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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Awhile back, I encourage everyone to sign an online petition to encourage Jim Henson Corp. (or whoever owns it lately) to release DVDs of perhaps the best puppet television show ever: Fraggle Rock. Apparently, three episodes have been ported to DVD and are only available at Wal-Mart. Reading this review brought back many memories of my childhood—a nice touch on my birthday. Today has been an awesome day of reflection, introspection, and insight. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to start my fourth decade of life.

Reading over that review, I was reminded of just what made my childhood so magical and really helped to develop me as a person. Fraggle Rock wasn’t just a kid’s show; it created a whole fantasy world and begged you to come in. It was a rich creation, replete with adventure and fascinating characters. In the imaginative mind of a child, you get lost watching those episodes and dreaming of doing your own exploration.

My favorite memories in childhood were of playing along just those lines. Whether it was playing with Star Wars action figures in gigantic holes dug in a sandbox or drawing military bases on canvas-sized pieces of paper, I constantly created dream worlds and let my mind define their contours. Creating forts out of anything took that play into the physical world.

Once I started dreaming in the real world, I cultivated a love of exploration and seeking of hidden pockets of enchantment. That viewpoint practically disappeared by middle school and vanished in high school as I became increasingly concerned with girls, computers, and working. No longer could I envision the ways things could and ought to be; I was more focused on the way things were and living within the confines of a world that others largely defined.

Recently—and here I mean in the last five years—I’ve rediscovered my love such things. Amazingly, it has stemmed from my newfound love of history. History is actually just like what I was describing earlier: it entreats you to imagine the past and to inhabit it in your mind. Great insights can come from such mental exercises and I think that the best historians can recreate these worlds of yore for their readers or listeners.

I’ve also recommenced exploring my physical surroundings with a renewed vigor. I’m lucky in that regard because Phoenix is suffused with an overwhelming sense of history if you’ll let it in—even though much of the actual space is new or recently refurbished. It’s hard to explain but I can get a powerful feeling of history just by walking through a former channel of a long-dry river bed. It’s kind of like a nostalgia that isn’t yours.

My goal is to foster this sort of feeling in my girls. My parents never really encouraged the behavior I’ve cherished; I just fell into it and was lucky enough to recognize it early. The difficulty is in encouraging without pushing, in setting up situations where they can achieve it themselves. My childhood self-discovery was precious to me and I’d love my children to experience something like it, too. My sincere hope is that they’ll reach heights I never could—due to the limited resources of a ten-year-old child—and that I’ll get to be nearby to appreciate it.

[UPDATE (8/8/04): Bought the DVD at Wal-Mart today for $9.86! What a screaming deal! I was expecting $20 or so. Watched three episodes, 93 more to go.]