Sunday, June 26, 2011

Imagination

This weekend, Andrew, Lucia, and I continued our potential-new-home explorations by going to a few towns in New Jersey. We went to Montclair, Maplewood, South Orange, and Summit and really liked what we saw—beautiful houses, nice little downtowns. The yards seemed on the small side, but we were only looking from the street as we drove by. It wasn’t hard to imagine us living in one of these places. Of course, it’s equally hard to imagine leaving Brooklyn, though who knows how we’ll feel in a year or so.

On the way home, I gave Lucia a bottle of milk, hoping she’d fall asleep in the car. She didn’t, and she didn’t really drink the milk, but I heard her babbling like crazy to herself, saying “Hello, hello, hello” over and over again. When I snuck a look back at her reflection in the baby mirror, I saw that she was holding the bottle up to her ear like a phone, saying “Hello,” and then giving the bottle/phone to her corduroy cat to “talk”—which is exactly what we do at home with her actual toy phone. Forgive me while I indulge in praising my baby (it’s my blog!), but I was impressed with her imagination. She was absorbed in her game; to her, the bottle really was a phone, she was really greeting someone, and her cat was really talking to that person once she passed the phone over.

We made a purchase at a toy store in Montclair that I didn’t expect to make for a while: a small Elmo stuffed animal. I bring this up because Elmo’s entry into our lives has taken me and Andrew by surprise. I haven’t introduced any “characters” at all to Lucia yet—we don’t watch any TV, and we have no books with cartoon characters in them. Her clothes, accessories, and toys are free of TV characters. But we have one little friend whose house we’ve been to many times, and he has one (one!) Elmo doll. It’s not a toy that the babies play with while we’re there—it was maybe out once, a while ago—but when we were there last week, Lucia saw it on a shelf, pointed, and said, “Elmo.” How did she know? And why was she so excited?

That got the ball rolling. She just began wearing size-three diapers, which come adorned with Sesame Street characters—including Elmo. When I was changing her one day not long after that—it might have even been the same day—she saw the diaper and rejoiced at seeing Elmo. She snuggled the diaper, kissed the diaper, cried “Elmo! Elmo!” in the cutest voice I’ve ever heard.

Curious to see what her reaction would be to the actual Elmo, I sat her in my lap and pulled up an Elmo video from the Sesame Street website—he was sitting at a piano, singing a song. Lucia went bananas. “ELMO! ELMO!” she screamed. She blew kisses at the screen. Then she stood on my lap, leaned forward, and kissed the screen. She clapped along with the song. When it was over, she begged for more “ELMO!” like a drug addict.

So we bought her a small Elmo. She snuggles and kisses it. She asks for it. And she always says his name in a thrilled, happy voice. It’s fine. It’s cute. The little videos I’ve watched are fine, too, actually funny. (It’s hard to have anything against Sesame Street.) But I, for one, am shocked at how suddenly this happened—and a little taken aback at how little I had to do with it.

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