Monday, April 21, 2008

A Note on Clifford and his Cronies

Having just posted a note on a Clifford event, I feel it is also my obligation to comment on a very important issue relating to childhood idolatry and the risks of having your child meet their own favorite character in the flesh (or, more likely, fur).

If you are thinking of attending the Clifford event, planning on having Barney arrive at your 3 year old’s birthday party, or even organizing a trip to the ballpark to meet that wacky Philly fanatic, it is important that you consider that, by doing so, you are risking a possible meltdown and, subsequently, years of therapy bills.

You see, the innocuous character that they come to adore through television and books is one dimensional, at a distance, and not exactly walking towards them in all their giant, hulking glory. Having to meet them in person, however, can be very overwhelming and what you thought would be a memorable event….will be….for all the wrong reasons.

Case in point: My own daughter reacted “unfavorably” when:

1) My husband dressed up like a horse to have fun with their horsey rides. Though the costume may have dated back to the days of Willie Shoemacher and, indeed, smelled like a barn, it seemed like a fun idea at the time. Unfortunately, she still has flashbacks anytime John hasn’t shaved in a while.

2) We went on a trip to Hershey and after spying a walking, talking, smiling Hershey bar, my daughter turned to her father and said, “Daddy, hit him.” Of course, my husband obliged.

Though this may seem to be a strange reaction by someone who, up until that point, lived for their favorite character, you have to consider that they are so overwhelmed by the reality, their little emotions aren’t equipped to handle it all. And, if we’re being honest, adults aren’t much different.

For example, I had been in love with Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte for years and years (up until I met my husband, of course). I had four of his baseball cards and one of my students actually got a baseball autographed for me (yes, she got the A). So, it was inevitable that our paths would eventually cross.

It happened to be at a Bed, Bath, and Beyond in Harrison, NY. Having just moved into my new apartment (on the hottest day of the year), I was at the store in search of a new comforter. Sweaty and disgusting from unpacking all day, I caught sight of a statuesque man walking by me and I looked up.

Mother of all creatures great and small….it was him.

I quickly fled to an aisle where I could pull out my scrunchie (quiet- it was the 90s) and try to make myself look less grotesque. I planned my approach and pounced.

I sidled up behind him and said, “I’m so sorry to bother you, but I just wanted to tell you how great I think you are…really, you’re an amazing pitcher.” He smiled and thanked me warmly, and continued shopping. As the chores of angels sang in the background, I jumped into the household electrics area and ripped out my cell phone. I had to call the only person who would truly appreciate my neurotic behavior, my dear crony Amy Mahoney, and tell her what had just happened and how cool I had been. I gushed, I ranted, and just as I was about to retell the encounter for the fourth time, I looked up from the pile of vacuums I was crouched among and found him looking down at me in complete confusion and disgust.

I laughed nervously, closed the phone, and fumbled to say something about really needing a good vacuum.

To say I had acted any more rationally than my daughter and the Hershey bar would simply not be fair to her.

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