Yesterday, Mom and Lucia found themselves entangled in a grand, frantic adventure. In the morning, they went to a music class, and when it was time to leave, Mom realized that Lucia’s beloved plush Elmo was gone. Since Bibi isn’t permitted to leave the house, Lucia’s regular traveling companions are Elmo and her pink corduroy Cat; “Cat Elmo,” she says whenever we’re preparing to go anywhere, and she hurries to find them. “Cat Elmo.” She goes nowhere without them. And now Elmo was gone, naptime was approaching, and disaster loomed.
On the advice of someone in the class, Mom checked out a toystore on 7th Avenue; they did not have the right size Elmo. After she called me to report on the loss, I called all the other Park Slope toystores and finally found one that claimed to have Elmos in all sizes—of course, this was a store about fifteen blocks away. I told Mom to go back home, put the stroller inside, wait on the stoop, and then get into the car I was going to call for her. In the background I could hear Lucia: “Elmo. Elmo. Elmo” and Mom saying reassuringly, “We’re going to get into a car to go get Elmo.”
The car arrived and took Mom and Lucia to the toystore, where an exact replica of the missing Elmo was found. She called when she was outside, I called for a car to pick her up, and later Mom reported that Lucia couldn’t have been any happier with “New Elmo,” kissing and snuggling him. Crisis averted. Naptime successful. Total cost of six-inch-tall New Elmo: about $25. Worth every penny.
Insanities like this—the genuine panic and distress (on Grandma and Mama’s parts) arising from the loss of a Sesame Street doll, and the feeling of to-the-ends-of-the-earth determination to find another one—are among the things no one warned me about before I became a parent. Had someone told me that I would once launch an Elmo search from a hospital bed—and that I’d feel my blood pressure rise at the idea of my child being without this toy for any length of time—I’d have said they were nuts. I’d have said she could surely have another toy, or get over that toy, or wait for a new toy to arrive from Amazon in a few days. Little did I know that’s not the way it works in Toddlerland.
Side note: As soon as Mom told me Elmo was lost, I posted a notice to the amazing neighborhood listserv, Park Slope Parents, that’s like a giant bulletin board for 5,000 local parents. I got one phone call from a man who said an Elmo had been found at the Food Co-op; an email from a mom saying I could come over to look at her son’s Elmo and have it if it was the same kind; and a couple of emails from a woman who’d also been blindsided by a crazy Elmo search and who just wanted to commiserate. A true secret society, this parenting thing. You’re either in it or you’re not. If I were on the outside of it all I’d have nothing but rolled eyes in response, full of smug self-assurances that this would never be me.