The Return to Sesame Place


Ava Johnson

On a serene Sunday morning, the smell of bacon lingered in the air, pungent, as my body sluggishly trudged on the cold tiles of the floor to find the source. I walk into the kitchen to find my mother speaking into her phone, sandwiched in between her ear and shoulder, while her hands were occupied cooking the savory bacon that awakened my nostrils for the day. She tells me to pack my bags. My cousin Chrissy, her husband Matt, and their daughter Aria were going to Sesame Place for the day and invited me to join them. Childhood memories I’ve stored deep into the depths of my subconscious come back to me, flooding my brain: furry colorful monsters dancing and skipping happily down the crowded streets, staff members marching across the stage performing their choreographed routines, children’s excited screams piercing my eardrums, and, after I sprinted around the entire plaza to find him, meeting my favorite character, The Count. He warmly yet gently squeezed me as I impatiently jumped onto him. His arms felt like a warm, fuzzy blanket I’d wrap around me on a cold day of winter. I’ll never forget it. In ten minutes flat, I’m able to slick back my hair into a high ponytail, quickly slip on a bright blue swimsuit, and throw on a coverup on top.
After a car ride of me and Aria cheerfully singing the songs of the show I watched when I was still learning my ABC’s, we are greeted by a huge picture of Big Bird’s smiling beak at the front gates. Sesame Street’s theme song was right, this sunny day really did sweep the clouds away. The air is thick and humid as the blazing sun hangs in the sky like a golden coin glowing with a radiance that could brighten up any child’s gloomy day. Taking precaution, Chrissy swiftly lathers Aria head-to-toe in thick white sunscreen as if we were preparing for a day in the Sahara Desert. My skin is left sticky from several layers of SPF50, the bodyguard that would protect my skin from the sun’s harsh rays which would otherwise paint me a hue as red as a lobster. Adrenaline and anticipation course through our veins as we walk through the security checkpoints.
My thoughts were racing almost as fast as my heart was as I tried to decide what to do first. Overstimulation was an understatement; I couldn’t even fathom how overwhelmed toddlers must be, standing a mere three feet tall, craning their necks as they’re looking up at what this exciting yet unfamiliar place has to offer them. Panicked parents chase their rowdy children as they prance down the street without a care in the world, roller coasters zoom past us, generating enough wind to mess our hair, and kids splash in the water park like little ducks taking a cool bath in the pond. Upbeat music blasted through the speakers that were placed throughout the park, kids singing along and dancing crazily, the only way they knew how to express their elation. The first activity of our visit were the rides. The Caterpillar Ride features a yellow and purple caterpillar that commences by calmly going back and forth on a track. As momentum builds, the ride spins in a circle, forcing our hands in the air and our necks to be jolted backward. Aria’s button nose crinkles as she giggles with glee, her smile a sudden beam of sunlight, resembling the ones we experienced on this searing day in Pennsylvania. After walking through the park, Matt makes the executive decision to cool off in the water park, the main attraction in Sesame Place. Instead of the sweat that glued our clothes to our sticky backs, it felt refreshing to stand under sprayers that allowed cold, revitalizing water to run down our bodies. We look up at the waterfall that was formed from the sprayer that shot across the park, forming a beautiful rainbow as the sunlight comes in contact with the water droplets. At the sight of it, Aria jumps for joy and looks up at me with her icy eyes as blue as the water we were splashing around in. I could’ve sworn I saw them sparkle, her irises filled with the magic Sesame Place exudes.
After spending the rest of the day on more rides and meeting the star himself, Elmo, we wrap up the day with some celebratory cotton candy. Our teeth and lips are stained dark blue as the humidity melts the sweet treat into a sticky, glistening mess. The sun bids us a farewell as it sets slowly along a horizon a mix of orange and red, like a painter’s palette after creating a bewildering masterpiece. We stroll back to the car and Aria falls asleep as she is buckled into her car seat. An exhausted yawn escapes my mouth as I look out the window at the calm, cratered moon that replaced her passionate, fiery sister. Surprisingly, Sesame Place was as amazing as I had remembered it. I failed to realize that the magic that this silly children’s show had enkindled for me as a child lived on in my memories many years after I stopped watching it. Not only do the memories we make as a child shape our thinking and future, they keep the light shining behind our eyes when growing up seems to dim it.