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There's a cure for feeling low, and it's found on the sunniest of streets

It's hard to avoid a lift from seeking out the upbeat songs and aura of Sesame Street.

 

Feeling a little down? Did the morning newspaper headlines bring on the beginnings of a migraine?

I have just the solution: Go to www.sesamestreet.org on your computer browser and click on the original version of the show's theme song, "Sunny Days." The tune is upbeat and the lyrics are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Let's take a trip down memory lane "to where the air is sweet, can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?" I'll bet some of you out there are humming along, a few of you may actually be singing – what did I tell you?

My nostalgic visit to the street was spurred by recent coverage of its 40th anniversary. Started in 1969 as a way to help disadvantaged pre-schoolers get up to speed on the building blocks of reading and counting, "Sesame Street" has grown into a global powerhouse, spreading relentless good cheer and wholesome messages to children all over the world.

The show has been a force for reconciliation in Kosovo, a source of hope in Palestine, a messenger of early information on HIV in Africa.

Today's "Sesame Street," for all its slick animation, remains true to simple themes presented with humor and a touch of adult cleverness to keep the moms and dads at home from being too bored.

The 40th anniversary show featured first lady Michelle Obama with a group of young children and the obligatory muppet, Elmo, planting a garden. This is a garden of good healthy vegetables: lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers.

Toward the end of the segment, Mrs. Obama says: If you all eat these vegetables you will grow up to be big and strong like me.

Don't be cynical out there – watch this segment. The first lady pulls it off beautifully. I am sure that all across America little gardens will sprout up, or at least more carrots will be eaten.

For the Bancroft family, "Sesame Street" has a special place. We all grew up as the show grew up. It was the first TV show, along with "Mister Rogers," that our daughters knew. In fact, for a year or so, before corrupting visits to friends' houses, our daughters thought that all television consisted exclusively of "Sesame Street" and "Mister Rogers."

Oh, that life were that sweet and simple. If you go back and look at the vintage clips from the '70s (available on the Web site), you will see some of the magic that made "Sesame Street" unique.

Original cast members Bob and Susan were the perfect foils for the genius of Jim Henson and his Muppet characters. What a crew – Kermit, Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, and a host of others. Big Bird was a particular favorite.

If my wife wanted to find out what had gone on at school, she adopted her Big Bird persona and got the real scoop. When the Transylvanian-like Count came on, my younger daughter took shelter behind the couch.

I can still delight in joining Cookie Monster for his classic rendition of "C is for Cookie." I say classic because Cookie now apparently sings for veggies as well.

Perhaps the best known song of the early years is Ernie's "Rubber Ducky," followed closely by about the only poignant song I can ever remember on "Sesame Street": Kermit's "It's Not Easy Being Green" – an introduction to "differentness."

"Sesame Street" remains a part of Bancroft family life. Each Christmas the first album that we play is "John Denver and the Muppets."

In fact, when our younger daughter Emily got engaged, we discovered, to our delight, that our soon-to-be-in-laws shared this same Christmas tradition.

Some of "Sesame Street's" unique brand of the simple, the upbeat and the clever has inevitably been lost to advances in animation, the increasingly cluttered world of children's television and, maybe most importantly, the death of Jim Henson and the retirement of all of those wonderfully original Muppet voices.

But much that is good and true to the original vision of "Sesame Street" remains – thank goodness. I hope that our daughters have the chance to pass on the specialness of "Sesame Street" to another generation.

We live in an often frustrating world. It is nice to know that after all these years "Sesame Street" still provides learning and delight to millions daily all around the world.