This puppet has been travelling from city to city with me for many years. He has gone to concerts with me, and stood sentinel over my office desk for nearly a decade. It wasn't until this spring (at age 35) that I thought I should bring it home, and I casually tossed it into the toy basket (setting off about 17 musical ring tones) and forgot about it.
It didn't take long for Cheeky to discover Ernie and adopt him as one of her best friends. He's one of the first things pulled out of the toy box and handed to us, signalling to that it's time for Puppet Theater. Every few minutes she stops what she's doing to give him a hug (although in all fairness she also stops to hug her blanket, a stuffed puppy, the belt-sander, a sock-kitty, Oodgie's leg, and the Alan Parsons Project). He's often asked to carry on conversations with a Cookie Monster puppet, and to catch any ball thrown his way (which isn't easy when you've got no bones in your arms).
What she hadn't done, however, is watch Ernie on TV.
Yesterday, at the end of a long, long, long, long day of quality playtime, Oodgie diverted Cheeky into an episode of Sesame Street. She fast-forwarded to the "Journey to Ernie" segment...the one with the theme song that burrows into your brain like Ceti Alpha V's only surviving indigenous inhabitant. As expected, Cheeky was hooked, bursting out her activity garden like Kool-Aid Man to get a better angle on the TV. She was elated, swaying and pointing at the orange muppet while he hid from the big stupid bird.
Ernie and Big Bird were reunited. They sang a song. Ernie faded of the screen.
Cheeky lost her mind.
Frantically, Oodgie rewound the show, and Ernie once again fooled the bird (not the brightest chicken in the coop, you know). Cheeky insisted on being picked up and carried to the TV so she could touch it. Again the segment ended. Again her head exploded.
Oodgie decided the best option was to teach Cheeky a lesson in reality. She turned off the TV.
The poor kid sat there on the floor, wailing uncontrollably, pointing at the TV while clutching desparately at the Ernie puppet. How do you explain to a one year-old that nothing good ever comes out of the TV?
I take comfort in the fact that she'll soon move on to the next stuffed animal...hopefully not one whose flickering image torments while she figures out the difference between reality and TV. And it had better not be Bert.