+
upworthy
Pop Culture

The Gen X grief when a 'Sesame Street' character dies is so real

We're the first generation to have educational programs molding our core memories.

Sesame Street, Bob McGrath

Bob McGrath, one of the original "Sesame Street" actors, has passed away.

"A loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter."

It's a simple, repeated line from a one-minute sketch, but as a Gen Xer raised on public television, it's one of thousands of "Sesame Street" segments etched into my brain. Such memories still pop into my head at random times, clear as day, well into my forties. Bert singing about his oatmeal box while playing it like a drum. Kermit lamenting that it's not easy—but it is beautiful—being green. Buffy Saint-Marie breastfeeding her baby and explaining it to Big Bird. Mr. Hooper—the sweet, bow-tied man who ran the Sesame Street corner store—dying.

I was 8 when Mr. Hooper died. It was a big deal. I rewatched part of that episode recently to see what I'd think of it as an adult. The "Sesame Street" gang of 1983 handled it masterfully, helping us all process his unexpected death through Big Bird's own experience of learning about what it means to die.


"Big Bird, when people die, they don't come back," said Susan.

Big Bird let that reality sink in, then said that things wouldn't be the same without Mr. Hooper—exactly the sentiment we all had.

Bob comforted Big Bird, saying, "You're right, Big Bird. It'll never be the same around here without him. But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him, and to know him and to love him a lot when he was here."

And now the always kind, always gentle Bob has joined Mr. Hooper and the original Big Bird, Carol Spinney, in whatever comes next. Bob McGrath passed away this past week at age 90, and I found myself mourning the loss more than I would have expected.

I suspect I'm not alone.

Those of us in the original "Sesame Street generation" were the guinea pigs on which the theory of educational children's television programming was tested. It was an experiment that proved beneficial for millions of us, helping us grow up smarter, stronger and kinder, according to research—but it also gave us a unique relationship with the people and characters who lived on Sesame Street.

The generation that came before us didn't have anything like "Sesame Street" or "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" or "The Electric Company," and the generations after us have had so much more educational programming to choose from. But those shows were all we had besides mostly-horrible-in-hindsight Saturday morning cartoons. For us, the people and characters on "Sesame Street" formed a core part of our most wholesome childhood memories. They weren't just entertainers, but teachers. They helped us become better humans in addition to teaching us our letters and numbers, and the emotional connection created from that mentorship during our formative years is profound.

I'm not a huge crier, but I cried when Mr. Rogers died and I cried when Jim Henson died. I didn't expect it, but I couldn't help it. And when I saw the news this weekend that Bob McGrath from "Sesame Street" had died, I had the same visceral reaction. A piece of my childhood is gone, just like that, never to come back. I didn't know him, of course, but I felt like I knew him. And in some odd way, I feel like he actually knew me, because he knew and understood kids.

Perhaps that's why so many of us feel an emotional attachment to our childhood educational show icons. We weren't just mindless consumers of cartoon entertainment to them, but precious children with the potential to learn and discover, to become more caring and more knowledgeable. We knew they saw us and understood the stages we were going through. I felt that genuine respect for me as a human being even as a young child. And as an adult, I've learned about the sincerity and earnestness of the "Sesame Street" creators and how hard they worked to create the absolute best for kids, which only crystallizes what I felt back then.

"Sesame Street" didn't just make learning the alphabet and counting entertaining. It taught us about life, about people, about relationships and about ourselves—lessons that became part of our identities. I've often thought that the world would be an entirely different place if every young child was raised on a steady diet of "Sesame Street," and the older and more experienced I get, the more I believe that. It really did make us smarter, stronger and kinder.

Rest in peace, Bob. Thank you for everything you taught us and for being such a positive part of our childhood memories.

Image from YouTube video.

An emotional and strong Matt Diaz.


Matt Diaz has worked extremely hard to lose 270 pounds over the past six years.

But his proudest moment came in March 2015 when he decided to film himself with his shirt off to prove an important point about body positivity and self-love.

Keep ReadingShow less
Health

The simple 'Dorito theory' is a thoughtful way to break our addictive, unfulfilling habits

"Things that aren't actually satisfying are those that are maximally addictive."

via Celeste Aria, used with permission and Hugo Martins/Flickr

Celeste Aria explains her "Dorito theory"

Philosopher Eric Hoffer once said, “You can’t get enough of what you truly don’t need to make you happy.” His point is that we can have enough of the things that truly satisfy us, such as a healthy relationship, necessary material possessions, or nutritious food.

However, the things that can’t satisfy us, such as junk food, toxic relationships, or status symbols, will always leave us feeling hollow, no matter how much we indulge.

This idea has popped back into public consciousness, although with a slight twist by TikTokker Celeste Aria, who refers to her version of the idea as the “Dorito theory.” “One thing I can’t stop thinking about is called the Dorito theory,” she said in a post with over 1 million views. “I learned about this, and now I see everything a little bit differently.”

Keep ReadingShow less
Family

Wife says husband's last name is so awful she can't give it to her kids. Is she right?

"I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything, and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c’mon."

A wife pleads with her husband to change their child's name.

Even though it’s 2023 and schools are much more concerned with protecting children from bullying than in the past, parents still have to be aware that kids will be kids, and having a child with a funny name is bound to cause them trouble.

A mother on Reddit is concerned that her future children will have the unfortunate last name of “Butt,” so she asked people on the namenerds forum to help her convince her husband to name their child something different.

(Note: We’re assuming that the person who wrote the post is a woman because their husband is interested in perpetuating the family name, and if it were a same-sex relationship, a husband probably wouldn’t automatically make that assumption.)

"My husband’s last name is Butt. Can someone please help me illuminate to him why this last name is less than ideal,” she asked the forum. “I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c'mon. Am I being unreasonable by suggesting our future kid either take my name, a hybrid, or a new one altogether?"

Keep ReadingShow less
Education

Why awkwardness is such a real thing for people everywhere and one big key to overcoming it

This is super helpful info for people who struggle with social anxiety.

In our brains, awkwardness can feel as painful as being bullied.

Some people fear heights or small spaces, some fear spiders or snakes, and some fear illness or death. When taken to an extreme, such fears can form of an anxiety disorder, but they are understandable fears to have because any one of those things could theoretically spell our demise.

But what about fearing something that isn't physically dangerous at all, but rather psychologically uncomfortable, like…awkwardness?

For people with social anxiety, the fear of awkwardness is as real as the fear of death. "I'd rather cross a glass bridge over a 1,000-foot canyon than introduce myself to someone new" is a totally normal thought for a socially anxious person. The silences and pauses that mark most social interactions are magnified to painful degrees and the feelings of self-consciousness most of us experience in those moments are felt in extremes in the mind of a socially anxious person.

No one likes feeling awkward, of course, but why is it even a thing in the first place? What makes some interactions feel so uncomfortable to our brains? And more importantly, how do we overcome the fear of awkwardness, especially those who find themselves completely paralyzed by it?

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

A new viral R&B version of Dolly Parton's 'Jolene' is such a beautiful mood setter

It's like a completely new, equally good version of the all-time classic.

Representative Image from Canva, Dolly Parton/Youtube

Brb, listening to this 100x on repeat

As Rolling Stone announced that Beyoncé just became the first Black woman artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, let’s keep the celebration of Black women busting through barriers in the genre going, why not?

Singer/songwriter and producer NYA, aka @nya.w0rld on TikTok, has given her followers all kinds of R&B versions of well known songs from artists like Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Avril Lavine. She’s even R&B-ified theme songs from popular television shows like “Friends.”

But it’s her recent R&B ballad of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” that’s so good, people are hoping it finds its way to the Queen of Country herself.

Keep ReadingShow less

An influencer and a baby.

There is an arms race amongst parents these days to choose the most original name for their children possible. While it’s important to instill individuality into a child, studies show that people given unusual names at birth are more likely to suffer setbacks in their social and professional lives.

It can even make it harder for them to find a date.

Knowing that his daughter was setting her child up for a hard life by giving him a very unusual name, a dad staged an intervention—in person and online—to get her to realize what she was doing.

The father, known as MulledMarmite on Reddit, shared his dramatic story on the AITAH forum. He says this daughter’s interest in selecting such an unusual name comes from influencer culture.

Keep ReadingShow less