Beenie is coming to spend the night with me tomorrow, and this time he won't be going home alone. There in his bag--tucked amid clean clothes and diapers, conspicuous among the animal cracker crumbs and random playthings--will be something old and brown and hairy and--yes--ugly.
Finally, after living here at Googie's over a quarter of a century, son Teebo's much-loved, much-mauled replica of the infamous Gordon Shumway is going home to be reunited with his original owner. Tired of sitting on the top shelf of Teebo's old bedroom closet, Gordon is striking out to seek the companionship of a new generation of little boys.
You may remember Gordon better by his nickname, ALF. With his name derived from the acronym for "Alien Life Form," Alf was an extraterrestrial from the planet Melmac in the NBC sitcom aired in the late 1980s.
Perhaps resembling an aardvark more than anything else, Alf was a wise-cracking, cat-eating creature taken in by the Tanners, a typical middle-class American family, when his spaceship crash-landed in their garage. Despite his cynical one-liners and voracious appetite, Alf managed to endear himself to his TV family--and to many kids growing up at the same time in real American families such as ours.
When Teebo got his 18"-tall Alf doll, the two of them were inseparable. It was not unusual for him to tell me things like, "Alf and I went for a wagon ride," or "Alf and I picked some strawberries."
I became quite accustomed to hearing from Teebo that he and Alf had done this or that, even when it came to a little boy's imaginings. "Alf and I went for a ride in his spaceship," Teebo would say, and I would smile, say "That's nice," and go on with my vacuuming.
In first grade, Alf would often accompany Teebo to school, and I heard about many of their adventures at recess. So I didn't think anything about it when, on the day school pictures were taken, Teebo came home and told me, "Alf and I had our picture taken today." Once again, I just said, "That's nice" and smiled--that is, until I saw this:
Sure enough, Alf had stuck his long, hairy nose into Teebo's first-grade picture! Fast-forwarding to what this was going to mean come Christmas card time, my mind screamed that surely this was some kind of joke. I shuffled frantically through the envelope for the real pictures, but what I saw was what I got: "Merry Christmas, everyone, from our family--and Alf!"
Well, I managed to live through that Christmas, and "The Time Teebo Had His School Picture Taken With Alf'" lives permanently among our well-loved family stories. So much so that Alf, decked out in the pomp and circumstance of mortarboard, graciously served as centerpiece at Teebo's college graduation party.
That's why I was struck the other day when I saw Alf lying listlessly on the closet shelf. It was obvious that he again longs for the companionship of a special little boy, and I know just the one to fill the bill.
Beenie, Alf is going home with you. You guys have fun together, and be sure to take good care of him. Because in about four years, he needs to look his best for your first-grade picture.