Very well written!I've been heartbroken over Caroll's passing and I decided to write a story about Big Bird in the afterlife, so to speak. A VERY surreal, poignant, and emotionally charged story; and I did cry as I wrote the ending. I must admit that it's not too polished and fleshed-out, but I am very proud of the climactic scene. This is my tribute to Caroll Spinney and his ability to touch so many hearts over five decades on Sesame Street. I hope that you enjoy it.
“Heaven is a Street on Earth”
One morning, Big Bird found himself in a different neighborhood. It was unlike any place he’d ever been. It looked a lot like Sesame Street, but the whole area was brightly lit and the clouds were on the ground rather than above his head. There were no street signs in sight, so Big Bird had no idea where he was.
Gee, this is strange, he thought. I’ve never been here before. Where am I?
He turned to his teddy bear Radar. “Do you know where we are, Radar?” The bear shook its head, with some help from Big Bird.
Then he saw two men sitting on the stoop of an apartment building. They were cracking jokes and talking in gruff gibberish. One man was lanky, gap-toothed, and had messy hair. The other one had glasses and a thick beard.
“Hey Radar, let’s ask those two men for help,” Big Bird said. He walked to the stoop as the men continued horsing around.
“Hello,” Big Bird said. The two men stopped and looked up.
“Hi Big Bird,” they replied joyfully.
Big Bird did a take. “How did you know my name?”
“Well, we’ve been waiting for you to come here for a long time,” the first man said matter-of-factly. “My name is Richard.” He gestured to his right. “And this is Jerry.”
“Pleased to meet you at last, Big Bird,” Jerry said warmly. “We’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Well gee, that’s nice,” Big Bird began, “but I want to get back to my nest. Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”
Jerry and Richard looked at each other and then burst into laughter.
“Oh, my dear bird,” Richard said. “This IS Sesame Street! And your nest is behind those doors!” He pointed to a set of construction doors next to the apartment building. A familiar trashcan was perched on some crates in front of the doors.
“But how can this be Sesame Street?” Big Bird stammered. “Where’s Elmo and Abby? Where are Cookie Monster, the Count, and Snuffy? Where are Alan, Chris, and Nina? This is not the Sesame Street that I know!”
“Big Bird, this place is also called Sesame Street,” Jerry explained. “You’ll see some familiar faces here pretty soon.”
“As a matter of fact,” Richard interrupted, “there’s somebody here that I think you should see right now.” He let out a loud whistle.
Granny Bird emerged from behind the doors. Big Bird’s eyes widened.
“Granny Bird!” Big Bird exclaimed. He rushed over and gave her a big hug.
“Oh Big Bird,” Granny said. “I’m so happy to see you.”
“What are you doing here?” Big Bird asked.
“Well I live here now,” Granny said. “And I’m happy that you’re here at last.” She turned to Richard and Jerry. “Why don’t we help my grandson get settled? I’ve made up an extra nest just for him. Come along, Big Bird.” She led everybody through the doors.
Granny, Jerry, and Richard helped Big Bird get settled in the nest. It looked different, but it felt familiar at the same time. There were lots of toys, photos, birdseed bags, and other items that would make any bird feel at home.
“Thank you for your help,” Big Bird said. “I think I’ll take a quick nap now…”
“But Big Bird,” Jerry said, “you only just got here! There’s so much to see. Want to take a walk around the neighborhood?”
Big Bird hesitated, and then nodded. “Sure,” he answered. “I might as well.”
“I’ll stay here and make you some birdseed stew for dinner,” Granny said. “Jerry and Richard will show you around.”
“That’s right,” Richard said. “Let’s go, Big Bird! This is going to be so exciting.”
As they walked down the street, Big Bird took in his surroundings. First, they stopped by Joe’s Music Studio. Big Bird could hear several bands and musicians rehearsing all at once. When he looked in the window, he saw some people that he hadn’t seen in ages: Little Jerry, Placido Flamingo, and Don Music.
“Hey, that’s Little Jerry!” Big Bird exclaimed. “And…Placido Flamingo, and Don Music! What are they doing there?”
“They’re the resident musicians on Sesame Street,” Jerry explained. “They always go to Joe’s Music Studios to write and record songs.”
Then they led Big Bird to Molly’s Postal Service, where they met up with Molly, Herbert Birdsfoot, and Aristotle.
Next they approached Willy’s Hot Dog Stand, where Forgetful Jones and Rodeo Rosie were sharing lunch. Big Bird said hello to all the people at each business, and they greeted him by name.
How odd, Big Bird thought. I’ve never been here before, so how do all these people know me?
Then they saw a family sitting in the courtyard. The man was doodling in a sketchpad, and his wife was playing with their son.
“Gee, Mr. Jerry, they look familiar,” Big Bird remarked. “Who are they?”
“Oh that’s my friend Jim,” Jerry answered. “He knows everyone around here.”
“And that’s his wife Jane and their son John,” Richard added. “Hey Jim! Jane! Johnny! Get over here, pronto! We got a special visitor here. This is Big Bird.”
“Hi Big Bird,” Jim said. “It’s good to see you.” His wife and son said hello too.
“Nice to meet you,” Big Bird said. “I’m starting to enjoy this place a lot, you know.”
“Hmm,” Jim mused. “What do you like about it?”
Big Bird thought. “Well, Granny Bird is always here,” he began. “And it reminds me a lot like Sesame Street because there are some old friends here, like Placido Flamingo, and Herbert Birdsfoot, and…”
Jim looked at Jerry and Richard. “Speaking of old friends, there are some more people coming that you should see.” He pointed, and Big Bird turned around.
Big Bird blinked once, and then again to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. There was a man with a fruit cart, a female photographer, and a hip young man walking up the block. It was Mr. MacIntosh, Olivia, and David.
“Big Bird!” Olivia screamed. She rushed up and gave him a hug. “Oh Big Bird, it’s you! It’s you!” David and Mr. MacIntosh also hugged the bird.
“Wow!” Big Bird cried. “This is incredible. Hi, Olivia! Hi, David! Hi, Mr. Mac!”
“Big Bird, we’re so happy you’re here with us now,” David said happily. “We’ve been waiting a long time.”
“How long?” Big Bird asked.
David paused. “A long time,” he chuckled.
“Have you had a good day, Big Bird?” Mr. MacIntosh inquired.
“I sure have!” Big Bird affirmed. “I saw Granny Bird, and Little Jerry, and Forgetful Jones, and Willy! They were all there. I’ve probably seen everyone there is to see.”
The adults looked at each other.
“Well,” Olivia said, “not everyone.”
“What?” Big Bird said. “I don’t understand.”
“Let’s take a walk to the end of the street, shall we?” Jerry said. “We have a really big surprise for you, Big Bird. Come with us.” Jerry and Olivia led the entire crew down to the end of the street. Big Bird spoke to Radar again: “Gee Radar, this is going better than I thought. I wonder what the surprise is…”
When they finally arrived, Big Bird saw a store. And he stopped right in his tracks.
Big Bird was so surprised that he couldn’t speak. He stood there, staring, not knowing what to do. The sign said “HOOPER’S STORE,” and a very familiar man was there behind the counter.
“Big Bird, it’s me! Come closer.”
Big Bird’s mind raced. He was overwhelmed with emotional memories and his entire body began to quiver.
“Big Bird, you know who this is, don’t you?” David said.
“Y-y-yes,” Big Bird whispered, “but…it can’t be!”
“But it is,” Richard said. “Go on! Talk to him.” He and Olivia slowly led Big Bird to the store counter. Then Big Bird reached his wing out and touched the man’s hand.
Everyone gasped. Big Bird had never gotten Mr. Hooper’s name right before.
But Mr. Hooper grinned. “That’s right, Big Bird. I’ve missed you so much. I’m glad you’re here. And thank you for getting my name right.”
Big Bird began to cry tears of joy. “I love you, Mr. Hooper…I’m so happy to see you. I thought I’d never see you again.”
Mr. Hooper stepped out from behind his counter and gave Big Bird a hug. “Aw, I love you too, Big Bird.” He and Big Bird embraced more passionately.
“Mr. Hooper, I’ll never leave you again,” Big Bird sobbed. “I love you just like my Granny Bird. I love you so much, Mr. Hooper.”
Not one person had dry eyes. David sniffled, Olivia wept, and Richard was flat-out bawling. Jerry handed Richard a hanky, and Richard blew his nose loudly.
“Wait,” Big Bird said, withdrawing. “I have something for you. I’ll be right back.” A few minutes later, he returned with his gift.
“Here, Mr. Hooper. It’s a drawing of you. I never got to give it to you, but now I can. I want you to have it forever.”
Mr. Hooper smiled. “Oh Big Bird, this is wonderful! Fabulous, indeed! Why, I’ll hang it up in my store for everyone to see! Thank you for such a lovely gift.” He paused. “Big Bird, how would you like to have a birdseed milkshake? You’ve had a long day. I can make a fresh one for you, just like old times!”
Big Bird was delighted. “Of course, Mr. Hooper! Nothing would please me more!”
He turned to Jerry, Richard, and everyone else. “Come on, everybody! Let’s have milkshakes with Mr. Hooper!” Everyone cheered and went into Hooper’s Store.
Big Bird smiled. “Boy Radar, what a day! I’m really going to enjoy it here on…Sesame Street!” He laughed and entered the store. “Mr. Hooper, I’d like TWO birdseed milkshakes, if you please!”
As everyone drank milkshakes and chatted, a garbage collector strolled past the store, carrying a trashcan. The lid rattled open, and Oscar poked his head out. He glanced inside the store and rolled his eyes.
“Oh brother,” Oscar sneered. “Bruno, ever seen anything more disgustingly sappy and cheery than that?” Bruno shook his head.
“I didn’t think so,” Oscar said. “Now take me to the auto part section of the dump! I wanna see if there are any blown-out tires or rusty fenders up for grabs…” Bruno and Oscar walked off, as a tiny winged creature with a halo flew above them.
CAROLL SPINNEY (DECEMBER 26, 1933-DECEMBER 8, 2019)