Six year old Sapphire fell in love with Elmo when she was a mere three months old, sitting in her rocker and gurgling gleefully at the red fuzzy muppet with ping pong balls for eyes who sang and danced on the television in front of her (whilst her Mum was having a much-needed shower, you understand). At six months, she'd clap her hands excitedly and rock up and down; and by seven months she just about stood up and ran a circle in her glee when I bought a large Elmo home for her.
It was a match made for life it seemed. At night we'd have to pry her fingers from his furry body so that she'd stop sweating from the warmth of his fur only to find that he'd inveigled his way back into her arms by morning. He was wheeled around the house, clattering on the wooden floorboards in a toy pram; often adorned with scarves, beads and beanies and sometimes helped her 'eat' whatever foods she disliked - usually the stickier ones.
He rarely left her side when she was at home and she tended to show her deep affection for the red monster by swinging his body along the side of her cot so that his sturdy plastic eyes went rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat along the wooden bars - not unlike a prisoner clanging his enamel cup to get the sherriff's attention (or to avoid a rape scene, but that's another blog entirely).
Every few months, poor Elmo's fur condition got bad enough that a bath was needed. These were very emotional times for our young Sapphire, who was assured during every step of the washing way that he was going to live; he was enjoying it and he simply loved hanging out on the clothesline to dry by his long arms. Admittedly, it was rather unsettling to see a red furry creature out on the line in an imitation of Christ's crucifixion......
By eleven months, she was sitting on my lap as I leafed through a 'Who' magazine, and spotted a photograph of some African elephants standing next to some villagers who had some bongo drums. The drums had white skins with black centres and Sapphire cooed: "Look - Elmo eyes!" Fair enough too.When our blue eyed girl was three, she had a cold that just didn't seem to ever want to leave - her cough persisted and eventually was diagnosed as asthma. On our doctor's advice, we got rid of her feather quilt and bought some polar-fleece blankets that were regularly washed in hot water. "And does she sleep with any toys?" Yes, her beloved buddy Elmo. "Is he furry?"
Yes, of course he is - don't you watch 'Elmo's World' you culturally ignorant plebeian? "In that case, she should no longer continue sleeping with it. His fur will be breathed in by her - with all of the associated dust mites - and will make her condition worse."
We dreaded having to tell our daughter that Elmo was still welcome in her home but just not in her bed. Would there be tears, tantrums or rebellion? Love Chunks and I sat with her on the sofa, sandwiched between us. "Look Sapphire, the doctor says that you are, um, allergic to Elmo. What that means is that his fur makes your breathing bad and you aren't allowed to have him in your bed with you anymore." We both looked at her intently for any sign of an outburst. "Sweetie, do you understand what Daddy's telling you? That you can't sleep with Elmo in your bed at night any more?"
She nodded at me, impatient to climb down and attack her playdough. "So how do you feel about it?"
"OK, Mummy." What a relief - maybe she'd outgrown him anyway and would-----
"Mummy when will you buy me a new Elmo to sleep with then?"
Oh dear, it all went through to the keeper. "No love we can't, he's too furry for you. But we do have---" I whipped a toy from behind my back "---- a Jessie the cow girl doll for you!"
No response and no reaching for it either. I felt desperate. "She doesn't have fur, she's on that Toy Story 2 movie that you like and she wants you to be her owner."
Sapphire looked doubtful, but took Jessie from me reluctantly, and shoved her under her pillow.
That was over three years ago. Jessie is now completely flat, almost uniformly grey in colour and the leather on her boots has worn off. She is soaked in napisan and hung out to dry in the crucifixion pose twice a year without any dramas. She is cuddled directly under Sapphire's arms every night and is always there in the mornings; and still has her entire wardrobe, hat and plaits intact. She is not played with or acknowledged by our little girl outside of bedtime hours but is a night time essential for her.
Whilst feeling grateful that Jessie was easily replace Elmo after he was given the Big Elbow, it is rather touching to note that it is still Elmo that Carly plays with in her room. As I finish typing this, he's right now in the toy high chair, wearing a strand of pearls with an angel's halo on his furry red head.