Paul Parillo A Loss of Innocence*

The most potent literary theme that still haunts my life is that of losing one’s innocence. It’s the single vestige of a life that slowly slips from your fingers until what’s left is uncertainty and, well, reality. Recalling instances such as the boys from “Neverland” refusing to grow up or most famously, Holden Caulfield tearing up at the sad reality his younger sister will eventually succumb to – these, as well as many more, represent the telling signs that exist in every generation. As I’m certain that most people recognize these generally implicit attitudes, the main reason for my explicitness has to do with a recent news story.


Kevin Clash, the 20 year voice veteran of Sesame Street’s Elmo, has recently resigned due to allegations regarding an underage sexual encounter. Though the charges were eventually dismissed due to proof of legal consent, the trusted voice behind the most popular children’s educational program felt it would be inappropriate to continue on. 


I couldn’t help but imagine myself watching Sesame Street as a kid, laughing at Super Grover, grumbling at Oscar and imitating The Count, but not until now did my imagination venture to the dark world not scene on screen. We were never supposed to see the person behind the curtain; their existence was predicated on the barrier given to us by the television program itself. The boundary was respected mutually by both parties to ensure the audience could always bathe in the surrealist and escapist quality of the creative medium.


The moment someone finds out Santa Claus isn’t real, the experience isn’t necessarily a painful one – it’s a bit confusing, coupled with a frightful open-mindedness that begins to challenge the rest of life’s more convenient qualities. A loss of innocence carries with it a resentment unparalleled; Elmo doesn’t exist anymore; Santa Claus, the tooth fairy – all have equally been put to rest by a crushing reality. Yet, as every salient moment passes by, we begin to forget why we loved those childhood things so much, and the barrier that existed to keep us safe has become nothing more than a bastardized memory of something that’s impossible to love forever.

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