June 2 - 6, 2003
Thursday, June 5
Of course, it's one thing to divorce your husband, hit the road and start a new life. It's quite another to raise your accident-prone son all on your own.
And that's an even harder job when it's going on 34 years, and your son is just starting his first day of school (DWG, GGS). No wonder she occasionally sends Grover out to earn a little extra cash as a waiter (SSD), a train conductor (BYA), or an elevator operator (GU). If he's gonna stay four years old for decades, then he's got to pull his own weight once in a while.
At first, the transition to single motherhood seemed simple and problem-free. In Grover's Mommy, for example, there's nothing but smiles and plenty of mother-son quality time (G'sM).
The book starts out with Mom coming home from work, carrying a bag of groceries. Mom is posed on the steps of the brownstone, waving at Grover and Elmo as they cheerfully rollerblade down the street. "Say hello to someone really special," says the narrator. "Say hello to Grover's mommy!"
"Do you want to know what Grover's mommy does?" it goes on. (You can see already how this is an important text for Groversmomologists. Yes, we cry. We've been wondering what Grover's mommy does for years.) "Well, she is an excellent painter." This is accompanied by a picture of Grover helping his mom paint the apartment. "Grover's mommy is a real daredevil" -- this is with a picture of Mom riding a bike, with Grover in a baby seat in the back -- "and she is a mechanical genius" -- here fixing Grover's tricycle with a wrench from her tool box.
It goes on and on. She helps Grover with his math homework, she performs magic tricks at his birthday party, she takes him on hikes and sews his Halloween costume. Grover's Mom can do it all!
It's a long way from the subdued Perm Mom with her neverending knitting. (What was she making, anyway? It must have been the mother of all sweaters.) Perm Mom just looked blank and pleasant all the time, never quite connected to what was going on around her. This new Mom is competent; she's smiling because she feels active and engaged with what she's doing. She's got a tool box and a bike helmet, and her own magician's costume. This woman needs a man like a fish needs... well, a bicycle.
Although life isn't all hikes and birthday parties for the single Mom. There are hard days too, as seen in Grover's Bad Awful Day (GBD). This book takes place sometime after Grover's Mommy -- and they've moved from the brownstone to a little house of their own, still close to Sesame Street. She's apparently earned a promotion; she's wearing a slightly more upscale and corporate outfit as she heads out for work in the morning. It's kind of a power suit with ruffles on the collar.
Mom is running late. Grover spills milk all over the table at breakfast, and all she can do is remind him to take his time. Then she runs out the door:
But Grover's late for play group, and he walks out with Herry -- leaving his lunch behind.
This is just the start of Grover's bad day, a cautionary tale for latchkey kids with working moms. Everything goes wrong at play group -- he's late, he forgets the alphabet, the big monsters don't let him play tackle football. He drops his ice cream on the way home. His rubber boot sticks to a piece of gum on the sidewalk, and he has to leave his boot stuck there and walk home with one boot.
Still, Mom can handle it. When they both get home, she makes sure to spend time with him. He sits on her lap and tells her all about it:
Isn't that excellent? "Let's go get your boot." Mom can fix everything! So they get the boot, and then Mom takes Grover to Hooper's Store for some grape ice-cream sodas. The sun breaks through the clouds as they eat their ice cream and feel better. Grover gets invited to play tickle football tomorrow instead of tackle football -- "it's not dangerous" -- and everything looks a lot brighter. Grover has the last word: "I think tomorrow will be a better day."
And it sure will be better tomorrow, if Spooky Sleepout is any indication (SS). Mom's got a new look in this book, with a pretty blonde bob that almost screams: Mom's back in the dating pool. And check out the enormous house they've moved into! Apparently that promotion means Mom is doing pretty well for herself, and she still has time to bake cookies for Grover's friends.
She is, in short, Super Mommy -- the mythic ideal of all single working moms. She's successful and multi-talented, and she makes time to listen to her son's worries. So it's only natural that eventually she becomes a superhero, just like her son.
As many people have realized by now, the fantastic superhero Super Grover is, in real life, mild-mannered Grover Monster... but you may not know that Mom created the outfit. In Exciting Adventures of Super-Grover (EAS), there's a story called "The Origins of Super Grover," in which Mom makes the costume from stuff she finds around the house: "She found an old towel, a funny old helmet that Grover's daddy had brought home, and a few other odds and ends." (Why Grover's daddy brought home a "funny old helmet" we will leave to the reader's imagination.) Mom can also be seen repairing a tear in Super Grover's cape (SSD) and making a new version of the costume for Halloween (G'sM).
And then -- because she's a modern right-on Mom in the era of Grrrl Power -- she made one for herself.
Mom made one of her very rare television appearances on "Elmo's World" last year, in the "Family" episode. In the brief scene, Super Grover crashes to the ground, calling for his Mommy. Then Super Mommy herself falls to the ground, calling, "SON-NY!" They both get up, and she says, "You called, son?"
Now, there's two questions that come to mind when you look at this video clip. The first is, Wow, doesn't Super Mommy put on any underwear before she goes flying around?
And the second is, Why is it Perm Mom with granny glasses who appears as Super Mommy, when it's obviously a more appropriate role for the liberated single Mom?
Is it Perm Mom who makes the Super Grover costume in Exciting Adventures of Super Grover? Or is it Single Mom, as we see in Grover's Mommy? Well, it's a superhero origin story, and those always involve retroactive continuity gaps.
For now, let's just go with the DC Comics Crisis on Infinite Earths model. The Grover's Mommy origin takes place on Earth-1, and the Exciting Adventures origin is Earth-2.
After all, it doesn't really matter. No matter what alternate universe we happen to be in, Grover's Mom is a Super Mommy.
The conclusion: The Mystery of Mrs Monster!
We take a crack at the final maternal mystery...