On our recent travels through Southeast Florida, I had occasion to visit with my brother Ron, whose wife, Natalie had given birth to their son, Benyamin Emmanuel Uriel nearly nine months earlier. Having been on the road for just as long, our paths had yet to cross, until now.

The name was a mouthful.

“The kid will definitely need to grow up being a speller,” I thought, although according to Ron, he’s already achieved Einstein status. Apparently, Emmanuel is meant to honor the memory of our mother’s father, while Uriel honors the memory of Natalie’s father.

“So what am I supposed to call him?” I needed to know.

Ron responded,” Natalie doesn’t like the nicknames: Ben, Benny, or Benjy. So I think we’re just going to have to call him Manny!”


As a new uncle, I eagerly anticipated my meeting with Manny, wondering how he would acclimate to new faces. But first, I had to spoil him with a new toy to also celebrate the eighth night of Hanukkah.

A quick trip to Walmart proved worthy of the challenge. We discovered a learning toy with literally all the bells and whistles.

The playset mounted onto a rolling cart with a two-tiered volume control–loud and louder.

The moment I picked it up, the toy activated with a rendition of Old McDonald Had a Farm, causing me to sing along on the way to the cashier.

“Natalie’s gonna hate you for this,” announced Leah.

“She needn’t worry. This is a toy for toddlers,” I jested.

We arrived at Ron and Natalie’s house in Aventura, Florida just as Ron was arriving home from work. As I grabbed the toy from the back seat of the truck, I inadvertently initiated Mary Had a Little Lamb without any way of shutting it off. We walked through the garage to the house, arousing three barking dogs and a quiet bunny.

“I told you that toy was a bad idea,” scoffed Leah.

“Maybe you should leave the toy in the garage for now,” advised Ron, “because I think Manny might be sleeping upstairs, and Natalie wouldn’t approve if he woke up before his naptime was over.”

We waited downstairs in silence for nearly thirty minutes, while listening to muffled, upstairs conversation between Natalie and Svetlana, her sister visiting from Atlanta. Eventually, Ron emerged down the staircase with Manny clinging to his neck, followed by Natalie and her family.

“Can I hold him?” I asked with outstretched arms.

Instantly, Manny leaned towards me, accepting my cue, and I was hooked. I presented his present, now crooning about the Farmer in the Dell, and soon nothing else mattered to him. The phone receiver that hung from the playset became the perfect drum tool to bash the toy into oblivion, with banging so loud, we could no longer hear the singing.

The toy was a “hit”.

“Don’t worry. He’ll figure the rest of it out in no time,” I predicted, “and it’s supposed to stimulate his intellectual growth.”

“I think he likes noisy toys,” Ron interjected.

I looked at Leah and smiled. My official act as an uncle had been confirmed.

Here’s to you Manny…and many years of joy and songs to follow.



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