There’s been some pretty heavy national news floating around our country the last week or so, but there is one national news story I felt morally compelled to comment on this Independence Day weekend.
It’s an emotional issue for me to tackle, but the time has come.
My beloved Maria is selling her share of her fix-it store and is retiring from “Sesame Street.”
I know — it caught me off guard, too.
Maria, played by actress Sonia Manzano, was part of the “Sesame Street” cast of the children’s educational series on public television for nearly 44 years.
Yet, unlike the forever 5-year-old Big Bird and ageless, lovable, huggable, furry Grover, Maria’s role on “Sesame Street” has had to come to an end during her time in the neighborhood.
It’s hard for me to realize that they really don’t live on “Sesame Street”, but who else is going to tuck Big Bird in at night and keep Oscar’s lid in check? Who is going to fix Bert’s toaster? Do people even fix toasters anymore?
That’s Maria’s job.
Manzano, now 65, announced her retirement earlier this week and social media took note with loving 140 character tributes on Twitter and on Facebook.
Growing up in rural Miami County, Maria and her TV husband Luis were the first people of color and of Spanish heritage I ever “met” as a youngster.
Maria was special because it was on “Sesame Street” where I learned a whole new language of Spanish by watching hours upon hours of PBS. My twin and I knew all the colors, numbers, and simple Spanish phrases all before junior high. We’d sing Maria’s signature song “When I say Hola!” back and forth when we’d play with our Cabbage Patch kids. We also listened to our Sesame Street tapes over and over to the point where the tapes physically wore out.
Cassette tapes! Remember Side A and Side B?
Of course, this was decades before Dora ever went on an unguided mission in the jungle with only a monkey and a backpack as she doled out her Spanish lessons.
For me as a kid, “Seasme Street” really was the only exposure to different cultures before later on in life. I can still remember when Big Bird went to Israel. While I think international Muppets are weird, I thought it was so neat to see what other countries’ Sesame Streets looked like. And, they looked weird, but that was OK.
So in honor of Maria’s retirement, I’d like to do a countdown (in Spanish) of my top diez Sesame Street skits and songs of all time:
Diez: Aklahoma! This sketch is where Miss Piggy keeps using the wrong vowel for Kermit’s production of the classic musical Oklahoma! which still makes me laugh to this day.
Nueve: Dr. Feel is probably the best doctor giving out advice on television these days. Dr. Feel really gets to the bottom of his feelings.
Ocho: The letter L song. Lah, lah, lah light bulb! Bert and Ernie serenade each other about all the lovely things the letter L lets us do each day. Lah, lah, lah, linoleum!
Siete: Grover the Waiter: Um, sir! Sir! There’s a F-L-Y in my soup. You’d think Mr. Johnson would stop ordering the alphabet soup or find another restaurant with better service. Coming right up!
Seis: Teeny-Little Super Guy: It took me years to figure out that my juice glasses were not super heroes and the kitchen table’s lazy-susan was not a revolving door for petty kitchen crimes which needed to be solved before breakfast.
Cinco: W Club: Oh what is the letter we love? What sound are we extra found of? It’s not any trouble, you know it’s a W – when you hear Wuh-wuh-wuh! Each time I go into an Elks Club or other animal-based organization, Bert and I sing this song in my head.
Cuatro: I don’t want to live on the moon: It’s one of the more melancholy songs that Ernie sings on Sesame Street. I think we’d all like to try it for one afternoon, but I don’t think I’d like to live on the moon. I’d also like for British crooner Sam Smith to cover this song, which would make my life complete.
Tres: Sing, Sing a Song: Bob, Luis and Susan serenade this simple Bob Denver-esque toon in the courtyard. Luis, of course, sings it in Spanish.
Dos: U got a hold on me: Smokey Robinson gets a little personal with this frisky vowel who just won’t let ‘U’ go.
Uno: Who are the people in your neighborhood: The quinessential song is my number one personal favorite. This simple song about all the people that you meet, walking down the street each day, is how I feel when I walk around downtown Troy on sunny, summer days.
Adios Maria! Mucho gracias for all the memories!