I wrote an epic “my undying love for Jim Henson” post about six months ago and deliberately saved it in my wordpress drafts to publish on his birthday. Then I rejiggered my install and lost it. No matter. This is better.
I have two strong, indelible memories regarding Jim Henson. One was being about six or seven years old, sitting on the floor of my grandparents’ den/my playroom watching The Great Muppet Caper, and completely losing my shit at this scene. It was all I could talk about for days. BUT HOW CAN THEY RIDE BIKES? THEY’RE PUPPETS! I asked my friends at school if they’d seen it. Some had, there was curiosity, but I don’t recall anyone being as outrageously excited as I was. My mom told me it was magic. I was overwhelmed. To this day, I have no idea how this scene was filmed, and I refuse to ever allow myself to find out. At some point when I was older a “behind the scenes” aired on the Disney Channel but I asked my grandfather to change the station before they could fully explain. I never want to know. For me, it will always just be magic.
The other was when I was about five, a while before the previous, when I found out that Jim Henson had died. I’d taken the day to visit my new elementary school with my grandmother, visit my new teacher’s classroom and take IQ tests (I was a very fancy child.) It must have come on the radio in Ms. Dixon, the bookkeeper’s office, and she mentioned it in passing to my grandma. I remember feeling silly that it made me so sad considering I didn’t know him, but crying anyway and trying to hide it. I don’t remember if anyone noticed or reacted, but it didn’t matter.
It is simply amazing to me, as it was even then as a kid, that one person could have such boundless imagination and vision. That one person could be so creative and well known, and do so many awesome and important things, and just be gone. In my head it was different than losing a family member. My relatives only mattered to my family. We could be sad, but we could manage. But what happens when someone who mattered to everybody just went away forever? I honestly wondered what would happen to the world. I remember asking what would happen to Sesame Street. I was safe, but how would other children learn to count after me? What was going to happen to the Muppets? Would they go away too? It was a seriously troubling situation for a small child to grapple with. I felt like my entire world had shifted, and would never be quite the same.
There’s a point to this story somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is. Of course, the world continued on its axis after the death of Jim Henson, but I still truly believe it would be a bit different, a bit more wonderful, if he’d lived in it a bit longer. But boy, what he did while he was here truly went a long way. He is one of my greatest inspirations, for so many reasons. Today was his birthday, and I’m glad he was here.
I’m not going to get into how Miss Piggy and Kermit or the plot of The Great Muppet Caper has influenced my relationship decisions and life goals. It’s creepy and a wee bit embarrassing.