Favorite Fictional Characters, #185: Ernie
Sesame Street was a big deal when I was a little guy. Only six years old when I was born, it was already firmly established as an iconic American institution. An innovative concept from the start, Sesame Street was the first children's television program rooted in early childhood research and with a stated intent of delivering educational material to preschool children. It was formative and transformative for many of us, I'm sure - the episode dealing with Mr. Hooper's death aired when I was seven, and I remember it vividly. We were so lucky to be young when Sesame Street was still full of new creative energy, and before that little vermin Elmo became a simpering diva.
My guy was Ernie. I had a huge Ernie doll I carried around as a toddler, and I taught myself how to do his grating laugh. My mother always said that Bert and Ernie reminded her of her children - as Ernie, I was constantly irritating my brother Al (Bert) while he was trying to read or get some peace. I watch my own children now, see the dynamic repeating itself, and I know what she meant. Ernie's zest for life, for trying new things, for lying awake at night pondering the world, these were all familiar to me as a kid. Ernie was a kindred spirit, and that can mean a lot to a four year old.
Perhaps because of my mother's comparisons to us, I always thought of Bert and Ernie as siblings. Are they brothers? Roommates? Gay partners? It doesn't much matter to me. Ernie, to this day, I'm awfully fond of you.