Many a child celebrates at their birthday party with an appearance by a clown. Personally, I'm not a fan of clowns and I know I'm not alone.
They're pretty scary to me and Stephen King's "It" certainly didn't help their reputation any. But for my birthday, I got something I've wanted for years. . .a puppet show.
To celebrate my 65th birthday, we attended Opera in Focus in Rolling Meadows, where a beautiful little theater hosted rod puppets singing famous songs from familiar operas such as "The Student Prince" and "Porgy and Bess."
The best part was going backstage afterwards to see the puppeteers under the tiny stage working the puppets, as well as many a miniature set piece, props, wigs, and the puppets themselves just lounging around.
It was great and it is amazing the subtle movement these puppets make on stage. It is truly an art.
The great thing about puppets is that virtually anything can be a puppet. Genius Jim Henson managed to take a couple of ping pong balls and a piece of towel and give it such great personality that Kermit the Frog is much beloved today by all ages.
I remember being really sad when my daughters went to school and weren't really watching Sesame Street on TV anymore. Not that it stopped me from tuning in.
I didn't care about counting to 10 (unless, of course, it was being done personally by The Count) or knowing which one of "these things is not like the other." But a few minutes of Bert and Ernie would make my day.
Even now there are still certain quotes that we throw around at our house that were originally coined by these two roommates. And yes, we do have Bert and Ernie puppets in our attic.
As a baby boomer, we had lots of puppet influence around as kids. There were Kukla, Fran and Ollie, Elmer the Elephant and Garfield Goose. Captain Kangaroo had Bunny Rabbit. I loved Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney and the word "chocolate" took on a new meaning with Nestle commercials featuring Farfel, Jimmy Nelson's dog.
And to prove anything can become a puppet, there's Senor Wences and his hand puppet. Perch a tiny pageboy wig on your hand, add a smear of lipstick and you had a puppet whose lips moved, thanks to the movement of Senor's own thumb.
I can't tell you how many times, on laundry day, I entertained my kids (and myself) with a little dialogue between us and a sock on my hand. And have you ever really looked at your wine corkscrew? It's a potential puppet whose little arms can fly up and down.
One year at Pierogi Fest we had a clever puppeteer walking around in a large cardboard box painted like a little stage, while his puppet held conversations with old and young alike from the opening. He was a big hit.
Perhaps it's just the simple creativity that appeals to me most, which is why I believe one should always have a puppet or two "on hand."