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  • Writer's pictureEric

The Letter I Never Got to Send

The morning I realized I was going to quit teaching was not a morning of difficult students. There was no run-in with a grouchy building principal. I wasn’t even behind in grading papers or planning lessons. No, I knew I was going to quit teaching because that was the morning I learned Jeff Moss had died.

You know Jeff Moss. Well, you know his work.

Rubber Duckie, you’re the one.

You make bath time lots of fun.

Rubber Duckie, I’m awfully fond of you.

Or how about…

I love trash.

Anything dirty or dingy or dusty.

Anything ragged or rotten or rusty.

Yes, I love trash!

Or even (And be sure to sing with your best Johnny Cash growl…)

Oh, Nasty Dan was the meanest man I ever knew.

He’d stomp and scream and be real mean the whole day through.

Jeff Moss and Joe Raposo were the original song writing team for Sesame Street, Moss also taking the reins as lead script writer for the show.

One November morning, 1998, I decided I was going to track Moss down and send him a thank you letter for all of the music and wonderfulness he was pouring into the world. I knew Raposo had passed away nearly ten years earlier, and I wanted to reach out to Moss while I still could – to thank him for the hours I got to cuddle with my own young kids on the living room floor, grooving out to Sesame Street tunes and chuckling over Sesame Street skits. And I was writing a little music for kids myself and had taken an interest in writing children’s poetry, in no small part because of collections like Moss’ The Butterfly Jar, The Other Side of the Door, and Bone Poems. There was a lot I wanted to thank Moss for.

The internet was only about seven years old. Most web sites, if you could find them, were text heavy with very few images. (Photo images took too long to download via dial-up connection.) Search engines were unreliable. But I did a little digging and eventually found a message from The Children’s Television Workshop. That season of Sesame Street was being dedicated to Jeff Moss who had passed away just two months earlier.

And my first thought, quite honestly, was, “Wow. I guess I’m going to quit teaching.”

Which makes very little sense every time I stop to think about it. But there it is just the same.

Maybe it had to do with a feeling of vacancy, like the universe was suddenly missing something important. I was never going to be another Jeff Moss, but maybe I could contribute in some very small way to helping fill that void. That same loss hit me again couple of weeks ago when I received an email letting me know Carol Johnson, the sweet spirit who gave us the beautiful song “Love Grows One by One” passed on. And once again last week when we learned that Caroll Spinney, the brilliant, kind-hearted puppeteer who brought Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird to life, passed away.

Whose departure has helped you recognize and prioritize your own life’s goals?


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