Listen my friends and I will share with you the true story of a long ago childhood. Back in ancient times, the 1970’s – in the days before microwave ovens, cable TV, and VCRs. In the days where boys and girls walked alone to school (in all kinds of weather, year-round, five miles uphill, both ways), played on rusty playground equipment which sat atop concrete playgrounds, rode in cars without seatbelts and happily suffered the effects of second-hand smoke all day, everyday. Unimaginably dangerous, but happy times.
Begin Flashback Sequence Now …..
By the time I started Kindergarten in 1970, my stay-at-home mom had decided to go to work, I’d earned some street smarts in the rooms and playgrounds of Harrington Park Nursery School and
at the hands of under the influence of my much older siblings, who were 9, 10, and 13 years my senior. I was ready to take Hillside Elementary by storm while I became what is regrettably referred to as a “latchkey kid”. Luckily for me, Sesame Street had been on the air for nearly a year. It was my go-to show after school and before suppertime. Bear in mind there were a whopping FOUR channels of television programming from which to choose. I know, impossible to believe, right? The three major networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) and PBS (Public Broadcasting Service). During the hours between school and the call to the dinner table, the networks tended to show some incredibly boring stuff – at least to my nearly six-year-old self. PBS rocked!
Ernie and Bert, The Count, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Kermit the Frog and many, many others were a huge part of my childhood. Thanks to the Children’s Television Workshop‘s educational programming initiative, I was entertained while being taught my colors, shapes, numbers, letters, and even body parts! Songs like “The Rubber Ducky Song” “It’s Not Easy Being Green” and “I Love Trash” were perennial favorites. I may have been left to my own devices, but I was smart enough to let those Muppets help me along.
Flash forward to 1976…
A lot in my life had changed. I was a worldly fifth-grader that fall and had left the likes of Elmo and Mr. Aloysius Snuffleupagus behind. We’d moved half-way across the country and everything familiar had also, like my favorite Sesame Street Muppets, been left behind. What I needed was some lighthearted, comic relief – and low and behold, Jim Henson and his band of sarcastic mischief makers were there for me! With the premier of The Muppet Show, I fell in love with the Muppets all over again. Pigs in Space, the Swedish Chef, Lou Zealand, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Kermit, Statler and Waldorf – they were there, with a much more grown up humor, just when I needed them most. While it wasn’t by any means the best bit in Muppet Show history, the memory of those Babies singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” with Dale Evans still cracks me up! (Watch it here.) The Muppet Show, those beloved characters performing with my favorite actors and comedians became a very important part of my life.
In 1979, the Muppets’ place in my heart was sealed forever…
I was by then smack-dab in the middle of the most awkward year of my existence. The7th grade was typically difficult, but to me, I was all alone in my Junior High angst. Bad hair, bad skin, socially inept. The horrors and indignity of a girl’s life at that age are indescribable. That summer, The Muppet Movie thrilled and delighted theater audiences (and ME) with the perfect blend of super stars, Muppets, comedy, and epic musical numbers – Some of the best songs Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem ever produced were on that soundtrack. On December 22nd of the same year, John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together premiered on TV. There was not one second of that program that I did not love. The music was incredible, the album (actual vinyl) was purchased at the earliest opportunity and to this day those songs (not on vinyl) are a part of every one of my annual Christmas playlists.
The subsequent string of Muppet movies, some hits, some misses, has sustained my relationship with my Muppet “family” through the years. Muppet Treasure Island had some very entertaining parts and A Muppet Christmas Carol is a seasonal must-watch at our house. I like the newest Muppet movies alright, but thought Lady GaGa and The Muppets was an abomination. I grew up with these guys and I am extremely protective of them!
From some of my earliest memories, the Muppets have been an integral part of my life and they helped shape me into the person I am today. They were there for me after school, made me laugh when I was an insecure tween, and are forever intertwined with my Christmas memories. I know that MuppetVision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is highly criticized as being worn, old, and outdated, but those puns, sight gags, and characters are part of who I am! I was raised by Muppets…and I turned out just fine!
Have Muppet thoughts or feelings? Please leave a comment!