The theme song to “Gumby” that accompanied the closing credits always made me cry when I was little.

. . . He can walk into any book
with his pony pal, Pokey, too.
If you’ve got a heart,
then Gumby’s a part of you.

I can’t tell you anything that happens in a single episode of Gumby, though I must’ve watched it every day for a few years. I don’t remember particularly liking the show, though I rarely missed an episode, and had a much-loved toy Pokey. I remember the profound sadness I felt whenever it ended, when those cheerful children’s voices went on about books and ponies and hearts.

I sing the song to myself now, two decades since I’ve seen an episode of Gumby, and still feel a ghost of that old sadness, familiar and immediate in my throat. He was once a little green ball of clay, just like Adam in Genesis and all that.

I wanted to be Gumby.

Gumby could walk into a book, any book. Literally. He could go into the world that existed within a book, whether jungle or pirate ship or outer space. Forget flying. Nevermind invisibility. Gumby’s is the super power I would choose, if I could pick one.

(As a child, what world would I have chosen to inhabit, if any? Zuckerman’s farm. Hands down.)

If you’ve got a heart then Gumby’s a part of you. You’d think that would be a comfort to someone who so desperately desired to do what Gumby could do, but I didn’t really dig that sentiment, or that line in the song. There was something I didn’t like about Gumby, something didn’t sit right with me. Something creepy about Claymation. Something outdated.

Why was I so sad when the show was over? Something about the time of day, about what came next? This rings a bell like a warning. Better not to think about that.

Focusing instead on the feeling as it related to “Gumby.” Perhaps it was frustration. In every episode, I looked for clues. How does he do it. Gumby, how do you manage to get into those books? Literally into them? Frustration, when it’s over, that I’m no closer to an answer truth. The episode never offered me clues on how I could do what Gumby did, only these platitudes about reading books and using your imagination. Well, duh. I could do that. But it wasn’t enough. I wanted to take it to the next level.

Gumby, please, man, you gotta fill me in here. How can I do what what you do? I need tips, clues, hints, anything. Help me puzzle it out so that I, too, can escape into any exotic or mundane locale I choose, so long as I own or have access to a book about it.

How does Gumby do it? The answer I always came back to is that you have to be made out of clay for it to work, to possess Gumby’s infinite mutability, his power of transfiguration at will, which is of course something that I can’t do. Even if, as Genesis suggests, I am made of clay.