My parents have amazing grandparenting skills. My dad gets down on the floor to play Lego, has a permanent open spot next to him in his chair for Lil E's tiny hiney, and steps in when my boy needs some man-time at the driving range or gardening or watching "Holmes on Homes" reruns. My mom makes math games fun, is the only adult I know who truly loves Play-Doh and pays my kid generously to clean out her car.
Together, they've taken on the great grandparent responsibility of teaching E their generation's humor. The Three Stooges gives me the heeby-jeebies, but Lil E and my mom laughed for hours over the slapstick antics from the movies and old shows they found online. He knows bits from old-timey comedians and parody songs thanks to my folks. My dad spent what seemed like forever explaining why the "Who's on first" routine is a classic even though it elicited only a courtesy laugh from my kid.
And then there's Mr. Bill. Since Lil E could repeat (was that nine months? a year? it seems like always), he's been squealing, "Ohhhhnoooo, ohhhhnoooo" in fatalistic Mr. Bill fashion.
At some point, there was a Gumby-viewing. Discussion of claymation. Blind laughter at Mr. Bill even though none of that stuck with my boy. None of it, that is, except for the "ohhhhhnooooo."
Fast forward to San Francisco, last week (which is also a rewind of sorts, but you know when I mean by the where I'm referencing). Somehow the squeals emerged, which prompted a YouTube search of Mr. Bill videos. Lil E was captivated and laughed well beyond courtesy. He watched video after video, then detailed them all for us over and over again as we drove from tourist attraction to museum to cable car stop in SF.
He didn't just know about the Mr. Bill bit now, he got it.
He got it so much that I had to insist -- loudly, firmly -- that he give the "ohhhhnooooo" voice a break for a few hours each day. Even after that, I could hear him whispering it into his sleeping back in the next room. My kid was stuck on an old SNL skit and it was quickly moving into Church Lady-level irritation for me.
There wasn't time for it to quiet. Lil E was still ramping up on the squashed claymation character sound effects when we wandered into an Ace Hardware on a walk. We'd been shopping without buying anything all day and Lil E's cash was calling out to Star Wars sets and glow sticks and really anything he didn't already have in his possession. He just wanted to buy something.
We stood in the toy aisle, considering the options for the vacation spending money he earned from doing chores for my mom, talking about whether he could get a better deal at Target and why a fake microphone would not make staying with the Not Boyfriend so much better. We were ready to head out when I turned and glanced up -- for no particular reason -- toward the baby toys.
There, above my eyeline was Mr. Bill.
In full, action figure, clay-looking rubberized form, there he was, squealing Lil E's name.
Of course, we had to buy him. There wasn't an option. And Lil E had to open the package even before the receipt was ready. It was like the moment had been formed years ago, in my parents' living room, on their television, some late Saturday night decades before my tiny jokester was even imagined.
Lil E schemed about how to surprise the Not Boyfriend with the new Mr. Bill, choosing to trap the figure in a Ziploc bag just like one of the original skits. And on cue, the Not Boyfriend came through the door, eyed the suffocating toy and chuckled to Lil E's comic approval.
The "ohhhhnooooo"s have not ever ended. They quieted a bit when I made Lil E remove Mr. Bill from under his pillow at bedtime, but the figure whined from the backseat of the car for days.
Mr. Bill sits proudly now on Lil E's dresser, standing out among a tiny Statue of Liberty, a Golden Gate bridge statue, a New York play taxi, a plastic laughing Buddha, Mardi Gras beads and many more tokens of my son's fancy.
He wears a few silly bands around his neck, which I am quite sure are asfixiatingly tight (or should be), worn like a badge of acceptance into this loose-toothed generation.
If the rubber bracelets aren't enough to usher the rubber-clay Mr. Bill into a 3.0 world, Lil E says he's going to borrow my iPhone to make his own Lil E videos. I can imagine my kid, fully belly-laughing as he produces his own strange second-grader Mr. Bill death-ventures, and it makes me happy to see him carrying on the classics. It also makes me happy there's a mute button for editing in iMovie that's more reliable than the volume button on the kid comic.
What kind-of-strange, kind-of-hilarious past-generation stuff is your kid into these days?