Thursday, March 20, 2014

How I Discovered Ernie Was My Doorman

We are leaving Brooklyn for good on Saturday, so I thought it was only appropriate to end on an "are-you-kidding" note.

My aunt gave Henry an "Ernie Rocks" doll early last year. At that point he had not seen Sesame Street, but he loved music class, so she thought it would be cute. If you pulled down the arm strumming the guitar, Ernie played a guitar riff, sang Old MacDonald and said lines like:

Let's rock together!

and

That was great!

Let's Rock Together!

Henry liked it. "Arnie rock!" he would say when he wanted me to pull it out for him.

Soon after, we were in a toy store when he spied a tinier Ernie and begged for it. It was the first time I had ever given in to child-induced impulse purchasing, but I am quite sure it will not be the last.

*** 

By late summer, Henry had started to say a few things beyond mama and dada, but his language hadn't really taken off yet. One day as we returned to the building, Henry's favorite doorman was on duty.

"Say hello to Rupert, Henry," I encouraged him.

"Arnie!" he replied.

The doorman looked at me. "What is he saying?"

"I don't know..." I trailed off because I couldn't be sure, but then I heard it again:

"Arnie!"

Oh my God.

I hustled to the elevator.

"I think Henry called our doorman Ernie today," I said to my husband that night. "Like, Sesame Street Ernie." We both laughed and brushed it off in a he-sure-does-love-that-Ernie-doll kind of way.

A few days later, we came home to Rupert once again, and Henry cried in excitement:

"Arnie!! Arnie!! You rock, Arnie!!"

Thankfully Rupert seemed none the wiser, as Henry's babbling was still incomprehensible. To me, however, it was crystal clear. He thought our doorman looked like Ernie, with whom he was by now quite familiar from his several viewings of Sesame Street on YouTube.

And come to think of it, our doorman did kind of resemble Ernie. He had a shock of black hair on top of his head and a wide, oblong face. And in the most telling clue of all, he sat behind a desk, displaying only his top half... just like Ernie.

***

With Henry's language becoming clearer every day, I was never more grateful to be dealing with a non-native English speaker. I would let Henry chat him up until I could no longer stand it. Then I would run out of the building and call my parents, bursting with laughter because my son thought our doorman looked like a Muppet and was not afraid to say it.

But last week, I realized Henry did not think our doorman resembled Ernie. He truly thought our doorman was Ernie.

We came home one evening as always. I stopped to pick up a package while Henry told Ernie about his day: "Ernie... blah blah blah... park... blah blah... Hudsy... ha ha ha!"

I inhaled and exhaled slowly so as not to laugh. And then he said it.

"Where's Bert?"

Oh my God! I could not hold it in any longer. A loud snort and laugh rose up from my belly and exploded forth from my face. A snaugh, if you will.

"What did he say?" Ernie asked.

"I don't know," I murmured shaking my head, tears of laughter running down my face.

"Bert? Where's Bert?" Henry persisted.

Just then, our super -- a tall, thin man with black hair -- arrived.

"Aaaah!" Henry exclaimed. "Bert!"

And that's when I knew: Henry believes we live on Sesame Street.

Who knows where he will think we are in the Bronx??