Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Happy 40th Birthday Sesame Street!
I read this essay the other day about how "Sesame Street" was the reason that this man made it out of his drug infested, racist, awful town and did something with his life. The essay brought me to tears. All along I have kept wondering exactly what it was that made me different. What was different about my childhood that gave me the notion to rise above, expect more, refuse to settle for less, and do things differently? For years I've said that I sorta felt a little bit like Jim Carrey's character in "Cable Guy". I was raised by the tv. Not that my parents weren't present physically because they were. I guess I meant that most of my opinions, ideas, and thoughts were inspired by tv rather than from my parents. My dad had extremely strong, inconsistent "opinions" (tirades) and my mother pretty much just decided to believe whatever I believed. I believe this is a direct result of her not truly having parents but I'm getting off track. My point is that I was raised by tv. I have vivid memories of hiding behind my bed when I was about 3 or 4 and waiting for Laverne and Shirley to come get me... they would NEVER go to Hollywood without me. I am one of maybe two people in the country my age who remembers the show "Love, Sidney". I can still tell you all about "It's a Living" and "Bosom Buddies" (was Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari adorable or what?). These shows changed me. They shaped me. They taught me. Most importantly they showed me what life out there could be like. I don't know if I would have bothered to attend college or reach for something different, something better, without having been exposed to so much television. "Sesame Street" was just one of many shows that helped open my eyes and mold me into a contributing member of our society. While I did see people of other races occasionally in my town, I think that "Sesame Street" helped me to see that people with different colored skin weren't lazy, good for nothing, worthless and should be returned to their homelands (which was what I was frequently told by individuals living in my home). I also got to see comedy, literacy, team work, positive conflict resolution, and general niceness. All of these things were terribly important for helping me be successful in school, both acedemically and socially. I developed a love for the characters and to this day, I get a little choked up just by looking at Big Bird. I have a framed picture of Elmo and one of Bird on the wall in my hallway. They are my pictures. Not my kids'. They make me happy. They remind me of how it felt to escape, to play, to wonder if I might have something better one day. I'm so thankful that my parents must have seen that there was something better out there too and saved up so much money in order to send me to college. Today I received a magazine from the Honors Department of MTSU (where I attended college) and in the back, there was a small blurb updating the alumni of how I was homeschooling and had founded a nonprofit organization. Perhaps without "Sesame Street" that blurb wouldn't have been in there. Thank you, Mr. Henson, for 40 years of showing millions of children that there is something better out there. And thank you to my parents for being "unschool" enough to let me watch as much tv as I saw fit. I was watching and I was making a plan.