Remembering Carroll Spinney

08-Dec-19 5:41 PM by
Filed under Fade to Black; leave a comment.

Six years ago, I was having a very bad week. I'd just been dumped, and my first Moth story was an unmitigated disaster — one of the most humiliating moments of my life. Feeling rejected and worthless, I wanted to crawl into a hole and stay there.

But I had tickets to a local convention, so I dragged myself out of the house to the event. The celebrities who were giving autographs that day ranged from old television actors to comic book artists to former pro wrestlers. As I walked the show floor, I was surprised to see Carroll Spinney.

You may not know Spinney's name, but you know his roles: I'd grown up watching him play both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on over 4,400 episodes of Sesame Street. I'd met Spinney once before, at this same convention a few years earlier; I'd already gotten his autograph. But that previous time, there had been a question that I was too nervous to ask him. I never thought I'd get another chance — and here he was.

So I got in line, waited, and finally it was my turn. As he signed another photograph for me, we chatted. I told him that I'd backed the Kickstarter for the documentary about him, I Am Big Bird, which at that time hadn't yet been released. He'd seen some early cuts, and we were both very excited for the final product.

Finally, he handed me the photograph and looked at me expectantly. The conversation was over, and he was waiting for me to move on. If I was ever going to ask him, I had to do it now.

I took a deep breath. "Mr. Spinney," I began, "I hate to put you on the spot like this, but… Could I give you a hug?"

His already gentle grin grew even wider. "Well, sure! That'd be fine. Come around the table," he said, standing up to receive me. Relieved, I wrapped my arms around him, saying, "Thank you, Big Bird."

That day didn't make my struggles go away. But I left that convention feeling like it was going to be okay, because I wasn't alone. There are always going to be people who don't understand or support what you're trying to do. But we can choose to instead focus on the heroes and the helpers who will always be there with a hug when we need it.

Big Bird once said, "Bad days happen to everyone, but when one happens to you, just keep doing your best and never let a bad day make you feel bad about yourself."

Thank you, Big Bird. For everything.

Carroll Spinney

Carroll Spinney (Dec 26, 1933 – Dec 8, 2019)