The human brain is thought to start forming memories around the age of two and a half. Anything that happened before? We’ll have to take someone else’s word for it.

Such is the premise for what surely ranks among the strangest TikTok trends of 2022: people trying to convince each other that a puppet dancing and floating in a forest is them when they were a baby. Usually, it’s a parent lying to their child, but sometimes it’s the other way around, or somebody messing with their friend or sibling. And while kids often protest that the puppet isn’t really them, lots of people are willing to go along with the story.

The original clip, posted on Nov. 17 by a Brazilian artist named Jhonatan Oliveira and featuring music by songwriter Raul Seixas, has been viewed almost 10 million times over the past two weeks. It’s just one among dozens of whimsical videos featuring the character, which Oliveira has been playing with since 2020, when he made a TikTok in which he and another man “discover” the white-cloaked, green-hatted puppet buried underground. This week, he posed for an Instagram portrait with his beloved, virally famous creation.

Oliveira, who also goes by Mestre Ensinador (“Master Teacher”), didn’t return a request for an interview, so his inspiration for the little guy remains a mystery. But in any case, something clicked about the footage of the elfin figure’s forest dance. Two of the top comments from the day Oliveira posted it were “me when I was a baby” and “i remember doing this as a baby.” This seems to have prompted all the duet videos joking about uncovering long-lost memories of magically floating and twirling around in nature as an infant.

It didn’t stop there, however. TikTokers have dressed up as the puppet, copied his graceful gestures, created beautiful fan art and video game animations, and found even more inventive ways to corroborate the fact that it’s them as a baby. Oliveira himself has amassed well over half a million followers, with many racing to claim they “remember” the action depicted in each new video.

Curiously enough, the lighthearted attempts to gaslight loved ones into believing they used to be a spritely puppet capering around in Brazil have coalesced into an agreement that we all had this experience at a very young age. And why not? You can’t literally recall what it was like to be a baby, so you may as well substitute Oliveira’s version.

How beautiful, then, to think that a universal amnesia has been transformed into a warm collective memory. Even if it’s fake, we still came together this holiday season to rewrite the story of our past — and we can always remember that. Reality is just a construct. Embrace your inner baby. It’s who you were always meant to be.

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