Preface: I know I've mentioned before that I'm a geek. Incidentally, I'm also a nerd. However I may not have mentioned that while my body is 26, my mental age is probably about 7. It's true. I have less of an inner child as I do an outer adult. I can do the mature thing. I can walk and talk like a grown-up when required, but most of me would rather be doing something useful like making flowers out of paper, singing Disney songs, or watching cartoons and eating an ice cream sandwich. I'm a little kid. I can't help it. Why am I telling you all this? So that my next statement doesn't seem like something totally odd or out of the ordinary for me.
So I was downloading Muppet songs today (in a completely legal fashion, but of course) and I came across something wonderful. It was the theme song to Fraggle Rock. Do you remember Fraggle Rock? Oh, I do. Fraggle Rock was a Jim Henson muppet show, and like everything Jim Henson did, it was rad. I loved the Fraggles.
I couldn't really remember the theme song until I listened to it again. One phrase and I was catapulted back through time and space (funny how music can do that to you) to a time when I was something around seven years old.
I don't remember the name of the toy store in the town where I grew up, but I remember just the way it looked and how impossibly tall the aisles seemed. In fact, the whole memory is from a skewed angle closer to the ground. Grown-ups forget that the whole world -- even toy stores -- is sized for them and looks quite different from a smaller point of view.
The toy store smelled like New Things. Do you remember that powdery plastic smell of new Strawberry Shortcake dolls? The staticy, pungent smell of birthday balloons? Do you remember burying your face in the fur of a new stuffed animal and breathing in the soft, sweet scent of a new friend?
I remember it. Perfectly. I remember just where the Cabbage Patch kids were, still new and clean in their boxes, and all the different My Little Ponies hanging on the rack. There must of been hundreds of them in every color of the rainbow with tails just waiting to be brushed and braided. But the memory that dragged me back here to the toy store, pulling me like I undoubtedly pulled my mother from the car to the store that day, was not ponies or dolls. It was a basket of fraggles. The fraggles weren't in boxes like most the other dolls. They were in a big basket on the first aisle of the store. Dozens of them. And that day I was going to get to take one home with me.
I don't remember if it was a special occasion like a birthday or if I had saved up some allowance or if Mom was just treating me to something special. But it was an Event, picking out a fraggle that day. I went to the basket and shuffled through them all. I knew just which one I wanted. I had planned it. I was taking home a Red Fraggle to live with me. I would take her home and introduce her to all my other stuffed animals in the zoo that was my room. And that night Red and I would sit on the couch and watch Fraggle Rock together. We would sing the theme song. It would be wonderful.
Red was my favorite fraggle. She was impulsive, energetic, enthusiastic. She was so much the little cheerleader that she had red pom poms growing out of her head in the way of hair. Red was everything I wasn't and I wanted to be just like her.
I pulled all the Reds out of the basket and lined them up. I wanted the best one. I had narrowed it down to three, all exactly the same to some quality checker in some fraggle factory somewhere out there, but all distinctly different to me. I had to pick the Red that I was going to get along with the best.
Mom stood by, watching my thoughtful decision process on the floor. She smiled, idly plucking a fraggle from the basket.
Mom gets toys. She still has some of hers from when she was little. She pulled them out and showed them to me once. She still knows all their names. My mom didn't hold stuffed animals like other moms, like a sweater or a backpack or an anything-else-moms-carry-around-for-you. She held them like she held me. When I grew up I wanted to be just like Mom.
Finally I made my choice. "This one!" I said, holding up the best Red in the barrel. Mom gave me a nod, and then looked at the Fraggle in her arms.
She looked at it thoughtfully and then looked back at me. "I like this one," she said quietly. Mom wasn't holding a Red Fraggle. She was holding a Mokey Fragile. I paused, lowering my decisively raised fraggle a little as I thought. Mokey was a good fraggle, to be sure, but not my favorite. Mokey was quiet, thoughtful. Mokey wrote in her diary and composed poetry in her cool little nook in the fraggle den. Mom knew this. Fraggles were Important. Mom was hip to the fraggle scene.
Mokey wasn't wildly popular like Red. She didn't go on grand adventures and get into all kinds of trouble. I looked back to Red.
Mom smiled. "Pick whichever one you want, sweetheart," she said, handing me the Mokey Fraggle to put back in the basket. Still kneeling on the floor, I held Mokey in one hand and Red in the other.
I came to get Red, of course, and even at seven I didn't like making snap decisions. Especially not about something Important. But Mom tended to be right about this sort of thing. So I sat on the floor and pondered. I looked from the bright yellow and cherry chipperness of Red to the soft purples and blues of Mokey. I thought about it for a good long while with a wrinkle in my brow. Slowly, I put Red back in the basket.
"Are you sure, honey? You don't have to get that one just because I like it."
"No," I said, clutching Mokey to my chest. "I want this one." And we left the store. Mokey, Mom, and I went home to watch Fraggle Rock and eat ice cream sandwiches.
* * * * *
When I got home from work this evening, I took Mokey down from her shelf in my bedroom. My herd of stuffed animals has thinned considerably in the years that have passed but I keep the dozen or so favorites with me, and Mokey is one of those. She has a little hole in her arm, I noticed. I should fix that.
I brought her into the office with me and she's sitting here on my lap while I write this, and I'm listening to the Fraggle Rock theme song:
Dance your cares away
Worry's for another day
Let the music play
Down in Fraggle Rock...
All these years later, I don't remember much about the fraggles. I can't clearly recall any of their adventures. But I do have an image of Mokey writing in her journal in her nook in the fraggle den...and I remember that day in the toy store. Sitting here I marvel at Mokey who has come all this way with me, and I marvel at my mom who, my whole life, has always known to hand me the right fraggle.
Epilogue: As an interesting point of note, I read an internet rumor today that Fraggle Rock Season 1 will be coming to DVD this fall. I read another rumor that says that's not true. Of course the company has made no such official statement, but amazon.com has a page for it none the less, and you can add yourself to the petition to bring this item to DVD. And there's a punk band called Allister that does a good rendition of the Fraggle Rock theme song. Apparently I'm not the only Fraggle geek out there.