Friday, September 3, 2004


Poohsticks by Kristy Dallas Alley
Photo by Erica Carter

Clearly, my husband and I need to get out more. I say this because of the alarming downward slide of our “adult” senses of both humor and decorum. Wait, who am I kidding? We’ve always been like Beavis and Butthead when it comes to getting a giggle. It’s just that now, as parents, we have a whole new source of inappropriate amusement—namely, children’s media.

It started innocently enough. We’d be reading a perfectly normal and popular children’s book to the kids at bedtime, when a single phrase or line would elicit a snicker. In The Runaway Bunny it was the phrase “blow me,” in A Picture For Harold’s Room, the seemingly harmless “I am higher than anything!” But it escalated from there, and soon we were snickering at snippets from videos and children’s programming. Even Sesame Street. The horror! But listen, I can explain.

See, my two-year-old got a new Elmo video, and at the end it had a bonus “Elmo’s World” segment. Ok, if you’ve ever watched “Elmo’s World,” you know that in each episode, he is “thinking about something.” It’s like the theme of that day’s segment. So guess what Elmo was thinking about on our video. “Yada ta da …BALLS! That’s right, balls!” Ok, so that’s funny, right? But then it gets worse. At one point, he’s talking to a beach ball about how he’s so nice and round and full of air. Then he picks up the beach ball from behind, holds it at pelvis level (yes, Elmo does have a pelvic area) and starts sort of moving it up and down and making little grunting noises. I swear I’m not making this up. I called my husband into the room with a choked “you gotta see this” and rewound it. He did not fail me in finding this hilarious. It’s nice to have a partner in immaturity. Later that week, his sister and her husband came over for our weekly dinner. They’re childless by choice, but we couldn’t resist sharing this little gem. They too found it to be pretty funny and we all questioned how anyone at the Children’s Television Workshop could have written and filmed this segment without seeing what we saw.

I was starting to wonder if I should think less of myself for all this, but then I couldn’t resist telling a friend about the Elmo thing. “Oh, that’s nothing,” she said seriously. Apparently, her son Thomas has a “Bear in the Big Blue House” video in which said Bear wistfully expresses a longing to enter his mouse friend’s tight little hole. “He goes on and on about it, too,” she swore. It’s a good thing I haven’t seen that one! I might hurt myself. I laughed hard enough just from hearing a second-hand version of what has come to be known as “the mouse hole soliloquy.”

But back to the books. Being a literary family, we prefer our unintended double entendres to be of a literary bent. We thought we had found the funniest example yet in Richard Scary’s Best House Ever, when a lucky puppy finds a little furry muff that “smelled sweet and mousy and was wonderfully soft.” Over the next few pages, there are quick references to the muff, which makes it even funnier. Ok, maybe you had to be there. But then, one night, we stumbled upon a nugget of such surprising magnitude that we were almost busted by the kids, who wanted to know why I was coughing and crying as I tried to read, and why Daddy couldn’t take over because he seemed to be having the same problem.

One of the first books I bought for our oldest when he was a baby was a complete, non-Disneyfied edition of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories. If you have never read these, you really should. They’re wonderfully clever and original. Plus, they will put a two-year-old to sleep in record time, due to the high ratio of words to pictures and also the lulling rhythm of aristocratic British syntax. But I digress. On this particular night, we came upon the story in which Pooh creates the game of Poohsticks. This game involves throwing sticks off one side of a bridge and seeing which one will emerge on the other side first. So, the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre wood are playing Poohsticks, and naturally they are going to talk about the action in a way that lets us, the readers, feel involved. Sort of a Poohsticks play-by-play, if you will. At first, it wasn’t that bad:

“I can see mine!” cried Roo. “No, I can’t, it’s something else. Can you see yours Piglet?…I expect my stick’s stuck. Is your stick stuck, Piglet?”

“It always takes longer than you think,” said Rabbit.

We both gave a little snicker, but then we turned the page to this:

“I can see yours, Piglet,” said Pooh suddenly.

“Mine’s sort of a grayish one,” said Piglet. “Yes, that’s what I can see. It’s coming over on my side.”

At that point, we were having trouble keeping it together enough to keep reading, but I felt sure that would be the end of it. Not so:

Rabbit leant over further than ever, looking for his, and Roo wriggled up and down, calling out “Come on stick! Stick! Stick! Stick! Stick!” and Piglet got very excited because his was the only one which had been seen.

Now I was laughing uncontrollably and tears were streaming down my face. Surely this could not go on. But then:

“It’s coming!” said Pooh.

“Are you sure it’s mine?” squeaked Piglet excitedly.

“Yes, because it’s grey. A big grey one. Here it comes! A very—big—grey—Oh no, it isn’t. It’s Eeyore.”

And then, mercifully, Eeyore floated out from under the bridge and predicted an earthquake, and we, thirty-something, educated parents of small children, were able to collect ourselves and make excuses to the five-year-old about what was so funny and why we were so silly.

I guess I should be ashamed of myself. But you know, sad as it may seem, these little inside jokes between my husband and myself serve as flickering little reminders of the thing we have outside of being parents together. Not the sexual thing, but the friendship, inside-joke, grown up thing that only exists with those we know and like very well. It’s the intention to be double, to be a pair that can’t be nailed down to one meaning. We may not get out to bars much anymore, or have our bed to ourselves most nights, but hey—we’ll always have Poohsticks.

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