Being Green

In the early-early ‘70s, when the kids’ TV show “Sesame Street” was a new American creation, and I was living with my young daughter in southern Africa, my mother in New Jersey sent us the freshly minted “Sesame Street” long-playing record album in the mail – to the delight of my daughter and her little friends.

The children sat on my living room carpet in a semicircle, as if my record player were a hearth, mesmerized by the happy music so new to them (and to the world): “Sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away — on my way to where the air is sweet! Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?”

Before long, because we played the record over and over and over again, the kids and I knew all of the words to every song, and we all sang along to the l.p.  My personal favorite, sung by the ever-serious “straight man” Kermit the Frog, was “It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green.”  Kermit’s soulful words made me realize then that in my quarter-century of living I’d never bothered to look at life from a frog’s perspective. Kermit sang:

“It’s not that easy being green

Having to spend each day the color of the leaves

When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold

Or something much more colorful like that…”

Like a lot of us, especially when we’re young, Kermit was comparing himself unfavorably to others, bemoaning the fact that he wasn’t born a more fiery color, like red or yellow or, better yet, glistening gold. He continued to moan:

“It’s not that easy being green! –

It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things

And people tend to pass you over ’cause you’re

Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water

Or stars in the sky…”

Mid-way, however, Kermit gets a grip. He sees the light. He has an epiphany:

“BUT — green’s the color of Spring!

And green can be cool and friendly-like

And green can be big like an ocean, or important

Like a mountain, or tall like a tree…”

On my walk yesterday in the always green Parque Juarez here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

I’ve been thinking lately about Kermit’s lifelong lesson to me — and the importance of “Sesame Street” to now generations of children — because the new U.S. President, real-estate-tycoon-turned-emperor-wannabe, Donald Trump, has just proposed budget cuts that appear to include threats to this award-winning, cherished educational television program.

In his New York Times op-ed this week, “President Trump vs. Big Bird,” columnist Nicholas Kristof clarifies: “In fact, Big Bird [and his fellow Muppets, such as Kermit] will survive [because “Sesame Street” has become pretty much self-supporting], but some local public television stations will close without federal support — meaning that children in some parts of the country may not be able to see ‘Sesame Street’ on their local channel.”

Still, what a loss, should that budget proposal pass. Children whose lives are already “not that easy,” because they live in poorer communities where viewers cannot afford to support their public television station, won’t have the ready benefit of Kermit’s epiphany, a lesson that teaches a healthy self-love and self-acceptance, as well as empathy for others.

Lately I’ve been singing snippets of Kermit’s hit tune in my head. “It’s not that easy being _____________” [fill in the blank]. My list, it turns out, is long, but it boils down to this universal, I think: It’s not that easy being a sensitive, sentient, humane human being in this current, crazy, tumultuous world.

The last stanza of Kermit’s song goes like this:

“When green is all there is to be

It could make you wonder why. But why wonder why?

Wonder: I am green and it’ll do fine, it’s beautiful

And I think it’s what I want to be.”

An old (faux) frog on my patio

Even today, nearly a half-century since I first heard Kermit sing this song, I’m still learning from it. Among the long list of things it’s not that easy being — I’m finding first-hand — is an older person. The cliché, “growing old is not for sissies,” is perfectly apt. So, to reboot my sometimes sagging old spirit, I remove the word “green” in Kermit’s last stanza and substitute “old”:

“When old is all there is to be … why [bother to] wonder why? [Instead, face facts:] I am old, and it’ll [have to] do fine…” And I think it’s what I am now meant to be.

10 thoughts on “Being Green”

  1. Goodness, Bonnie…I thought I was the only one who loves Kermit’s “It’s Not Easy Being Green” song…I am going to play it right now! I never thought to examine it as closely as you have done here….how lovely…and…yes…another small crime that has major impact…what?? No Sesame Street for today’s children?? Unthinkable….it is an American icon. (PS…we are not old – yet!) Love you!

  2. For whatever it’s worth, Bonnie. You’re not old to me. You still have a very young spirit. And isn’t that really what gets us through? Great reminders of Kermit though. How evolved that series’ creators were, huh? They changed our culture for the better—one little child and his or her parent at a time. David and I used to watch it together religiously.

    1. Thank you, Barb. Maybe we’ll live to see the day when “old” is a compliment in our culture! (Well, I’m not holding my breath on that one.) 🙂 Today I got the inspired idea to make a frog puppet for my little English class here. Maybe he’ll be as popular with the ninos as Kermit. Vamos a ver…

  3. Uplifting as always. Thank you Bonnie, I will think of this song everyday as I encounter ageism everywhere I turn. Including from one of my students who said, “I am tired of old ladies telling me what to do and by the way I would be happy to watch your cats this weekend, for money of course.” This absurd stereotype actually put me into gales of laughter…very lucky for that young man. But it brings home the fact that in the USA being an elder makes you invisible and expendable. For me however, I am happy to still be here and able to work and it is beautiful.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Barbara. I can so relate! I received similar agist comments from time to time when I taught at UNM in Taos. Good thing you were able to laugh it off. Here in Mexico, I’m happy to say, the attitude toward elders is much more respectful. We are not invisible; we are not talked down to. It’s really refreshing. So there’s hope in the world!

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