Sippican Cottage

It’s Not Easy Being____________

I’m too old for Sesame Street. I was eleven before it showed up. To be eleven is to be at the end of your childhood. I didn’t need the letters to get up and dance any more.

But who’s too old for that?

Joe Raposo is the fellow who wrote it. He was born right down the street from here, in Fall River, Massachusetts. He’s been dead a while now.

He was part of a little clique while he attended Harvard, and fell into music work, if not notoriety, exactly. He was never as snide as his friend, Tom Lehrer, but in his way, he was more sophisticated.

I’ve seen all sorts of people that performed music on Sesame Street, much of it delightful. Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, Herbie Hancock, well… you probably know the list better than I. It’s a captivating scene to make, and everybody wants to make it. It is a testament to its original kind intent.

Joe Raposo and Dr Suess. I conflate them in my mind, but I don’t know that they ever had anything to do with one another. When I read my little son the thrilling, trilling words of Theodore Geisel, I’m never bored. Those men understood children, which means they understood people. A children’s book has devolved over time to mean: I can’t write properly — I’ll write a children’s book. It was not always the way. It’s much harder to write a child’s story, I think. Properly, anyway. Doubly hard to set it to music. Suess kept up by drawing.

My son sat in my lap in rapt attention as the little frog —fwog— ruminated wistfully on the nature of being mundane and wonderful. Joe Raposo could sing to a little one and his father at the same time, and lose neither of our interest.

I used to sing and play the guitar for my boys when I put them to bed. It was peaceful, and there was a poignant moment when the gentle sigh of the sleeping boy would overtake the gut string sound. The big one don’t want it any more. All I’ve got is the toddler now.

GarGar sails on the deep blue sea
GarGar sails with Miles and me
Sky of blue sea of green
Bluest sky he’s ever seen

GarGar swims in the deep blue sea
GarGar swims with Mom and me.
Scares away the sharks and such
They don’t nibble GarGar much.

Puts a worm upon his hook
Five minutes flat that’s all it took
Fry that fish in the big black pan
GarGar you’re a fisherman

When the fish refuse to bite
Paddles home in the pale moonlight.
To dream about ocean blue
GarGar daddy sure loves you

I can’t watch the football game with my eleven year old. Every time the action stops, there is a commercial that shows one eviscerated corpse after another; one abducted child after another. They’re displayed as a fun sort of puzzle for the entertainment of people inured to what’s tantamount to the lionization of monsters. No one is green on television anymore–easy or no– only harvested or picked over to taste.

But I can watch Kermit sing Joe Raposo’s little tin pan triumph with my three year old. I want for him to know the same things I’d like to know. We search for them together.

Day: January 16, 2007

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