Grover taught me a lot

Published 2:37 am Saturday, November 7, 2009

To this day, I can still sing the lyrics to the opening theme of “Sesame Street,” and I’m sure a lot of you can as well.

The beloved children’s TV show will celebrate its 40th anniversary next week. It is hard to believe that the first episode of the show aired on Nov. 10, 1969, when my parents were 12 years old!

I was a student who always did above average in school, and while I believe some of that could be genetic or hereditary, I also believe “Sesame Street” played a part.

I watched the show religiously, but especially had a special place in my heart for that loveable furry old pal, Grover. I owned the complete yellow-covered book set (I still remember making a specific trip to the grocery store in Easley, S.C., just so we could pick up the next volume the day it was released). I even had a “Talk ’N Play,” which was basically an interactive tape recorder that had extra colored buttons that a child would push in order to answer “questions” from the tape recording. Each tape had a corresponding book, and each colored button corresponded to an answer in that respective book.

I had several books and tapes, but by far my favorite was one featuring Grover and titled, “Please Don’t Push the Red Button” As one might expect, the answer to Grover’s questions may have been the green button, the yellow button, or the blue button, but it was never the red button. No matter what, you were not supposed to push the red button.

Naturally, I pushed nothing but the red button.

I can still hear the tape recording Grover getting more and more frustrated — “I told you not to push the red button!” And yet, when it was over, I couldn’t help but feel bad that I’d made Grover so upset.

I think the wonderful thing about Sesame Street was that it literally had something for everyone. If you were a shy kid, like me, you could identify with Big Bird or Bert. If you were outgoing and extroverted, you could identify with Ernie or Cookie Monster. It was because of Sesame Street that I learned a few words in Spanish, a few words in sign language, and even a few words in Swahili. I learned that I’d like to visit the moon, but I probably couldn’t live there; I learned that there are lots of people in my neighborhood and they perform a lot of jobs; and I learned that you have to put down that duckie if you want to play the saxophone.

I’m not sure how Jim Henson and the folks at the Children’s Television Workshop did it, but they created timeless friends that continue to inspire today.

Happy birthday, Sesame Street. Here’s to 40 years more.