My granddaughter toddled down the stairs after naptime, bleary-eyed, hair sticking out in all directions. She crawled up into my lap and said, “Elmo.”
In our house, we do not say the “E” word. Not because we dislike Sesame Street’s furry red monster, but because we do like him. A lot.
Poor Elmo suffers from overexposure. He has been serialized and video-ized and merchandized until I am sure there’s not a toddler within these 50 states (and Puerto Rico) who does not know his name. As icons go, he’s a good one. He’s kind and happy and fun to be with. A child could do worse. It’s just that grownups have a lower Elmo tolerance than their 2-year-old counterparts. After the third or fourth daily viewing, they begin to look around desperately for some kind of substitution.
Grandmothers can take a bit more than parents, but since I have two granddaughters who have reached the Elmo plateau simultaneously, I find myself singing the “Elmo’s World” theme song in the grocery store. Every goldfish is a Dorothy. When I turn on my computer in the morning, my mind is saying, “Susan has mail! Susan has mail!”
The difference is that I’ve been here before. My daughters were part of the Cabbage Patch mania, that dreaded time when every child wanted one of the strangely ill-proportioned darlings and the only ones who got them were the children whose parents were either underhanded or well-connected. Desperate mothers (and grandmothers) camped out at store openings. They developed inside connections at Kmart to find out when shipments were coming in and met the truck at the loading dock, and that was just in my neighborhood. It was the worst kind of musical chairs, because every time the theme song stopped, someone still did not have a doll. (My girls received their Cabbage Patch babies from their Auntie Donna whose mother-in-law had an “in” some place in Chicago. I didn’t ask for details.)
Six months later, the Cabbage Patch lovelies were thrown in the bottom of the closet, because the girls had moved on, one to My Little Ponies and the other to He-Man: Master of the Universe. Past that, it was Barbie and Star Wars until they converged several years later for the New Kids on the Block.
My 5-year-old grandson started out with “Toy Story.” He carried Buzz and Woody with him everywhere. He had a Buzz and Woody poster, Buzz and Woody pajamas, a Buzz and Woody pedal car. And then, just when we thought we had things all figured out, up stepped Thomas the Tank Engine, and we started the process all over again.
Fixations. They’re a part of being human, I suppose. And if you’re thinking this is a childhood phenomenon, let me say two words: Beanie Babies. Or how about iPhone 6? Tell me that’s not Cabbage Patch dolls all over again. We fixate and then we move on, none the wiser.
My granddaughters will move on, too. They missed the “Frozen” phenomenon, but soon a new cartoon hero or heroine will emerge with cuddly plush figures, costumes, sleeping bags and videos parts I and II, and we will begin a multi-state search for the new must-haves.
My grandson will soon be 6, and his wish list is filled with Skylander paraphernalia, characters so ugly they make Cabbage Patch dolls look like Christie Brinkley. It makes me miss Buzz and Woody.
I know I’ll miss Elmo, too. But not yet. La, la, la, la…la, la, la, la…I’m locked in Elmo’s world. ϖ