Repair Stories

Even Muppets Repair Their Stuff

“Sun-ny day, sweepin’ the clouds away….”

Six words that immediately transport me back to childhood—in footie pajamas, snack in hand, singing along to Sesame Street’s familiar theme song. Since its premiere in 1969, Sesame Street has taught millions of kids around the globe to count, read, sing, and (most importantly) love a gang of furry monsters. But Sesame Street also teaches kids something that can’t be taught in schoolbooks—the value of caring for themselves, their community, and the world.

What better way to teach some of life’s greatest lessons than through repair?

Located next to Hooper’s Store on Sesame Street is the Fix-it Shop, a place where broken things find a little love. First co-owned by Rafael and Luis and later by Luis and Maria, this shop was the background for many classic Sesame street scenes.

At the shop, everything from picture frames to toasters got a second life. The Fix-it Shop was also the catalyst for many of Maria’s most important moments—from asking for a raise, to falling in love, to raising a family. Maria was a true fixer: it was a part of her life, and she fixed things just as well as Luis. (The pros, by the way, weren’t the only people who valued fixing things on Sesame Street. Grover also tauted repair in 10 Terrific Ways to Help Our Wonderful World.)

One of my favorite shows from the Fix-it Shop is Maria’s Big Challenge—an episode where Snuffy asks Maria to fix his mom’s toaster. Maria goes through all sorts of frustrations and even has to MacGyver her own tools (duct tape included!). Not only does Maria succeed through the support of her daughter, but her daughter is proud that her mother “can fix everything.” Maria as a repair specialist reinforced what every fixer knows—repair is for everyone, every gender, every race, and every stage of life.

Maria's fix-it shop on Sesame Street
Sonia Manzano, the actress who played Maria, was a fixture on Sesame Street for decades—and she introduced a lot of kids to the value of repair. Photo by Devon Steven, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Last year Sonia Manzano, who plays Maria, announced she was leaving Sesame Street. So, I guess the Fix-It Shop is shuttered for now. And I can’t help but wonder, who will teach kids of this generation all the struggles and joys of repair? Where will they learn that everything can be fixed if you just have the bravery to pick up a screwdriver and give it a try?

Just as the memory of Mr. Hooper lived on in his store, I hope that someone moves back into the Fix-it Shop and carries on the work that Luis and Maria started. What a cool episode that would be—Luis (still on the cast) handing over the shop to a young, new repair tech. Hopefully, in some way, the many lessons of repair—from loving what’s broken to problem solving and perseverance—will reemerge on Sesame Street. Because every kid needs to hear that they can fix the world.

Header image: Courtesy of Penn State on Flickr, (CC BY-NC 2.0)