The following is something I wrote about four years ago and recollected and revised after listening to a podcast about the life of Jim Henson, the brilliant creator of the Muppets who was born in Greenville and raised in Leland.
Interestingly enough, I learned that Jim Henson always heard the ticking of an internal clock, as if there was only so much time to accomplish his goals in life.
He died at 53, a rare and sudden death, from Toxic Shock Syndrome after complications from pneumonia. His living made my childhood a happier place.
He laid out a connection for me to hold onto. So, for that, I thank him.
I was 10 and a half years old during the last week of June 1979.
The “half” was of resounding importance back then, since it established one’s dominance in settling any childhood argument.
Vacation from school was in full swing, and summer had absorbed me into a kind of bliss that only a kid feels when two more months of freedom lay ahead as easy and as smooth as warm asphalt under bicycle tires.
The afternoon was blazing hot, but icy cool inside the Cinema 1-82 movie theater in Greenville, where I sat with my friends after my mom had dropped us off.
I rocked the seat in front of me with the bottom of my sandaled feet and crammed greasy buttered popcorn by the fistful into my mouth.
A Coke sat nearby and dripped condensation from its waxy cup as we waited for The Muppet Movie to begin.
The lights dimmed and the movie reel began to click.
The screen sprang to life with a blue sky, and the camera zoomed slowly through clouds, closer and closer, through the tops of trees, across a swamp, past lily-pads, to a tiny green Kermit the Frog, who sat on a log and strummed the banjo while he sang.
I was mesmerized, not just with the scene, but with the words to the song that resonated in my ten year old brain.
“Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what's on the other side? Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide. So, we’ve been told and some choose to believe it, I know they’re wrong wait and see. Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers the dreamers and me.”
I was dumbstruck.
So powerful were these words that I can scarcely type them now without a quick inhale of emotion. Silly I know, but back then, to a little girl who always felt there was something more solid to “make-believe” than just an act of wasteful daydreaming, it was profound. It made sense and some longing that needed to be understood connected with the verses as Kermit went on to sing about those internal voices that call out when you are half asleep and tell you that there is “something you’re supposed to be.” It validated that part of me that was already creating, that was already writing things down, the part that knew words meant something.
I can look back to that moment and know that people don’t always need the realistic, sometimes they need to be shown the magic. All of this, from the mouth of a felt frog. It was an unexpected gift really, one that I still keep loosely wrapped in my pocket.
So, did Kermit ever find the "Rainbow" connection? I think he did. I think he realized that the connection was not just one, but many tiny moments that tie the everyday events with eternity, like the feel of a new pair of socks, the loyalty of a good dog, the smell of a freshly sharpened pencil, the first time you look at someone and know that you are in love, a good belly laugh, or watching your children while they sleep. Maybe, it’s just simply being able to express yourself to someone and he or she say, "I know! Me too!" These are the times we realize that there really is a God and that He loves us, and that he holds us all together.
In the movie, Kermit went all the way to Hollywood looking for his. Mine just happen to take place, for the most part, in this small town where I swore I'd never live. I mostly adore the motley crew of Muppets I have been cast with. They are some of the finest people I’ve ever met. Many have made my life ever more vibrant just by finding their connections in this same Mississippi Delta town, and the towns around it that all run into each other like friends at the Walmart store.
Those voices that “call out” can easily be heard through our dreamlike sunsets. After all, the idea of Kermit the Frog was conceived on the banks of one of these sleepy little towns. I guess any place you are can be a place of connections if you find others who will rejoice for you and weep with you, and who will include you in their prayers.
I oftentimes find myself randomly singing the rainbow song all these forty years later. My middle son once walked in on me while I was cooking supper and belting out the chorus.
“What in God's name are you trying to sing?” he asked in horror.
I tried to explain it all, but then decided to make him sit down and look it up on YouTube.
Kermit’s voice floated up and met my son in our kitchen and me once again as a kid in that movie theater, I could almost taste the popcorn.
He listened without a word to the whole song...Twice. I think he got it. Another rainbow connected, while the clock of Jim Henson happily ticked in the background.