(me and a Big Bird puppet circa 1979 or so)
I adore all things Muppets (like most of the world). I feel like I was born at the perfect time for prime Muppet appreciation, though. Despite living in Los Angeles, I freely admit to having just turned 36. So, by 1975, Sesame Street had hit its stride and was achieving maximum levels of awesomeness. I remember watching the beginning and believing that Barkley running and disappearing into that tree was solid evidence of magic in the world. We watched the Muppet show in the evenings, and, although I don't remember the special being on tv, listened to 'John Denver and the Muppets Christmas Together' every single year while decorating the tree. I think that the poem about Alfie the Christmas Tree probably planted the seeds for me being a vegetarian, "You see, life, is a very special kind of thing- not just for a chosen few, but for each and every living, breathing thing- not just me and you."
While my mom followed the plots of All My Children and General Hospital, I was following the plight of Big Bird trying to get the grown ups to finally see Mr. Snuffleupagus, who they believed was a figment of Big Bird's imagination. I still remember feeling vindicated when they finally met him in person. And when Mr. Hooper died... oh, man.
I don't know if I would love the Muppets and Jim Henson as much if all of his work wasn't so much a part of my youth and my life. I'm guessing that I would, though. It all stands for the things that I try hardest to keep in my life as an adult; kindness, humor and optimism. It can be difficult to live out all of the values of childhood in an adult life, but Jim Henson's work makes it seem possible. 75 years ago, an amazing force of wonder and awesomeness came into the world, and I truly believe that we're all better off for it.