I really was in love with Sesame Street’s Bob McGrath — I wanted him to be my big brother and sing to me forever; hell, I still do — but I don’t remember ever agreeing with him and Susan and Grover or whomever on the “One of These Things Is Not Like the Others” game. I felt like they were totally missing out on a key ingredient in the fun to be had in the universe.
From the beginning I played “One of These Things” backwards, imagining ways to incorporate the odd choice into a game or story or scenario, figuring out ways it did belong. Sometimes there wasn’t much to work with (three big circles and one small one, c’mon people) but sometimes there were possibilities.
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
I had to wait until I was in my 20’s in order to discover one of the most delightful of them all.
My younger sister had the singular honor of producing the first grandchild in our family and she did a fabulous job of it. Suddenly we had this precious, curly-headed, fascinating and fascinated boy-creature where before it was just us boring adults. It was like someone had finally added the seasoning to an otherwise bland soup; he was the grand-slam home run by a formerly unknown player. (There, now I’ve done food and sports. Next we’ll add beer.)
One of the times I made the trek up to Michigan to visit him I brought with me a simple gift: an oversized picture book whose bold photos and clean white pages had attracted me in the store. I guess I wasn’t surprised, once I had my nephew in my lap and we were several pages in, when I turned the page and saw one of Bob’s old “One Of These Things” puzzles. There in glorious display was the familar four-square arrangement, this time laid out with a bright yellow rubber duck, a frothy bar of soap, a pretty washcloth (or sponge?), and… a couple of Saltine crackers, which had always a staple in our pantry as I was growing up.
I couldn’t have been happier if Bob himself had joined us.
And of course he also knew which pictured item “didn’t belong.” I pretended uncertainty. “I eat popsicles in the shower,” I mused out loud (I do). His eyes got big. “Yeah,” I continued. “and I love crackers. But I’ve never eaten crackers in the bathtub. Have you?” He hadn’t, and now was getting very still, thought processes in full throttle. “It’s almost your bathtime,” I noted, and paused a moment.
He had an idea! He suddenly began to talk in that excited two-year-old way, stumbling all over himself like a puppy who knows a treat is on the way.
Papa and Meme had overheard the entire thing, and had an entire sleeve of crackers ready and waiting. If they hadn’t had saltines in the house (an impossiblity!) they would have driven fifty miles in 4 feet of snow to get some and been grateful to do so. Did I mention he was the darling of our family? I eyed the sleeve, which probably held thirty of the familiar crispy squares. It just might be enough.
So for many years my parents made sure my nephew had crackers for his bath, and from that day to this, our family tells the story of how crackers do in fact belong in the bathtub.
I think Bob would be okay with it.
Images: Both of those pictures are of me with Scott Alan, our curly-headed wunderkind; you can see that we denied him nothing. The bottom photo is the actual moment of our “One of These Things” revelation. Amazing, isn’t it, how you sometimes get really lucky and capture a story in a photo?