Author Ali Velez Alderfer (center) shares a moment with "Sesame Street" cast members: (from left) Elmo, played by puppeteer Ryan Dillon; Sonia Manzano, who played Maria from 1971 to 2015 and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Annual Daytime Emmy Awards in 2016; and Rosita, played by puppeteer Carmen Osbahr.

Growing up with “Sesame Street” in the early 1980s, I found pieces of myself in Cookie Monster’s sweet tooth, Big Bird’s gentleness and in Grover, who was outgoing and always willing to help others, even though he made a lot of hilarious mistakes.

There was even a lady named Maria who was Puerto Rican, just like my family. Maria (played by actress Sonia Manzano) looked and sounded like one of my aunts. I wanted to be a flower girl when she married Luis on “Sesame Street.”

And then…

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