If - like me - you managed to live to a ridiculous age before learning some home truths, let me catch you up a bit: Sonia Manzano is the real name of the actress who played Maria on Sesame Street for 44 years. And now she’s done.
Yeah, I know. That gut-punch came in two parts for me, too:
This is the lady who taught us about breastfeeding before it was cool and fixed a giant toaster to show us how important it is to never give up. When she kissed Telly's boo-boo, we believed in the magic of love and when Stinky fell in love with her, we could totally see why. She's an institution on The Street.
On the other hand, 44 years is a long time to do anything, let alone play the same character on the same show. Plus, having also served as writer and earned 15 Emmys, it's fair to say the lady has earned the right to take her leave.
Still, I was surprised by the depth of my reaction to this news. I can’t remember the last time I got all choked up over what is, at its root, a celebrity story. Obviously, it’s a lot more than that to a whole lot of people and it was only as I clicked through the photo albums posted by friends that I realized just what it meant to me.
I’ve always assumed Sesame Street was one of those those childish things I had put away, like the barbies I was so attached to in my youth. The truth is, though, unlike those long-gone dolls, it’s always been there in the background of my life. I grew up on 123 Sesame Street like millions of children all over the world, but I never really outgrew it. It was the one kiddie show I could stand watching while babysitting. Over the years, I watched an episode here and there and found myself marvelling at all the changes while declaring that the 80s/90s episodes I grew up on were obviously better.
Naturally, when my daughter started showing an interest in TV, Sesame Street segments were the first to go into her playlist. They were later joined by Hoopla Kids, Schoolhouse Rock and Leapfrog, but it’s the Sesame Street ones that I had the most fun searching for, particularly the vintage ones that I remembered (word for word) from my own childhood. They also tend to be the ones she loves the most (though she’s definitely more of an Elmo fan than I was).
There’s obviously something special about passing beloved childhood treasures onto your child, but it’s even more awesome when you know your child will benefit immensely from it. It’s no secret that Sesame Street, which was groundbreaking in its time, remains a great resource for parents of preschoolers. I personally credit the show with my 19-month-old’s ability to sing her ABCs and count forwards and backwards to and from ten. Hearing her sing songs I treasured as a child (like Doo Wop Hop) is just an awesome bonus.
So yes, I’m sad very that Maria’s leaving and that there won’t be any more new episodes featuring one of my most beloved TV moms. On the other hand, I’m glad we live in an era where I can easily pull up a classic Maria video for her to enjoy. In fact, that’s just what we did today and, naturally, it turns out that she enjoys many of my own favorites. In honor of the venerable Sonia Manzano, nee Maria, (and to tug on your heartstrings) I’ll share a few of them:
Check out Maria and Luis channeling Fred and Ginger:
What are some of your favorite Sesame Street segments? Which ones are/were you eager to share with your little one? Post them below!
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