Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The way we were

Yajeev, whose young male mind sometimes seems to run along a parallel track to my old female one (except that his train of thought eventually steams off into high-intellect pursuits such as biochemistry, and mine chugs happily into all the Nora Roberts novels I can get my hands on) posted about his brother's imaginary friends. Now that the subject has been broached in this corner of the Blogosphere, I want to give credit to the imaginary people who were there for me and my family when we needed them most.

I personally had three of them: Judy Rubberband, Judy Rubberband's mother and Corny James. To be honest, I've forgotten pretty much everything about Corny James except his name and the warm, fuzzy feeling I get when I think about him. I'm thinking he must have been a nice boy but one who stayed mostly in the background. The other two, though, were my partners in crime.

These folks were part of my life when I was about three years old, before my real sister was born. Judging from the imaginary friends of other children I've witnessed through the years, Judy Rubberband and her mother must have seemed quite real to me. What's odd in retrospect is that even as I insisted they were real, I must have been aware on some level that my mother couldn't see them. And that obviously seemed like a pretty good deal.

If my mother walked into a room and encountered a freshly made mess, I'd say Judy Rubberband did it. She was a good friend, but I didn't hesitate to rat her out. If Mother walked in and found me in the act of doing something I wasn't supposed to do, well, then, Judy Rubberband's mother told me to do it. I couldn't argue with an adult, could I?

My brother was also about three when we first met his imaginary friend, who went by the name of Father. The bedroom/bathroom area of our house was divided by a central hall, and that whole part of the house could be closed off by a door between the hall and the living room. The door opened into the hall and was mostly left open. Father lived in the narrow space between the open door and the hall wall behind it. I always thought he would have appreciated having at least the whole hallway to call his own.

A few years later, my older daughter had two imaginary friends, Brownie and David, who lived with us when she was (you guessed it) three years old. Both of her friends were based on people she saw on television. Brownie, we learned, closely resembled Peter Noone, lead singer of Herman's Hermits. His name referred to their hit song, "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter." And David, we were informed, was David McCallum, then starring on TV in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Those guys might have been famous, but they sat around our living room all the time, and we got in trouble frequently for accidentally sitting on them.

I find it interesting that all the imaginary friends of our family were hosted by three-year-olds. Another weird thing happened when I was three, and I wonder if it's related in some way to whatever psychology lies behind the imaginary-friend phenomenon. I changed my own name. My older cousin Sandra had a real-life friend named Dorothy. Soon after I met her, I announced to my family that my name from then on would be Dorfy. Afterwards, I've been told, I refused to answer to my own perfectly good name. They could call me Dorfy or they could be studiously ignored; it was up to them.

I don't remember the actual name-change incident, but I clearly remember being Dorfy, and I remember that Dorfy had a near-death experience. I was at the grocery store with my mother, and a piece of candy became lodged in my throat. I remember feeling very distressed, then the grocer grabbed me up by my feet, held me upside down with one hand and whacked me on the back with the other. There's a very clear picture in my mind of that little store and of the green Lifesaver that popped out of my mouth, bounced once on the counter, then rolled across the floor.

That might have been Dorfy's experience, but the scars remained with me. For a long, long time afterward, I'd eat all the other flavors of Lifesavers, but not the green ones. Those, I'd generously give away. I'd share them, then sit back quietly and watch.

8 comments:

  1. Green lifesaver, you say? Funny, because it was the Green Boy that caused my brother all sorts of grief. Coincidence?

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  2. I'm downright jealous that I don't have an imaginary friend to share memories of!

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  3. Ah... the deadly green lifesavers!

    I have no memories of imaginary friends, but growing up thinking I was adopted, I did often fantasize my "real" parents were somehow watching me.... Jees... I'm weird!

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  4. Yajeev, what if there really is something to this "green" connection you've identified. (You're SUCH a scientist!) Do you think someone should alert Al Gore before he pushes things too far?

    Janet, didn't you have older siblings to blame things on? There's no need for imaginary friends when there are older kids, because parents always hold the older kids responsible for everything that goes wrong anyway.

    CreekHiker, since you were "thinking" you were adopted, perhaps the idea of real parents watching you wasn't so much fantasy as it was intuition.

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  5. No imaginary friends for me either I'm afraid ~ just three boy cousins which on bad days I might have wished were just my imagination. lol

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved one Velvet, hope you are having a wonderful day.

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  6. janet... you could just make one up. while you're at it, you can make up the memories you two shared.

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  7. Sandy, it's great to hear from you. We had three boy cousins, too. I know EXACTLY what you mean.

    Sister-Three, thank you. I hope yours was happy, too.

    Yajeev, what good advice you gave Janet! I wish I'd thought about that when I realized I had nothing interesting to write about Corny James.

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