A little over a year ago, M. and I were in Atlanta to accompany W., who was attending an organizational meeting there. On our second full day in the city, we visited the Center for Puppetry Arts and their Worlds of Puppetry museum. They have a Jim Henson gallery there, and there’s a video tour of it on their Facebook page.
You enter through a lovely entrance and move through spaces dedicated to Jim’s early life, his office and earliest work, and Sesame Street. There’s a really cool Sesame Street-style set that you can actually work on yourself, with monitors so other people with you can watch your performance. And then leaving that space, you turn a corner and directly in front of you is…
M. and I turned that corner and my breath caught in my throat. “Hello, friend!” I wanted to say. It felt like seeing a dear friend you hadn’t seen in a long time, which was something I had done the day before, so I had a very recent memory to draw on. I wish I could have hugged Kermit, but you can’t really, through that plexiglass or whatever it is box. But I could look at him and smile. It was such a feeling of homecoming. Somehow, though he is but felt and foam, I feel like Kermit gets me.
Lately, I’ve been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation. It also feels like visiting with old friends, in the moments when I’m not amazed by my own new middle-aged-woman lust for Jean-Luc Picard. (And that’s all I’ll say about that.)
Geordi. Riker. Troi. Not Data, because I am Data. Data knows so much and always shares more than is useful. Why wouldn’t you want to know the intricacies of how this ship is constructed, or the details of that culture’s expectations surrounding honor? Oh, right, because we’re all about to die, or at least one of us has been abducted, and you probably would rather only have the information you need to handle the situation. Oops.
Yes. Data and I are one.
But the others, they feel like my friends, in the same way Kermit does. When Jonathan Frakes showed up on Patrick Stewart’s Sonnet-a-Day video, I was like, “YES! FRIENDS! Let’s all sit outside and read Shakespeare, MY FRIENDS!” (And also know, I was not imagining them as Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes. Sorry, my dudes. You inhabit those other guys in my heart forever. And reading Shakespeare together is totally a thing your characters would do.)
I’ve been wondering about why I feel this way about these imaginary people/frog, and why I don’t feel quite the same way anymore. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is my favorite show, and I wrote a Self-Insertion Mary Sue expressly so I could imagine what it would be like to be friends with the characters on it, but when I watch it, it doesn’t feel like visiting old friends, or even seeing people I visit with daily. It feels like watching a TV show I love. Same thing with 30 Rock, New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Difficult People, and Happy Endings. Is the difference that I encountered The Muppets and ST:TNG as a kid? I don’t know.
Was I a lonely kid? I’m not sure. I changed schools about every two years until high school, when I stayed at the same school the whole time. I had good friends from 6th grade on. I was verbally bullied and came home crying almost every day in 5th grade. I don’t know. Maybe these characters feel like my friends because they were there for me in those times?
Regardless of why, I think I’m just going to lean into it and embrace it. As I’ve mentioned before, our family is all-in on Muppets these days, and I’m loving TNG. It’s nice to visit old friends.