesame Street is so, so important.

My favorites were always Bert and Ernie. I still have these little B&E finger puppets on my desk that I've had since I was a wee one. They make me so happy.

Date: 2009-11-11 07:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com
:( I'm sorry :(

Me too! I had lost older relatives when I was a baby but oh man, I was crushed with Mister Hooper. I absolutely teared up and continue to tear up every time I watch that.

And in rewatching it again and again, I love that they bring up politics, too, and show that sometimes politicians make crazy promises that can't be kept.

God, Bert and Ernie. They're my sister's favorite too. Mine's always been Grover because he was weird and crazy and energetic and just like me except for the blue and furry bits.

Date: 2009-11-11 05:19 am (UTC)
ext_40815: Nigel and his gravy (Default)
From: [identity profile] shouldknobetter.livejournal.com
I totally remember that when I was a kid. Thanks for the flashback.

And I loved the pinball!

Date: 2009-11-11 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com

The pinball is totally the most addictive counting song ever. I keep singing it and my coworkers think I'm nuts when I do it.

There are so many awesome clips on youtube! They really bring back the memories!

Date: 2009-11-11 06:46 am (UTC)
ext_21342: I dream of Jeannie as Djin7 (Wtp Dart Board submissions)
From: [identity profile] djin7.livejournal.com
This was fucking awesome. I LOVE that Grover one, I still crack jokes about it, like weekly. Yes, I go there. ♥

Date: 2009-11-11 07:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com
GOD GROVER! He really does rule, doesn't he?

Did you read the "in and out" porn at yuletide last year? GOD I LOVED IT!

Date: 2009-11-11 08:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inspiredlife.livejournal.com
i'd like to say something meaningful in response to this post but i'm sorry, i'm crying too much.

i loved Sesame Street so much and, as adult, began to realize how much it has shaped my thinking, how much it has helped me grow. Sesame Street was never afraid to tackle the tough subjects. More importantly, it treated children with respect and compassion.

I have no doubt that Sesame Street made me a better person. Thank you for this wonderful trip down memory lane.

Date: 2009-11-11 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com
It's ok! I cried at Mister Hooper so much omg.

It really has helped all of us be better adults. Whenever someone in fandom is acting like a douche, I always wonder what they watched as a child because Maria and Gordon would not approve of these shenanigans.

<3 You're more than welcome. This show is just so freaking important!

Date: 2009-11-11 08:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] inspiredlife.livejournal.com
I'm glad I wasn't the only one. And, I have similar thoughts when faced with people who are being jerks.

Anyway, I hope you don't mind but I've linked to your post. It really is wonderful. ♥

Date: 2009-11-13 06:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com
Of course you can link away! I hope you got plenty of people talking about the awesome of Sesame Street, too! <3<3<3

Date: 2009-11-11 03:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tjs-whatnot.livejournal.com
OMG! I totally count using that song, like ALL THE TIME! And I can't put together compound words without thinking of that shadow head thing from Electric Company--Oh Children's Television.

I also LOVED Mr. Rogers...

I didn't realize how much Sesame Street affected me until I started the career in Childcare and would watch Sesame Street and would bristle whenever I was introduced to a new character because it just seemed wrong to me. Like they were taking away my childhood. WHO ARE YOU GINA!?!?!?! It took me years to warm to Elmo...and sometimes I still wish I could take him to the river and tell him about the rabbits. :))

But yeah, no other show is going to teach kids as much about how to be a person and function in a society.

Thanks for the reminder. :))

Date: 2009-11-11 07:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com
ME TOO! My coworkers think I'm nuts but oh well, it's AWESOME.

I sang the 3-2-1 Contact theme song for a coworker yesterday. It's been years, at least 25, since I've seen it but I still remember it. The things that stink in your head.

I actually met Mister Rogers a few times because he was from Pittsburgh and somehow knew my grandfather or something. He just srsly freaked me out and I have no idea why.

Elmo annoys the FUCK out of me. I admit it. I do like how he hangs out with Telly a lot though. AND.... I watch way too much Sesame Street now as an adult :O

<3<3<3 Yes. Sesame Street teaches kids how to be a caring and compassionate person and function in society rather than being MEMEMMEMEMEMEMEMEMMEMEMEMEMEMMEMEMEMMEMEMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Date: 2009-11-11 04:37 pm (UTC)
ext_14568: Lisa just seems like a perfectly nice, educated, middle class woman...who writes homoerotic fanfiction about wizards (Count - one valid point)
From: [identity profile] midnitemaraud-r.livejournal.com
I was born in 1967, so when Sesame Street aired in '69... Yeah, it WAS my childhood.

In fact, in November, 1971, we drove to Florida on vacation. We got a new car that had an 8-track stereo and I made my parents play my Sesame Street 8 track over and over and over and... I still have vivid memories of it! Of course my poor parents never wanted to hear "I got two eyes, one, two. They're both the same size, one, two...", "It's Not Easy Being Green", "Rubber Duckie", "Who Are the People in your Neighborhood", "I Love Trash", or Big Bird's Alphabet song ever again after that! But I was happy!

They DID take us to see a couple of the shows when they went on tour, though. I remember seeing Bob at the Westbury Music Fair. :)

Ernie and Bert were always my faves. And Cookie Monster. And Oscar. Oh! And Snuffleupagus when only Big Bird (and us!) could see him! And I loved Guy Smiley and when Kermit was the "Action News" reporter. :-D

My sister LOVED the pie dude who always said "7 Banana Cream Pies!" (or whatever the dessert of the week was) and then fell down the stairs. Me, I loved anything with any of the muppets. And the Alligator King and his seven sons (the seventh son was so cute!)

I also loved Electric Company (I SO wanted to be in the Short Circus!), and Mr Rogers (my fave was the land of Make Believe - I loved the Platypuses and Daniel in his clock!) and Zoom! Z-double-o-m, Box 350, Boston Mass, Oh! Two-One! Three-Four! Send it to Zoom! I sent in so many letters!

Never watched 3-2-1 Contact. I think it was after my time. But I did watch The Big Blue Marble!

The Magic Garden was another huge fave of ours. Carol and Paula, and Sherlock and his peanuts, and the Chuckle Patch, and the Story Box... I also watched Romper Room, but they NEVER said my name in the magic mirror! Woe! And the Nu Zoo Review. Was never much into Captain Kangaroo, but we did watch it sometimes.

Date: 2009-11-11 07:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wook77.livejournal.com
OH god your icon!

Dude, that 8track think is loltacular! We had so many of the tapes and casettes. I still know most of the songs and stuff, too. They really stick in your head (that pinball one more than any other, though).

ACTION NEWS! YES! and omg, Snuffleupagus should only have ever been an imaginary friend. You remember him trying to fit into the trashcan at Christmas?

I never saw the Magic Garden. But I remember Dinky the Doggy (who was a clifford rip-off) that was on PBS as a local show.

Date: 2009-11-11 07:35 pm (UTC)
ext_14568: Lisa just seems like a perfectly nice, educated, middle class woman...who writes homoerotic fanfiction about wizards (schoolhouse rock-noun-jukebox)
From: [identity profile] midnitemaraud-r.livejournal.com
I totally still remember a LOT of the songs. (And yes, the pinball one is quite the earworm! LOL)

The Magic Garden was on what is now the WB channel. It was SO 70s! Hee! Paula played guitar and they both sang songs.

Date: 2009-11-11 08:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] annafugazzi.livejournal.com
Hee. Yeah, Sesame Street was part of my childhood too, though I remember being quite surprised to find out they had it in English too! I had only ever watched it in Spanish in Chile.

Also, I used to work at Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario. There were always two (pretend) soldiers posted in front of the entrance, in 19th-century British army gear, doing the blank expressionless stare of British guards. Tourists loved trying to make them laugh, mostly to absolutely no effect, because when you're standing there for two hours in the sun dressed in heavy cotton with a rifle on your shoulder, having fifty people an hour yell "Say CHEESE!!" or make silly faces at you is remarkably unfunny.

Until one day one of the tourists, instead of telling jokes or flapping her hands in front of the guards' faces, did her best impersonation of Grover. With the "Far!" being waaaaay off on the hill, and the "Near" almost standing on the soldier's boots, out of breath wheezing and everything.

The poor guy never had a chance - he completely lost it, much to the tourists' delight :D :D :D

Date: 2009-11-13 10:51 pm (UTC)
ext_40819: Shifty-eyed starfish from Nemo  (Default)
From: [identity profile] karaz.livejournal.com
and that pinball routine where they taught you to count. (and I might still sing it)

I totally still sing it. I can pretend now that it's all about teaching the sprog but no one who knows me is fooled.

I love the theme song to 321 contact. Did you watch The Electric company and the letter people too?

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