Heather Nadolny – “Be my echo, sing after me, be my echo if you please…”
It’s another sunny morning, and, as my grandmother anxiously anticipates her daily viewing of The Price is Right, I abandon my hot chocolate and waffles to bounce up and down in front of the television. Grover is on.
My name is Heather, and since May 26, 1987, I have been a die-hard Muppet fan.
My first Muppet memory begins with Sesame Street. While the “Tickle Me Elmo” craze happened a while after my preschool years, I had a whole different obsession: the music. My mother recently e-mailed me the YouTube video of Madeline Kahn and Grover performing “Sing After Me,” sending with it floods of memories and an instant playlist of songs parading through my brain.
I’m a musician. It’s hard enough to get tunes out of my head. But I can safely say that there is a Muppet song, line, or joke for nearly every occasion. Even the sad ones. What better way to deal with someone leaving than “Saying Goodbye”? And is there any better alphabet song than Big Bird’s phonetically fabulous “ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ”?
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I have had a long, in depth journey with Jim Henson’s brainchild. Since my parents worked, I spent a lot of time at my Grandma’s, where I would sing Sesame Street songs over and over again to the point of potential annoyance. But my Grandma, Muppet fan as well, never seemed to mind. From “Put Down the Duckie” to “Dance Myself to Sleep,” the songs of Sesame Street all spoke to me.
I was first introduced to Kermit, Piggy, and the rest of the gang through both The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Family Christmas when I was 5. I fell in love with Kermit, Rowlf, and Robin, who remain my favorites. The innocence of Robin resonated with the wide-eyed 5 year-old, and Rowlf solidified my love of clumsy, goofy dogs.
Inspired, my mother gave me Rowlf’s Rhapsodies as a gift, a sing-along special featuring Rowlf as a Caribbean “Music Mon” whose attempts to show off his musical stylings go haywire as the song gets faster. Between that and The Muppet Christmas Carol on VHS, I’m still wondering how I had time to fall in love with Disney princesses and Barbie.
Muppets Tonight! came at the beginning of middle school, and it was a sad Friday night if I missed it. My father and I connected as we watched Kermit and Tony Bennett sing “Firefly” and Sandra Bullock introduced me to “Mahna Mahna.”
Kermit inspired me to perform “Rainbow Connection” in singing competitions, and I waited for other Muppet movies to appear. I saw Muppet Treasure Island at a birthday party, and eventually saw Fraggle Rock and Dinosaurs.
In junior year of high school, I visited the University of Maryland, Jim Henson’s alma mater. I became giddy over the thought of seeing his “Designs and Doodles” exhibit, and took a picture of the statue of him and Kermit, which now hangs in my house.
With college came the DVD releases of The Muppet Show and Sesame Street: Old School, each one giving me hours of new material to watch. My friends come over begging to get their Muppet fix, and I am all too happy to oblige. The beauty of the Muppets is, no matter how many times you watch, there’s always something new.
Having said all this, I will admit that this love has had its obstacles. While watching Season 1 when I should have been writing a paper, I fell asleep and dreamed that the Mahna Mahna backup monsters had teeth and were chasing me through a locked library. I took that as a sign that I should probably get serious about the looming deadline.
But the biggest inspiration, and best part of being a Muppet fan, is helping children like myself become one as well. For the past four years, I have serenaded the girl I babysit with my favorite Muppet songs, which have in turn become hers. I get regular requests for “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” and “I’m Gonna Always Love You,” and through YouTube, have shown her bits and pieces of this amazing world.
As a nanny, a teacher, and a performer, I am constantly in awe of the innovation and inspiration garnered from Jim Henson’s creations. But more than that, I am endlessly grateful for them. Despite current events and life’s ups and downs, I know that I can pop in a DVD, or scan YouTube, and find something that helps me feel like a child again.
Though I miss my Grandma, and worry about the pressures of getting older, I, and I’m assuming many others, can be comforted by what we have known for years. With the impending holiday season upon us, the words of “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas,” seem delightfully relevant:
’Tis the season to be jolly and joyous
With a burst of pleasure, we feel it all right
’Tis the season when the saints can employ us
To spread the news about peace and to keep love alive…
So, fellow Muppet fans, I am grateful for Jim Henson and all of his Muppets for bringing unimaginable joy to my life, and those of countless others–especially those little ones still bouncing and singing in front of the TV.
Thank you, Mr. Henson, for being my hero.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier