Almost every one of us who grew up in the 80s remembers Fraggle Rock.
Since my sisters and I could not tell time when it originally aired on Sundays nights, it was always a fantastic and jarring surprise that it came on. FRAGGLE ROCK! OH! It’s ON! And we’d watch with glee as those little muppets who lived in Doc’s wall got up to their crazy antics.
Our favorite episode of all Fraggle time was and still is “Dagoonie”. I am sure the episode as a proper title, but this is what we call it. We love it so much that pretty much all you have to do is yell out “DAGOONIE!” and the three of us will curdle into the floor emitting peals of girlish laughter. Which is embarrassing because we’re all old now. Even you, Kaitlyn.
“Dagoonie” rings true to our Greenidgegirl hearts. And sadly, it probably always, always will.
In this episode Mokey, the fraggle who seemed as though she’d spent time enjoying “the green” on a commune somewhere donning that hemp looking get up of hers as she drank herbal tea and perhaps made her friends gluten free foods with lots of mushrooms before she lived in that wall, befriends a random newcomer fraggle whose name is, yes, Dagoonie. Full disclosure here, Mokey was not my favorite fraggle. Her “far out, man” California vibe made me a little uneasy. I’m an east coast person. I realized this when I moved to Iowa and felt just that much more hyper than almost everyone around me.
Dagoonie had long Laura Ingalls style braids, buck teeth, and odd bags under his eyes. We’re talking major luggage. A bit like the kind I sport now, with two kids three and under who do not like to let me get more than two hours of sleep in a row.
Dagoonie and Mokey become fast friends. And here is where the episode turns south, for Mokey at least. Because Dagoonie is a bit, um, high strung. Dagoonie enjoys Mokey’s company and friendship very much. So much that Dagoonie begins to stalk and emotionally isolate Mokey from her other friends and finally lures her away from all the other fraggles and critters living in that wall and traps her by herself so she can be only his friend.
Even to an eight year old, this episode seemed heavy. It had the forbidden aura of very special editions of Webster and Diff’rent Strokes.
Even to an eight year old, the lesson of Dagoonie’s stalker behavior was clear: do not do it.
But this lesson was secondary to us Greenidgegirls, even at such a tender age, because, in all honesty, we found the Dagoonie episode one of the most pleasurable and humorous of our viewing history. And it has remained so to this day. Of probably every show any of us has every watched. And it has served as a template for how we’ve conducted ourselves in our relationships ever since then. In fact, when I first met my husband, and began to shower him with Dagoonie flavored attention, he was like, I like you, you don’t have to do all that. I was touched. And the fans were flamed even more, which I suppose was okay because we’ve been together eleven years now. And, truth be told, his disposition is more akin to Mokey’s than to mine. He dresses much better though. And does not drink herbal tea.
We Greenidgegirls can come on strong.
Which is why we can initially come across as rather shy.
We’ve realized the Dagoonies of this world are often misunderstood, and so we stifle.
Case in point, Dagoonie appeared in no other episodes and countless google searches have never delivered him from the cloisters Jim Henson and his muppet workshop have placed him within. Dagoonie’s exuberance can get you a restraining order and probably 5-10 easily, so he is perhaps not the best role model.
So while my sisters and I delight in Dagoonie, I was hoping this proclivity would skip a few generations.
But I do not think it has.
My sister Kaitlyn first noticed my daughter’s desire to attach when Katia was maybe two or three weeks old. Unlike many babies her eyes learned to focus almost immediately. My first maternal feelings came a few hours after her birth when she looked up at me from her basinet in the hospital and said with her eyes which were dark blue then, and, at that moment, wide wide open: please take care of me. When Kaitlyn showed up to spend some post delivery time with us, she was deeply alarmed by Katia’s gaze.
“Why is she looking at you like that?”
“The books say they do that.”
“No. Your baby is creepy”.
Because even at two weeks old, Katia’s eyes were intently trained on me in the way a stalker takes special interest in his or her current project.
Still, this was not enough to feel as though Katia was, like us, a Dagoonie.
There were little hints here and there, but it was when we were at a family cook out when she was two that my sisters and I realized nuthin had skipped nuthin.
My sister Kerri had invited close family friends of hers that she and her husband often refer to as “the Nigerians”. They are all related and if you invite some you are really inviting them all, and at that gathering there must have been twenty or so extra guests, kids in tow, to enjoy the “Seafood Extravaganza” that was my mom’s birthday meal that year.
Katia can be slow to warm, so at first she didn’t play with the other kids, who she’d never met before. And they were older boys, so she was shy. Or apparently just latent because within a few hours she’d taken interest in one boy in particular: Calvin. By dessert she was chasing Calvin around the yard, yelling his name, jutting out her hip with all the sassafrass her tiny body could emit: “Cal VIN! You come HERE! Cal VIN! I’m gonna get YOU! I’m gonna get youuuuuu!”
My husband and I were embarrassed.
I would have tried to rein her in but I was nine months pregnant and it was July.
Everyone else thought it was hilarious.
Still. There was hope. Her tendency to literally hide in my skirt folds if nervous made me think she was not a Dagoonie. Or, if that was not the case, she was a reluctant one. One that could still take after her father, if she was at all lucky. Because being a Dagoonie can be a lonely thing.
But this fall Katia started school.
On orientation day we met the other families and kids in Katia’s class. As Katia’s teacher explained her classroom to us, I scanned the other parents. I must admit, I was sizing them up. We’d searched for months for an affordable school that was not a daycare center. When a mother at dance class mentioned this one, and I researched it, it became clear the school was a magical place where parents were not asked to pay more tuition than we would at a small private college and was not a childcare wasteland where your kid could be eating paste all day for all you know. I was curious who else was joining us in this Shangri la and were we the least heeled couple in the lot. I couldn’t tell what kinds of cars these people drove, since we were inside, but I could furtively scope out engagement rings and handbags. I know. I am horrible. I should have been listening about curriculum and pick up practices, but I am a nosy B.
However, I became distracted.
Across the room a little boy was trying to break the heck out of there. Both his parents were trying to calmly and smoothly keep him from going AWOL.
“Albie*! No, No! Stay in, this is your new classroom.”
But Albie was not having it.
The teacher showed her seventeen years of experience.
“This,” she pointed to Albie below her, who was rattling the door with all his might. “This doesn’t bother me. It bothers you. Don’t let it. I know how to handle this.” And she kept on about snacks and making sure we packed hats and mittens in our kids’ knapsacks during winter.
Later that evening, Kaita mentioned she looked like a random chubby white guy on TV, and my right-quick prompted discussion that followed revealed she had picked up on the fact I was the only “brown” person in the room that morning. When I told my husband Katia thought I stuck out (my words) he was like, No you didn’t stick out, you know who stuck out? The parents with that kid who was trying to get out.
“That’s not nice.”
“Kirsten. Come on.”
And okay perhaps they…did a little.
Because in a room full of women dressed like moms, Albie’s mother looked like she hadn’t yet received her mom gear package in the mail. Tight acid wash jeans, long blond extensions, starlet oversized sunglasses, Uggs. I would have thought she’d had botox except Albie’s lips exhibited the same bee stung look. She smelled like perfume, not cheese or apple juice, like moms sometimes can. (And we can).
Albie’s dad stood out, too. White tight ish T shirt, tight pants, gelled curly hair.
“I am the only brown person.” I wondered if I should have pressed more for financial aid at the other places that prided themselves on diversity.
But “Come on,” was the reply.
The first day of school came.
Katia was rather secretive about how it went, until just before story time, when she drew a picture. Or, had us draw things, and narrated what should be in them.
“And, um, could you draw a little man over there?”
I got excited. A friend!
“Is Albie in your class?”
“Is he your friend?”
Two large brown eyes looked up at me, disturbingly and suddenly blank. Albie was still her secret.
I didn’t push.
Of all the kids for her to glob on to, she chose that one, my husband and I remarked. Alberto* is family name on my husband’s side. It was a little uncanny.
Because Albie kept coming up. Over and over. But it was not until this week that I began to worry.
“I wish I was a boy”
“Cause the boys, they not like girls and no one listens to me because I’m a girl.”
“Were you trying to play with Albie and he was playing with someone else?”
“Yeah. Other boys. I try and try but they not listen because I am a girl. One day I can be a boy. I just don’t know how. No one listens, I am just a girl”.
I should have had a good come back for this, but it broke my heart.
Later she revealed she needed to ask Albie to marry her, but she was not sure how, but could I please ask Albie’s mother for a playdate? So he could come into our house?
And recently she snuck an extra headband in to school to give to, you guessed it, Albie. When I told her we couldn’t bring headbands to school for just one kid, she said she had more for the other kids, but this one was for Albie.
She is breaking my heart over and over.
“That poor kid,” my husband said today. “He probably tries to get away from her. She’s probably driving him crazy.”
Our tactic now is to mention the other kids in her class and hope Albie is not her only Mokey. Maybe she can find someone else who is as exuberant as she is.
Because it is hard to place your heart out there in the shape of headbands and have it be ignored.
Which is probably why my sisters and I still laugh so hard at that one half hour of Fraggle Rock that we’ve carried around with us for decades; the laughter is a cover.
Because it is a wrenching experience to be a Dagoonie. It is much easier to keep your headbands to yourself.
And I wonder how to teach my daughter to keep her heart open and warm, when her experiences will probably ask that she does otherwise.
So Dagoonie, wherever you are, I feel you, man. All four of us Greenidgegirls do.
*Names have been changed
**This post is made possible by a generous intellectual contribution from Kaitlyn Greenidge