It is all my wife's fault of course. She gave my daughter a Tickle-Me-Elmo toy -- not just any Tickle-Me-Elmo, mind you, but a Tickle-Me-Elmo TMX (Tickle Me Extreme!), which rolls around, giggling out of control. It was love at first sight. My daughter cannot get enough of it.
Elmo, that "Little Red Menace", is everywhere. On Saturday we went to the Central Park Zoo. As we walked down the block to my car, my daughter was peacefully looking around and suddenly started gesturing in glee -- there was an Elmo balloon tied to a stoop, his crimson face smiling at all passers-by.
When we reached the Zoo, right outside the entrance was a giant, living version of Elmo, dancing around, waving at all the kids. My daughter was in heaven. She dragged us to him and I obliged by taking a picture of her, smiling ear to ear with her favorite Muppet as my wife held her in her arms.
As we walked around the zoo, enjoying the great weather and the penguins, sea lions, snow leopards, polar bears, sheep, goats, pigs, and other wildlife, my daughter again became happily animated and started chasing another child's stroller because she had discovered an Elmo stuffed toy clinging to it.
What is this powerful grip that Elmo has on the little ones? Why do babies and toddlers flock toward this seemingly annoying but surprisingly lovable, red-furred puppet?
I suppose like any parent I will have worse things to worry about as my daughter gets older than her affection for an innocent little Muppet. Elmo, welcome to the family!