Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Muppet memories 

I heard on NPR yesterday morning that it was Kermit the Frog's 50th birthday. Until yesterday, I had no idea that Kermit is older than I am. My, he's aging well. Jim Henson created the characters of Kermit and other proto-muppets as part of Sam and Friends, a five-minute live show that aired on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C., from 1955 to 1961. In his first appearances, Kermit looked more lizard than frog; by the debut of Sesame Street in 1969, he had become his amphibious green self.

While the Muppets figured prominently in many people's childhoods, Kermit and the Muppet Show evoke strong memories of my final semester in college. The Muppet Show had been cancelled the previous year, but a local Providence station played reruns every evening at 7:00 p.m., right about the time that my roommates and I finished dinner.

We were having a horrific year. My boyfriend (now husband) Paul had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma the week after Thanksgiving, and was home in Connecticut in chemotherapy. Becca had a breast tumor, which fortunately was benign, and recurring UTI's in part, she eventually learned, because of kidney malformations. Chris had mysteriously become quite anemic; Barrett and Lynda had mono for a month. (How I stayed healthy though this period I'll never know.) The news from our apartment was so consistently bad that one roommate's insensitive (and not surprisingly temporary) boyfriend christened it the "death suite." (He also called us castrating bitches, which somehow struck us as funny; we took to calling our apartment the CB suite, and ourselves the CB's.)

Dinnertime with my roommates was often the best part of the day. We took turns cooking, then gathered around the dinner table for nourishment both physical and emotional. At the end of dinner each weeknight, the five of us were joined by our friends, the Muppets. Stacking the dinner dishes in the middle of the table, we'd pour toasted almonds (kahlua, amaretto and milk) or sea breezes (vodka and cranberry juice, particularly popular when UTI's struck), turn on our small TV, and give ourselves over to the antics of Kermit, Miss Piggy, their friends and special (human) guests stars. We particularly loved the Swedish Chef, seen here in the classic chocolate moose sketch, and would sing along with his Swedish gibberish song, ending with a heartfelt, "Børk! Børk! Børk!" Half an hour of gentle laughter therapy, and we'd head back to our books for the evening.

Happy birthday, Kermie. And thank you, Jim Henson, for lifting the hearts of several very sad, stressed out college students, many years ago.