Young love starts earlier and earlier these days.Â
My daughter, who is 15 months old, has developed aÂ huge crush on Elmo, the red-haired, falsetto-voiced 'monster' on Sesame Street and in toy stores (in different versions every year)Â around the holidays.Â
Her first word was "Da-da".Â Heh heh, yours truly.Â Proud papa.
Her second word was "Elmo".Â Huh?Â Â Â
We have two Elmos.Â One isÂ a small plastic one, perfect for carrying around or dropping in the dog food, toilet, garbage, diaper pail or any other place attractive to toddlers.Â Â We alsoÂ have a large fuzzy one that we picked up in a consignment shop.Â It talks, sings and does the limbo if you squeeze its hand.Â The last time I did the limbo was at one of those all-inclusive resorts that specializes in rum punches and hangovers.Â Nobody had to squeeze anything.
Elmo has an infectious laugh.Â In an interview with Kevin Clash,Â Elmo's creator and puppeteer explains that at first the trademarkÂ giggle was discouraged by one of the show's producers who told him "he's cute, but he laughs too much".Â Tell that to the people at Mattel who won't disclose sales figures, butÂ will say that if you stood all the Elmo dolls they've made on each other's shouldersÂ they would reach Saturn.Â Ok, I made that up.Â Probably just Mars.Â
Elmo refers to himself in the third person.Â Usually that privilege is reserved for the Queen of England and the Pope.Â He can get away with it because he's so insanely cute, not that the Pope and the Queen aren't, it just comesÂ as a perk with their jobs.Â
From a parent's perspective, my daughter could do a lot worse.Â Elmo speaks in simple sentences, ideal for young learning.Â He loves his friends, he sharesÂ and he even takes care ofÂ Dorothy, his pet goldfish.Â He sees the humor in everything and isn't afraid to laugh.Â That's a life skill worth learning early and often.Â Watching Sesame Street with my daughter in my lap has become part of our daily routine and it's just as much fun for me as it is for her.
Before long I'll be greeting some awkward, gangly teenage suitor at the porch door, who has come to take my daughter out somewhere.Â He'll be nervous, she'll be nervous and I'll be nervous.Â Yes, this isÂ a long timeÂ from now but when you have kids the years disappear like quarters into a sofa.Â I'll invite him in for a lemonade, and we'll talk a little.Â I'll hope toÂ discover a little spark, some wit...maybe a high, infectious laugh.Â She deserves someone with aÂ good sense of humor; after all, this is the girl whose first love was a fuzzy puppet.Â
This year the new doll is "Elmo Live".Â It costs $60 (if you can find one) and requires 6 AA batteries.Â That's a lot of batteries.Â The manufacturer says "He waves his arms, sits and stands, even crosses his legs all the while telling stories and jokes, singing songs and playing games."Â
Hell, I can do all that withÂ no batteries.Â Just pour me another rum punch.