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Aisle Seat: Of Muppets and Moms

Updated: Mar 24

By Naomi Serviss / New York City


Emilio “Luis” Delgado with his Muppet sidekicks, Bert (right) and Ernie (center)
Emilio “Luis” Delgado with his Muppet sidekicks, Bert (right) and Ernie (center)

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—


a Mexican-American


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)


learned Spanish


in their jammies?


Millions.


His friends and neighbors


included Big Bird,


Mr. Hooper,

(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


for four-year-olds.



We learned sign language from Linda,


the alphabet from William Wegman’s


flexible Weimaraners,


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.


My 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.


Emilio Delgado, the author (center) and Sonia Manzana (right) during a choir rehearsal for Lincoln Center's Christmas tree lighting ceremony (circa 1995)
Emilio Delgado, the author (center) and Sonia Manzana (right) during a choir rehearsal for Lincoln Center's Christmas tree lighting ceremony (circa 1995)

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

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