This weekend I took a short trip back to the Rockford area to help my grandma with some things around her house. The big project was to help my boyfriend paint the inside of her garage. It was a lot of work but turned out really well. Of course one part of the work included clearing off the garage shelves and sorting through what Grandma no longer wanted to hang on to now that my grandpa has passed away.
The garage was my grandpa’s space. He built their house in the late 1980s and the garage was always a “man cave” for him. Grandma didn’t know what all he had squirreled away in the garage until we sorted through everything.
Being a “neat freak” like my grandma is, she wanted to vacuum and dust every thing in and every part of the garage. While vacuuming she came across piles of wheat, grass, acorns, and all kinds of natural things Grandpa had hoarded away because it reminded him of something. Grandpa wasn’t the only one who loved these collections, because there were trails of mouse poop leading to the grasses and acorns.
“Most of the acorns were just shells because the mice had eaten all of them!” Grandma recollected. “I even found a pile by the hole in the garage door that something chewed so they could come back!”
One shelf in particular was interesting. Behind tool boxes and other boxes, not visible at all unless you moved everything in front of it, was a grey box designed to look like a steel lock box. It was cardboard and had a Velcro flap that you lift up to hear…Elmo. Sesame Street Elmo.
“Hahahahahaha don’t do it! No tickle!” the box cries.
“What is this?” I asked my boyfriend, not sure if I’m amused or slightly horrified by Elmo’s voice.
“I don’t know” he said looking at it briefly.
My grandma soon came out to the garage and saw the box.
“Another one?!” she exclaimed.
She went back inside and brought out an identical box. The one difference? This one was in Spanish. “Plaza Sesamo” was printed on this box; the sound didn’t work in this one though. I can only begin to imagine the Spanish speaking exuberance that is Plaza Sesamo Elmo.
“He bought me one years ago to be silly…he must have gotten the Spanish one on accident” Grandma said, laughing incredulously.
We all had a laugh about Plaza Sesamo Elmo and how Grandpa always was secretive but rarely paid close attention to things like languages of his Tickle Me Elmo’s. Whenever he would work on a project he would have to make multiple trips to the hardware store because he would grab the first thing that would look right, only to realize once he was home it wasn’t quite right.
I went into this past weekend simply thinking about the work that needed to be done and how long it might take. I realized, around the time Spanish Elmo surfaced, that it was also a chance to hear some of Grandma’s memories; we found multiple car parts and big purchases squirreled away in the garage that Grandpa had never told her about.
“That asshole!” she said, somewhat kidding, when we found a $500 bill for a car stereo.
The beauty of these experiences lies in the eye of the beholder. If I had only focused on the work to be done, I would have missed out on making some more good memories. (My grandma told a story later about how she found a “balloon” on the side of the road when she was 4 and when they got home her sister told on her for trying to blow it up; her mouth was washed out with some pretty serious stuff). So, if you have any experiences you may not be looking forward to this week, look for the Tickle Me Elmo moments. You never know, there could be a Plaza Sesamo Elmo out there waiting for you to find.