I’m a big softy and a sucker for a cause, especially any cause that promises to improve the lives of children in some way – preventing bullying, providing wigs for kids, curing childhood cancer...
Still, “caring” and “compassionate” weren’t always adjectives that could describe me. My nature from birth was more inclined toward strict pragmatism, even bordering - for much of my youth - on coldly calculating practicality. It took many years for me to develop even what I’d consider a “normal” level of empathy and kindness, much less the overflowing blob of emotion that I now can harbor when I’m confronted with the injustices of the world.
Case in point: My imaginary friend. According to my mother, when I was 2 or 3 I had an imaginary friend. It’s something that I forget about most of the time, but the other day I was reminded of this when I found myself answering a slew of questions – asked by my little daughter – about the untimely demise of a child’s imaginary friend in the movie “Parental Guidance.” (If you have not seen this flick, give it a shot. It’s very cute.)
According to my mother, my imaginary friend was named Dansindoor. I can only speculate about the actual spelling of his name, as I didn’t know how to spell back when my imaginary friend told me his name, so just go with me on this. And to answer your next question, no, I have no memory of him whatsoever. See? Callous. But it gets worse. Far worse.
Apparently, Dansindoor was very small and lived in my pocket. Once in a while, I would take him out and hold him up in the palm of my hand, and we would sing songs to people. When we were finished singing, I would return Dansindoor to the cozy confines of my pocket. (I have no idea where I kept him when I didn’t have a pocket in my clothing, though perhaps he lived in an imaginary pocket in that case. See how that whole imaginary thing works?)
Anyway, as the story goes, one day I apparently no longer needed Dansindoor. Did I wish him a fond, tearful farewell? No. Did I have a long talk with my parents about the fact that I was ready to confront the world on my own terms? Nope. This is what I did: I took Dansindoor out of my pocket and sang to someone – my mother, I assume, as she’s the one who tells me this sordid story. When we were done with our final little ditty, I looked at the invisible little being standing on my palm and said, “Good-bye, Dansindoor.” Then, with my other hand, I swiftly and unceremoniously clapped down, squashing my imaginary friend into oblivion.
That’s right. I murdered my imaginary friend. In cold blood. With no remorse.
Pretty bad, right? Yeah, I thought so, too.
But that’s not exactly the end of the story. Not anymore. Because the other day, as I recounted this to my children during their ride home from school, this was their response:
Bear (6): “That is the most terrible thing you’ve ever told me. You should never kill your friends, even imaginary ones. Never tell me about that again.”
Ballerina (5): “Mommy! That story was awesome! My favorite part was when you said, ‘Good-bye, Dasindoor,’ and then you squashed him! Can you tell it again?”