Scrumptious has two new friends. Chloe lives in China and Clara lives in Candyland which is, apparently, a 2-day trip from London. Chloe and Clara are Scrumptious’ imaginary friends. My only explanation for their land of origin is that there was far too much crispy duck and chocolate in the breast milk. The biggest surprise is that neither one of these imaginary friends lives on a vineyard in Puglia.
When Chloe and Clara made their debut a few weeks ago, my husband and I shared a knowing glance across the dinner table. Here we go again, the look said. We’d all but forgotten that, at the same age, Truly had an imaginary friend named Alice who lived in a palace. For a few years, Alice jetted around from one exotic location to the next but still managed to spend a fair amount of quality time with Truly in our humble abode. If these friends were real, we’d be hard-pressed to off-set their combined carbon footprints. It would take more effort than my weekly delivery of an organic vegetable box or our hybrid. But Chloe and Clara are invisible and imaginary, seen only by Scrumptious, just as Alice was for Truly.
My husband, Truly and I go along with Scrumptious and don’t try to dispute her claim that these friends have joined us for a Sunday roast or love to play Legos and Groovy Girls just as much as Scrumptious. We know that, eventually, the friends will move on and this too shall pass.
My husband and I are the type of parents who celebrate Scrumptious’ fertile imagination and if we’re wrong to do that and there’s a whole team of experts who say differently, then I don’t care to know about it. That’s why I’m still kicking myself for mentioning the imaginary friends to another mother, merely an acquaintance really, a woman whose brow puckered in dismay. She wasn’t comfortable with the topic and brought up a whole slew of ‘issues’ that I might want to explore further, even going so far as to slap on a few child-friendly labels. Depression. Loneliness. In her words, ‘It’s not normal.’ There is nothing on this planet that gets my juices flowing more than the words ‘not normal’ when referring to kids or people in general. How does one define normalcy? In this case, I suspect the woman was her own role model for ‘normalcy.’
Later, thinking about this woman’s reaction, one song played over and over in my head. When my sister and I were young, my mom used to play a song called ‘Flowers are Red’ by Harry Chapin. Every time we heard the song, my mom would tell my sister and me how sad the words made her feel. I was too young and never really got it then. But I get it now. Honestly, read the words of this song or listen to it on YouTube and you will understand.
The only time I ever had a gripe with a teacher was many years ago when Truly wrote a story for school. Her teacher sent it back, all marked up with red ink and question marks. The teacher’s remarks were all negative and she gave Truly a low score because the story was ‘too fantastical.’ Huh? It was a creative writing assignment. I didn’t give a fig about the score but I was slightly alarmed that, potentially, one teacher could stomp on Truly’s creative writing style and turn it into a generic regurgitation exercise. Luckily, the teacher was very kind and receptive to my concerns. She explained to me that she set a specific assignment, with an end goal in mind and, although Truly missed the mark, she may have been too harsh and critical in the remarks section. Maybe the teacher had a bad day and got fed up with marking papers which is easy to understand but, happily, the rest of the year this teacher encouraged and celebrated Truly’s imagination without trying to curb it or fit it into a neat cardboard box. To this day, Truly creates wonderfully crazy worlds and believably eccentric characters who inhabit them, not square peg characters jammed unsuccessfully into ill-fitting round holes. And this makes me happy.
So I don’t know. Maybe I’ve always been attracted to the more eccentric characters, possibly because I don’t always fit into a box myself. The times I have tried to be what I thought was expected of me have been some of the most miserable times of my life. Who knows if I’m doing the right things by my own children but at least nobody will accuse them of being boring.
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