There is no doubt that eighteen-month-old Bootsie recognizes me when she sees me on Skype. Her eyebrows arch with excitement, and her eyes light up. If her mama is holding her, she lunges for the computer screen (Clarification: Bootsie, not Mama, lunges. Darn those ambiguous pronouns anyway.) Then, in her most fervent little voice, she cries out to me that special name I have come to accept as her fondest greeting: "MEL-mo!"
I may have to resort to therapy to accept the fact that, in the mind of my youngest granddaughter, I am inextricably associated with a furry little red muppet that talks in a high-pitched voice and giggles a lot. Unfortunately, it is my own fault. From the beginning, Bootsie has had a special affinity for the mechanical singing "Pizza Elmo" that I snatched up at a garage sale last summer. She knows every book on my shelf that has a picture of Elmo somewhere among its pages.
In fact, she is so crazy about him that, at some point during each Skype session, I have to retrieve him from the toy room and let him and his cheesy little round buddy have their moment in front of the webcam. When the pizza sings, I zoom him in for a close-up, bemoaning my lost potential as a movie director. Meanwhile, 180 miles away, Bootsie bobs her head back and forth and claps her hands and thinks life can't get much better. No doubt about it, Bootise loves her Mel-mo.
You would think I'd have learned my lesson. But, au contraire, mon ami, if what I did yesterday is any indication. I prefer to blame this on fate rather than personal stupidity, but right there in front of me on a garage sale table lay the most intriguing specimen of Elmo-icana that I have ever seen. It was Elmo designed like Mr. Potato Head, with holes to hold different body parts from feet to noses to ears. What's more, Elmo talks to you while you mix and match the various additions.
You put a long, gray trunk on him, and he says, "It's Elmo-fant!" A pig snout will elicit an "Oink, oink" and a giggle. Add a chicken beak/comb and you will be tempted to check underneath Elmo for an egg. I have played with him for two days now and still have not heard all the different things he says.
Elmo and his eighteen removable parts came in a Zip-loc bag for a bargain price of $1. Even his batteries are still going strong. So, I ask you, how could any self-respecting Googie have resisted this one?
I can't wait to introduce Bootsie to Potato Head Elmo. The older kids will like him too, but it is Bootsie who will get the biggest kick out of him. When she puts on his elephant foot and he says, "That tickles," she will giggle right along with him, and that will be a joy to hear.
I see only one problem with the situation: I predict that, down the road, this new Elmo may further monopolize my Skype time. Oh well, look on the bright side. This can only mean more opportunity to practice with the webcam--and, perhaps, more money for the shrink.