Tag - elmo

Looking Up (And Moving On)
Here, on the Sound
July 12: John’s Friends
Goobers and Goblins

Looking Up (And Moving On)

Signs are everywhere, did you know? They are on houses and in stores, they are on TV and in school — and of course they dot roads and highways. They are part of the landscape but you don’t really notice them, do you? You just accept that they are there, all with messages we’ve heard before: No u-turn, slow down, curved road ahead.

Hexagons and triangles, like STOP and YIELD, are John’s favorites. From the time he could walk, he’d race towards the tall and towering: his gaze up, his feet fast. Strapped in a stroller, he’d lean forward and flap with excitement at the sight of the 2-hour parking signs that lined our road. At each one, he’d turn and follow it as we passed, like they were having a conversation.

signs1 copy I’m not sure when he began counting the signs as we drove past them, but maybe he was all along.

“ONE sign,” he says as we drive to the library, passing a YIELD.

“TWO sign,” as the SPEED LIMIT 35 MPH appears.

“THREE signs,” he says, U-turn ahead.

He counts not just the ones on our side of the street, but the ones with their backs to us on the other side too (so that now even I’m craning my neck to see what they say).

He is my backseat tour guide.


After school we drive down our long dirt road and here? Here there are signs posted on trees. So many trees, so many signs — mostly with warnings about not going too fast. I don’t see them anymore. Why? Because I am gripping the wheel over potholes and bumps. I KNOW the speed limit is 10mph, thankyouverymuch. The talking from the backseat goes up and down with the car’s movement. At first I think it’s Elmo’s World, He’s scripting a video. It sounds like Wansinitry, tasinitry, thrasinitry — Elmo talk.

And suddenly I understand he is saying:

“ONE sign on tree… TWO sign on tree… THREE sign on tree.”

When we get to the last one before the driveway, he proclaims, “SEVEN SIGN ON TREE! WE’VE EARNED A STICKER!” and he waves Elmo high, triumphant. Now he does it every day and each time I smile. His face is so happy.


The comfort of these symbols nailed to trees and on posts — that at the end of a long road you are home. You struggle with disappointments big (we already know those) and small (the clouds for the beach, the Teletubbies CD already checked out at the library) — but at least the signs are there, if you’re looking and listening for them. Signs to point you home.

I suppose we all do the same, marking off touchstones one by one: The morning alarm clock, the coffee brewing, the cat rubbing against a leg to be fed. Meals made, lunches packed, work at the computer. Time passes and you trust in the familiar signs you’ve come to recognize as yours.

And if all the signs, ALL the signs were there all along? What else is to be done but to forgive and move on? Not the ones who hurt you (although they say that is necessary to your survival and you know it and you’re working on it but it’s not easy and not imminent). You stopped looking up, you see. Signs all the way back to the very beginning had you known to look. Like magic, you believed in the trick and ignored the sleight of hand.

No —forgive yourself. It’s time.

January 2007

January 2007

Here, on the Sound

Life is not always rosy but when you’re on vacation and your child does not bolt at every opportunity but instead turns when you call his name and miraculously, comes running — well, life is pretty damn picturesque. This means that going to the beach isn’t just one big exasperating John-chase. You can sit and take in the sand and surf and appreciate how magnificent it all is.

Last year, John took a cast of Sesame Street characters everywhere he went. It was a struggle to find a bag to contain them all. In that regard, we are fortunate this summer because he has one lone traveling companion: an Elmo finger puppet. They have lots of private conversations.

We are at the beach visiting my dad — their Grampy. It’s a miracle he’s here at all. Six weeks ago he went to the doctor complaining of allergies and ended up on the table having sextuple bypass surgery. Who has ever heard of more than five? He is so lucky, they said, it was only a matter of time, they said.

The truth is, we are so lucky.

I try not to think of my mortality or the mortality of those I hold close and dear — you do this especially if you’re a parent to a child with special needs — but sometimes the river comes rushing to meet you. As we waited for the news that my dad was in the clear, I thought of all the times I’ve moaned and groaned about our busy crazy life — how hard it is sometimes. And it is hard.

But I’d rather the difficult, the challenging, the frustrating, if it means I get moments like this with my family and my kids and my husband. I’d rather the life hard won as long as the people I love are here by my side. My dad has always been by mine.

Our days are still full of tough moments, no doubt! But here, on the Sound, we are just happy to be alive.

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July 12: John’s Friends

Once the structure of school ended, Elmo rejoined our family outings. Wherever John went, Elmo went too. Camp began and since I knew it would be a challenge for him to navigate a new environment and routine — at least at the beginning — I let Elmo hitch a ride. The counselors didn’t seem to mind much, they said John would willingly let Elmo “watch” while he participated in activities. Elmo was there more to share in his day, it seemed — not to keep him from experiencing it.

So when he added Zoe monster, I thought, Why not. He’d even hold them, one in each hand, and make them “talk” to each other, a very animated, though unintelligible dialogue. If they weren’t interfering in his day, then I found it hard to deny him their company. So every morning now, as we make our way out the door, he yells, “Elmo-Zoe?” and runs to find them.

This weekend, however, he added Cookie Monster and now all three must be clutched in his little hands at all times: at the pool, on a carousel, at a baseball game. We’ve only had to fish them out of the water once. We’re not sure how this will end up since Grover and Abby and Snuffallupagus are waiting in the wings.

Goobers and Goblins

Behold Thomas the Tank Engine and his royal fuzzy sidekick, Elmo.

This Halloween was the first time since I was thirteen years old that I trick-or-treated. I’ve never been the greatest fan of Halloween — there’s something creepy about dressing up in costume and going door to door. Oh, I know that’s the very thing that others love, but me? Not so much. This was the first year, however, that we felt the boys would enjoy it. Especially in light of the numerous pumpkin-, ghost-, and witch-inspired artwork that’s made its way home from school this past month. Or Sam’s non-stop talk of ghosts and vampires and five-pumpkins-sitting-on-the-gate. Not to mention the fact that this sensory-challenged child, especially where it concerns food, devoured an entire Snickers bar in under thirty seconds. Yeah, I thought Sam might get into the whole candy aspect if nothing else.

So we set out. The first door was opened by a scary witch and a barking Black Lab. Sam muttered, a little unsure, “It’s okay?” and held out his bag. Even I was a little wigged out, so when John (or rather, Elmo) screamed and melted into a fuzzy red puddle right there on the porch and made it clear that he would not be standing up again of his own accord — I understood. After walking up the hill with him clasped at my neck, I still understood but handed him to his dad.

Sam quickly got into the spirit though. No matter my prompts of “say ‘Trick or Treat'” and “Thank you!” As soon as the candy hit his bag, he’d announce “Next house!” John hung back in the relative quiet of the sidewalk, and seemed to enjoy this unprecedented event: surveying our dark neighborhood from the tall perch of his dad’s shoulders, as Sam tugged all of us along.

It’s been nearly thirty years and I still don’t love-love Halloween? But I will do this every year just to watch Sam break free and run to join a group of approaching children as they knocked on a door. No hesitation, no looking back at me. That soaring in my heart like a whisper “He’s going to be okay.” I will do this next year, too, with the hope that John may like candy then, that he may enjoy wearing another costume, and that he’ll let me hold his hand as we walk through our dark neighborhood, knocking on strange doors.

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