Recently, a Facebook friend posted an “All-Star” version of the Sesame Street favorite, “Put Down the Duckie.” You remember the song, right? I mean, who can forget Ernie (Jim Henson) and Mr. Hoots (Kevin Clash) jammin’ to “Put Down the Duckie?” That song has serious ear worm potential!
(You can find the full lyrics here: https://www.lyricsondemand.com/soundtracks/s/sesamestreetlyrics/putdowntheduckielyrics.html)
I listened (’cause who could resist?) and immediately my day brightened. This is such an upbeat song! But as I bellowed along, grooving with Mr. Hoots and Ernie, I had a sudden random thought: Is there a greater message in this song? Is Ernie’s beloved duckie a symbol or metaphor?
You know the narrative, right? Ernie wants to play the sax and he can’t. He keeps getting a “silly squeak” when he tries, so he appeals to Mr. Hoots for advice. You know he just needs to put down that duck! Mr. Hoots tells him that, too. But Ernie is having a hard time following that advice.
Mr. Hoots laments,
“You didn’t hear a word I said
You gotta get it through your head
Don’t be a stubborn cluck
Ernie, lay aside the duck!”
I started to wonder: How often am I like Ernie? How often do others, who look at me, know exactly what I need to do, and I miss it entirely? Like Ernie, do I cling to those comfortable ways, happy in my little ruts, sticking to the safe and well-traveled paths, and sabotage my own attempts to try something new? I’m not trying to argue that I shouldn’t build on what is working or what I already know, but sometimes when I hold onto my own “duckies” so tightly, couldn’t I be preventing myself from fully investing in new experiences?
Mr. Hoots puts it best:
“You’ll never find the skill you seek
Till you pay your dues
Though you’re blessed with flying fingers
When you wanna wail, you’re stuck
What good are flying fingers
If they’re wrapped around a duck?”
Meaningful growth does not come without some discomfort and risk. Maybe Mr. Hoots is reminding me how important it is to move boldly out of my comfort zones, stretch myself, and fly! Or play the sax, as the case may be. Now, there’s a message.
Alternatively, this song could simply serve as a reminder to focus on doing one thing at a time. How often do I try to multi-task and end up doing nothing well? Focus on one thing at a time. Put down the duck to play the saxophone. At this time of year, that’s a message I need to hear!
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as Mr. Hoots points out to Ernie, “You don’t have to lose your duck. You can pick it up when you’re finished.”
“I can?” Ernie responds. “Oh, wow!” Then he throws his duckie over his shoulder and launches into exuberant saxophone playing…sans squeak!
So, now that I’ve absorbed some words of wisdom from Mr. Hoots, I’m off to listen to Oscar the Grouch sing “I Love Trash.” I’m wondering whether there might be a recycling message in there…