I used to laugh at my mother.
It would begin with her getting on the phone with a customer service representative. (Keep in mind that this was back in Ye Good Olde Days before Al Gore singlehandedly invented the Internet, when instead of yelling at ambiguous, unhelpful websites or cussing at incompetent live-chat reps in all caps, the only game in town was to actually haggle with a real person about bills, warranties, and Hooked on Phonics.)
While my mother attempted to insult the intelligence of whatever dolt she was dealing with on the other line, some semblance of the following events would transpire.
My two younger sisters, who were a year apart and constant playmates, would be “Doing a Story,” their name for playing out an improvisational narrative with a star-studded cast of Barbies, My Little Ponies, and whichever Legos their brother failed to hide well enough. In choosing which playthings each of them would voice, the oldest of the two would always weasel her way into First Draft Pick.
“I’ll be Malibu Botox Barbie.”
“No! You got to be Malibu Botox Barbie last time we Did a Story!”
“But this is the sequel. I have to be Malibu Botox Barbie again or else we’ll tank at the box office. The fan base expects me, not some young, up-and-coming no-name. Here, you can be Especially Flamboyant Ken.”
“Girls!” my Mom would hiss. “I’m on the phone!”
Fully engrossed in their heated casting session, their battle would rage on without even acknowledging my mother.
“Then be Less-Exciting Sister With the Arm Missing Stacie!”
“Why can’t I be one of those 20 other Barbies?”
“Because I’m Barbie.”
“We need more balls!” my wife cried urgently.
Giggling, I replied “That’s what she sai–“
“Don’t. Just get another one.”
We were in the midst of a Clash of the Ti-twins over a ball, only one of which was out in the living room with them. When an item changes hands between my loinfruits every five seconds punctuated by banshee screams and floor flails, it can get ugly pretty quickly, hence my wife’s desperation. She kept them separated like a boxing referee listening to The Offspring while I hopped the baby gate and scoured the playroom for more balls, trying to suppress the flood of terribly unfunny ball-related innuendos I wanted to crack.
Does ball size matter?
Where would you like me to put the balls?
Will the deflated balls still work?
See? Just terrible. Anyway…
As buried as I am in my edumacation, I thrive on routine because I know when I can expect to just barely pull off a project minutes before its deadline without being interrupted by disagreements over whose Mickey Mouse sticker is whose. While my über-regimented schedule lacks the spontaneity I prefer, knowing exactly when I can sit and focus free of tiny face-fives keeps me productive and sane–both highly desirable qualities in a person entrusted with the lives of multiple one-year-olds.
Since I live on a planet where academic research design and Disney Sing-Along-Songs are king, I’d entirely forgotten that Easter was, in fact, this weekend, and I’m a little ashamed to confess that my gut reaction to this realization was annoyance.
My son has created a catch phrase that very well could sweep the nation. You may not have heard it yet because it is currently being swept under the nation’s rug, but once this news hits the interweb, look out.
The pop culture revolution began with my mother, who watches the Twins twice a week while I doctorize on campus. As the kids slowly become geniuses just like their parents, they are constantly acquiring new skills and lifehacks–like standing up and walking on their own, infiltrating government-grade security measures, or composing their very first rock opera (entitled American Infant) with nothing but a toy xylophone and Daddy’s GarageBand app.
Appropriately, whenever the Twins would use their newfound superpowers for good, my mother made a point to positively reinforce these behaviors, thus congratulating, “You did it!”
This became an overnight chart-topper with the kids, and soon, around November, every time my son accomplished a task, he’d triumphantly proclaim, “Did it!”
I was already mourning the morning walk.
Before we’d even traveled a block my dog had decided to lead the caravan, walking directly in front of the jogging stroller, her hindquarters mere inches from the front wheel. I don’t know why she insists upon this walking arrangement–maybe she likes to think she’s in charge–but(t) it never “ends” well for her, typically culminating in me literally running her ass over. It begins when she looks back at the stroller and decides she is terrified of it, so terrified that she freezes in place, causing the usually-taut leash to slack and wrap around the stroller’s back axle, putting us at a dead stop just after the tire bumps her square on the cheeks. I do my best to stop before the butt-bump, but she forces me to tailgate her at an unsafe following distance.
On this particular day, she had jumped to deer-in-headlights mode so abruptly and forcibly that it had pulled her harness clean off. (We attach the leash to her harness and not her collar because after years of scientific research, we have determined she would rather be choked to death than respond to leash tugs.) And because my dog just barely qualifies as obedient, I knew I had to act quickly on this leashless freedom unless I wanted to choose between:
1) chasing her around the neighborhood, loudly cussing her out while she thinks its a game, waking the Twins from their stroller catnaps and yielding a sterophonic meltdown; or
2) tritely employing the if-you-love-her-set-her-free-and-if-she-never-returns-she-was-never-yours axiom, which would most likely mean never seeing my beloved canine again, as she would surely make a grand exit from this life in Harry Houdini fashion while performing her famous freezing-in-front-of-an-oncoming vehicle trick.
It was in that moment that I remembered I am a ninja, as my keen, subconscious reflexes sprang into action, one-handedly snagging her by the tail, keeping the other hand firmly planted on the stroller.
She turned her head towards me, dumbly panting with glee, as if to say. “That was fun, Dad!”
Can you guess what John is thinking about today? That’s right–Elmo!
You know, Elmo!
John has been watching Sesame Street with John’s Twins for a few months now and John has learned a lot about Elmo, but John has noticed some things about Elmo that confuse John. Unlike Elmo, John has no self-aware drawers and doesn’t have a family of mimes lurking outside John’s window who are always waiting with a smile when “Shade” goes up, so John wondered how to find out more about Elmo’s Worldview.
Then, suddenly, John had a spectacular idea–John should write Elmo a letter!
Here is John’s letter to Elmo:
First of all, John wants to say that John is a huge fan of Elmo’s, and has been ever since John was just a little boy. John remembers when Elmo got his first big break on Sesame Street, starting with only a few special guest appearances, but look at Elmo now! Elmo is the star! Yaaaaay! Plus, whatever Elmo is doing to stay in shape must be working because Elmo doesn’t seem to have aged a day.
John knows that Elmo has haters who are angry about Elmo taking Sesame Street by storm, “stealing” the spotlight away from traditional Street Performers like Big Bird, Oscar, Bert, Ernie, and especially Grover, who–as a result of Elmo’s coup de cutest–has retreated into an even more deluded version of his Super Grover alter-ego, trying way too hard to make himself relevant by unnecessarily upgrading his superhero uniform to “2.0” status and constantly asserting himself as “cute” in a futile, passive-aggressive attempt to dethrone Elmo’s natural, organic cuteness. John will even admit to agreeing with the Anti-Elmo League for a while, but now that John is a Loyal Viewer, John gets it.
Elmo is a natural born entertainer. Eternal optimism, a curious thirst for life, and genuine care for one’s fellow monster make Elmo hard NOT to love–so much so that people are even willing to overlook Elmo speaking exclusively in the third person and avoiding pronouns except the occasional “he” when talking about Elmoself, in order to avoid a rapid-fire, five-“Elmo” sentence. (Did Elmo notice John is doing the same thing in this letter? John wonders if John can get away with it.)
In fact, Elmo is so captivating that John DVRs Sesame Street every day because John often finds the one way John and John’s wife can afford 15 minutes to eat dinner without shrieking banshee interruptions is by putting on “Elmo’s World” for John’s loinfruits. John realizes the “World” is really intended for older viewers, but John’s Twins just adore Elmo and always kick their little feet when they hear the “Elmo’s World Theme Song.”
Which brings John to the reason for this letter.
John knows that Elmo and John are friends because Elmo has told John so in numerous grand, on-air gestures, so since Elmo and John are friends, John feels comfortable asking Elmo just a few earnest queries about the “Elmo’s World Theme Song.”
See, Elmo, John is sure you realize how unbelievably catchy the song is. It was a runaway success in its first incarnation as “Elmo’s Song,” and as “Elmo’s World” has become arguably the Street’s most popular segment, the ditty has become engrained–tattooed even–in the consciousness of parents and children everywhere. John wonders if–when Elmo was writing the song–he acquired government funding for a team of musically-inclined scientists to discover the most irresistibly infectious permutation of notes possible, or maybe had Paul McCartney or Neil Diamond ghost-write it, or even is hiding a resurrected John Lennon somewhere on the set (Oscar’s can?).
John will pause now for Elmo to imagine Neil Diamond singing “Elmo’s World.” Legendary.
John thinks Elmo should get on the phone with Elmo’s agent and make that happen.
Anyway, Elmo, John’s point is the song is addictive. While home with the Twins, John finds himself involuntarily and spontaneously belting out “Elmo’s Song” as if under a spell, and even writing and performing John’s own off-the-cuff verses.
But that’s not even John’s real complaint.
Elmo, John has issue with the lyrics.
La la la-la, la la la-la, Elmo’s World
La la la-la, la la la-la, Elmo’s World
Elmo loves his goldfish,
His crayon, too.
That’s Elmo’s World.
John thinks it will help if John breaks it down.
La la la-la, la la la-la…
Okay, now this makes sense. Not only does this hearken back to the old, classic origin of the song; non-word, sung syllables have proven to be an excellent avenue to a solid hook, as they are easy to remember and facilitate sing-alongs. Look at the beginning of J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold” and the climactic end of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” With this in mind, John is already singing along with Elmo after a single “La.”
Next, Elmo illuminates his Loyal Viewers as to what is happening. Elmo is inviting Elmo’s Loyal Viewers into “Elmo’s World.” Elmo will assumedly proceed to describe what the journey into “Elmo’s World” will be like. Elmo is doing a great job so far!
Elmo loves his goldfish,
According to Elmo’s argument, the first phenomenon to expect in “Elmo’s World” is the love of a pet goldfish. Elmo still has John’s attention here, because this lyric also fits. It is no secret that Elmo loves Dorothy, and rightly so. John is not a big fish guy, but would convert if John had a goldfish who could generate aquarium sculptures with her fish-mind powers, too.
Where did Elmo get Dorothy? Does Dorothy have any relatives that John could adopt? Now, John could point out the rare use of a pronoun in this line, but that’s not a big deal. It would disrupt the fluidity, anyway.
His crayon, too.
There it is, Elmo–the problematic line, the one that keeps John up at night, wondering WHY? It’s definitely apparent that Elmo is a crayon enthusiast. In fact, Elmo’s entire house seems to be constructed from them. But Elmo, John never sees you actually use the crayon. John assumes that possibly, at some point, the crayon was used more frequently, but seldom does Elmo incorporate the crayon into “Elmo’s World” nowadays.
Elmo has already said that Elmo loves his goldfish–why not issue a shout-out to other entities in “Elmo’s World” who help Elmo every day? What about Mr. Noodle, his brother Mr. Noodle, and his sister Ms. Noodle, who realize they are not very bright, but still, every episode, try to answer Elmo’s questions, only to be met with ridicule from voice-over children?
What about “Drawer” who always helps Elmo learn more about what Elmo is thinking about? (Maybe Drawer keeps knocking Elmo over because Drawer is indignant.)
Because it’s a theme song, Elmo only has a short amount of time to encapsulate “Elmo’s World,” and the crayon simply isn’t part of it.
Then, Elmo, the song just ends.
That’s Elmo’s World
No, Elmo, it isn’t. That’s not “Elmo’s World.” Elmo implies that Elmo has summarized the World, but Elmo has only scratched the surface and wasted limited song real estate on a nonessential element.
John hopes this doesn’t upset Elmo, but John just can’t wrap John’s head around it, and because John still busts the song around the house as if in a musical, John is faced with this dilemma every time John sings about that darn crayon.
Please, Elmo. Don’t leave John hanging like this. Why is that line in Elmo’s song?
John has a feeling Elmo understands and thanks Elmo for hearing John out. John looks forward to Elmo’s response.
Author & CEO, Twinfamy
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If not, John is still so happy to see you!