December 07, 2012

By Marissa Dombkowski

The Long Journey of a Letter to Big Bird

I never believed that things happen for a reason. Rather, I thought this was just something said to help a person cope when things don’t go their way. But earlier this week, when I found myself on the set of Sesame Street standing next to my childhood idol, I instantly became a believer.

As a young girl I had always been a fan of Sesame Street, but in 2003 when I was 12 years old, I realized that just being a fan was not enough anymore. I happened to see an A & E documentary on the beloved children’s television show that gave a behind the scenes look at the production, the people and the puppeteers involved.  It was during this documentary that I learned about Caroll Spinney; the wonderfully talented performer bringing the characters of Big Bird and Oscar to life. Suddenly, two things became apparent: I needed to write a letter to Caroll telling him how big of a fan I was and I needed to find out exactly how to get to Sesame Street.

And so, I wrote to Caroll. I told him that I saw the documentary, I bought and read his autobiography The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch), and that I was determined to one day work for the show. I asked him what advice he could give me in order to make my dream come true. I printed out my letter, attached a Big Bird sticker to the back of it and looked on as my mother put it in an envelope and sent it on its way. The letter was addressed to a Jim Henson fan mail location that I had found on the back of one of my old Sesame books. I was so excited to hear from Caroll, anxiously waiting for a response. A few weeks later, the letter was sent back, as the address I had sent it to no longer existed. Discouraged, I wanted to throw the letter away but my mother told me to save it. She thought that one day I would get to Sesame Street and that along the way, Caroll would receive my letter.

Seven years later, after graduating from high school and completing my first few years of college at Hofstra University as a public relations major, it was time to start looking for an internship. For me, there was only one option. I was determined to get to Sesame Street and I knew that interning at Sesame Workshop was the answer. The day of my interview, I walked into the workshop holding my resume in my left hand and my letter in my right.  A few weeks  later, I was offered the position of a public relations intern for the fall of 2012.

The past four months interning at Sesame Workshop have been the time of my life. I’ve got to work on so many awesome projects and be a part of an amazingly talented team. Every day I came into the office, I always carried my letter with me, hoping that I might figure out how to get it to Caroll. As my internship winded down to an end, I made peace with the fact that the letter was supposed to stay with me after all. But when I heard that I was going to get the chance to visit the set of Sesame Street and that Caroll was going to be there, I knew this was my opportunity. And I was right because earlier this week, I was introduced to Caroll Spinney as he was standing in front of Oscar’s trash can. With tears in my eyes, I finally handed him my letter.

While Caroll read over the document in his dressing room, I shared with him my story and how I got here. When he told me he wished he could have responded to my letter sooner, it got me thinking. Maybe Caroll was never supposed to receive my letter in the first place. Maybe it was destined to be sent back to me. And maybe things truly do happen for a reason, because I found my way to Sesame Street and my letter took me there.

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