By Naomi Serviss / New York City
Overwhelming sadness slammed me
when I learned that
Emilio Delgado, Sesame Street’s Luis,
had died last week from cancer at 81.
Luis was a rarity on television—
Fix-It shop owner for 44 years
in the Sesame Street nabe.
Sometimes he would play his guitar
and sing songs of his childhood.
How many kids (and their parents)
in their jammies?
His friends and neighbors
included Big Bird,
(whose death was incorporated into the show),
Maria, Susan, Gordon,
Oscar the Grouch,
Cookie Monster, Elmo
(I can go on)
and Broadway actors, musicians and artists.
He often played his guitar
and sang in English and Spanish.
Luis was the longest running role
for a Mexican-American
in a TV series.
I could watch Mr. Noodle
(Broadway veteran Bill Irwin)
in sketch after sketch.
Ben and Emily memorized classic songs
from worn vinyl records.
Muppet lore is part of my nomenclature.
Generation after generation of viewers
learned about kindness, compassion and love
through the antics of furry Muppets and their humans.
Plenty of jokes, puns and satire
kept parents entertained and appreciative
of witty scripts.
It was a peppy Laugh-In
We learned sign language from Linda,
the alphabet from William Wegman’s
and numbers from the Count.
Our toddlers (and we) were nurtured
by a kid’s show that wasn’t treacly junk food.
We noticed Maria and Luis falling in love.
And when marriage was proposed,
there was a joyful noise.
Maria and Luis tied the proverbial knot
in a televised wedding ceremony
on May 13, 1988.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
I was hosting a 9:00 a.m. wedding viewing party
attended by a small circle
of Sesame Street-crazed mom friends
and their kids.
We had known each other
since joining a two-year-old’s Mommy & Me playgroup
at Harborfields Library.
My husband and I had just moved
from Florida after Long Island’s Newsday
made Lew an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Escaping Orlando’s life-zapping humidity
and flying roaches (palmetto bugs)
felt like winning the lottery.
Central Florida, where dog racing was a sport,
was not a good fit
for two Philadelphia natives with a Manhattan jones.
We were reluctant
only to leave our best friends Sandy and Jim.
Maybe the Altamonte Mall for an Orange Julius.
But that’s about it.
Saving the best for last.
Emily. Born in Orlando Hospital.
We counted our blessings and skedaddled.
Once on the island,
I networked to find women friends.
An assignment self-directed.
Like a job quest.
I was on the lookout for
interesting moms with small kids
who lived nearby and wanted to socialize.
I was a breast-feeding mom, lonely and isolated.
My husband worked full-time.
We had one car.
I found a La Leche League chapter
and met Claudia,
my first Long Island friend.
She was a passionate advocate
and encouraged me.
We became lasting friends to this day.
Emboldened, I signed up for a Mommy & Me group
that met at the library.
One mom, Emily, was Nina’s parent.
Nina was striking,
with dark features
that recalled Leslie Caron.
When the group ended,
we decided to continue meeting.
As the group grew,
our friendships blossomed.
We were all Sesame Street fangirls,
crushing on Luis
and admiring Maria’s wit and compassion.
Luis and Maria, portrayed by Sonia Manzano,
were the heart of the series.
Parents tuned in daily
for clever Muppet and human repartee
(that wasn’t sappy or insipid like Barney),
celebrities reciting the alphabet
or Big Bird’s dilemma du jour.
Sesame Street, created during the late 60s,
recalled an iconoclastic,
racially integrated urban landscape.
Episodes addressed tough issues
like disability, home eviction and racism.
When my friends gathered
for Maria and Luis’ wedding,
we knew we were sharing
a watershed moment.
Emotionally invested in their happiness,
we teared up throughout the ceremony.
When they promised
to love each other forever
and sealed the deal with a kiss,
we lost it.
Our kids were jubilant.
We moms shed happy tears,
relieved things went smoothly,
with nary a hitch.
Our celebration continued
with a feast
of bagels, strong coffee,
and a homemade chocolate sheet cake.
It was a frozen-in-amber moment.
Six-year-olds Emily and Alex
bickered like cranky spouses as usual.
They hugged it out reluctantly.
Moms gathered up their kids' stuff,
split the leftover cake and headed off into the sunny day.
Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including BroadwayWorld.com