My two year old niece wakes up in the morning with one question on her mind. "Ah Elmo?" Translation, "Where's Elmo? I've been waiting to see him since last night." Elmo is on at 10am weekdays, which I know because of my months of unemployment living in my sister's one-bedroom apartment waking to the Sesame Street theme song. The program begins with the letter of the day, which characters ask child viewers to say. McKenna never repeats it. Even with prompts. "McKenna, can you say 'I'?" She cringes at me, pushes my leg from the couch and says, "No, no auntie." Can't blame an aunt for trying.
So when my new job offered a drawing for Sesame Street Live tickets, I thought, "If I win this drawing there's a great possibility that I will have to see a person dressed as Big Bird. Why didn't they ever give him a name like John or Brit? Even Elmo has a name."
I waited with great anticipation. This would be the first time I entered. If I won, it wouldn't be for my personal gain. It would be for McKenna. Now, McKenna and I have a special relationship. I want her to love me with all her heart. She doesn't want anything to do with me. But I figure in a few years when she doesn't rely on her Papa so much, she'll be asking me about boys and how to do her hair. Until then: bribery, whether she knows it or not.
I waited behind my work monitor, patiently counting down the minutes to 11am. Then suddenly, on the right side of my screen, a little notice popped up. Though new systems use a silent, fading notification. I still imagine it saying, "You've got mail!"
I switch the screen to Entourage and read the message. At the bottom of the winner's list is the name written Joy Petersen. "Whoopie!" I think. "McKenna is going to love me."
I notify her parents of my exciting news. We choose a date. Sunday. January 17. 4:30pm. Melody is thrilled. She knows this is going to be the best thing ever. Me, I'm slightly disappointed. Melody will get the glory, I will be chopped liver. Ew. So I spend the weekend moping about, figuring that I won't be going anyway and if I did it wouldn't matter because I have a loose connection to the viewing party.
Sunday rolls around. I decide to go along.
As we enter the auditorium, all these mothers in Cookie Monster shirts rush past me. They are overweight with unkempt hair and blissfully happy. They have great kids, loving families and a whole lot of guts to be wearing Elmo garb. I wear a t-shirt dress I got at the Gap. I am pretty, but no child is holding my hand. Without me, the show does go on.
I get over myself and walk into the auditorium. The stage is bright, so I know drug addicts were probably a part of set design. We sit. I wait for the curtain to go up, checking my cell phone for the time every two minutes. Finally, it begins.
The costumed dancers sing and move with excitement. I find myself enjoying the colors, but the shrill voice of the mail woman is piercing my ears. We watch for a while.
Then, out of nowhere, my sister starts to trill. "HEYYYYYYYY!" She says to a couple and child behind us. It turns out she knew these people from college. I introduce myself to the husband. The wife already knows me. The husband wonders why I'm along He probably sees this as torture for this point in my life. He asks, "Joy, are you along so you score a date with Bert after the show?" I give a courteousy giggle. "Something like that," I say. He knows I'm out of place.
We watch the rest of the show. McKenna dances with the drums. And giggles at the songs. She loves every minute until they ask her to clap her hands and stomp her feet. Then, she takes a seat, crossing her arms with a furrowed brow. At intermission, we take pictures. McKenna screams at the thought of having to sit on my lap. Now she's making an scene, and the John Lithgow looking man beside me is smiling at me as if he thinks, "I've been there." Its kind of creepy. But I smile back. C'est la vie. I hand her back.
A few songs later, the mail woman starts to sing "If you're happy and you know it." At one point Oscar the grouch comes to the front of his stage in his can and says, "Hey this is too happy. If you're Grouchy, sing with me. If you're grouchy and you know it say, 'Get lost.'" "GET LOST!" I scream. It made me feel better.
Finally, its time to leave. I realize that everyone here had a great time. Though my Sunday nights are typically filled with family time, I know that sometimes I have to sacrifice my happiness for the love of a niece.
She still thinks her father bought the tickets.