from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven
In their early years, many children create a relationship to an imaginary friends with whom they play. Without getting into child psychology, these friends are often partners in adventures as well as conversations. Think back to when your children, now parents, were very young and romped in the back yard with their personal frontiersman, pardner or 'friend' who was steadfast and always alongside. They climbed trees together, sat side by side in the swing, or shifted the furniture about in the dollhouse.
Inevitably, the time arrived to replace a companion of imagination with the reality of growing up. The 'friends' or 'pardners' become memories, but do not fade away entirely?
This story reflects reminiscence by an older person and, in that respect, it serves as a model through which to welcome back pleasant memories from childhood. The memories may be expanded and transformed into a story to share with grandchildren. The grandchildren, in their turn, might take it along with them into adulthood and share it with their progeny.
All the woodchucks in Woodchuckaton crawled deep into their burrows. The chipmunks crept under piles of chips. Even the beavers, over on the other side of town in Beaverton, stayed home.
It was raining. It had been raining all day, and here it was now, late afternoon. It was time for the rain to move along somewhere else.
Leah rested her elbows on the sill of the big picture window and cupped her face in her hands. Shifting about on the big red cushion, she stared out through the misty pane. Sheets of water billowed along the street, one following close behind the other like a parade.
Leah heard her mother humming in the kitchen preparing the evening meal. The evening meal was special. Daddy left home for work early each day, before anyone else was awake. The evening meal was when they all came together for the first time each day as a family.
Mother hummed or sang often as she went about the house. Leah loved
to listen, and, staring out the window, she sang the words. Their voices blended and finished the song together.
The sounds of pots and pans and mixers also meant that Daddy would
be arriving soon. When Daddy showed up, David would wake from his
afternoon nap, and then Daddy, David, and she would play, roll about on
the rug, and talk until it was time for her to help Mother set the table.
Meanwhile, Leah was restless. She felt her left foot falling asleep so she left the window and jumped up and down to get rid of the tingling pins and needles. The tingling gone, she ran to the patio screen door in the dining room and peered into the back yard. She knew it would be raining there too, but at least the scenery was different.
There was another reason.
Twisting so that she could see into the far right corner of the yard, Leah imagined the little house under the oak tree where Sarah had her stall. Sarah was her personal flying unicorn. Leah waved and, in her mind, Sarah answered by tossing her mane and scraping at the ground with a front hoof. It was time for another pretend adventure.
Sarah poked her white horn through the doorway of her little house and shook her head from side to side. When Sarah- a flying unicorn- waggled her long white horn like that, it carried only one message: Sarah wanted to fly. Leah sat on the floor, next to the doorway, and missed being with Sarah.
Leah glanced up at the sky again. The rain had changed to a fine misty drizzle and the clouds to light gray with patches of blue peeping through. A shaft of sunlight cut through the clouds and the patches of blue widened.
Suddenly, the rain stopped. Off in the distance a rainbow formed an
arch across the sky. Leah dashed to the kitchen. 'Mommy, mommy,' she said excitedly, tugging at her mother's apron. 'The rain is over. Sarah wants to play and so do I. May I go out to play with her?'
Mother knew, of course, that when Leah and her pretend friend, Sarah,
played together, Sarah would often nuzzle Leah. That would be Sarah's invitation to Leah to climb up on to her back and twist her hands into Sarah's white mane. Once that happened, Mother was certain, Sarah would spread her feathered wings and, in Leah's imagination, they would leap to the skies.
Smiling to herself, Mother looked out through the kitchen window at the sky. The clouds were breaking up, but the grass was still wet, the ground soggy, and the trees dripped.
'Daddy will be home soon, Leah,' she said, 'and he'll be looking for big hugs from David and you. Then we'll need to prepare the table for dinner. I'll need your help. You know you have a job to do, don't you?'
'Oh, yes.' Leah's curls bounced as she nodded. 'But I won't be long. Sarah and I have been cooped up all day. The rain has stopped. I want to skip and jump.'
'... and fly.' Mother's eyes twinkled as she stooped, laughed, and smoothed Leah's ruffled hair.
'Well, maybe.' Leah grinned as she hugged her mother.
'I suppose you and Sarah do need some fresh air,' Mother sighed as she rose and looked out the window again. 'Wear your rain boots and red raincoat, and don't go beyond Daniel's back yard, next door. When Daddy comes home he'll call you in.'
Leah rushed to the hall closet and rummaged about among the shoes and boxes on the floor. In the far corner, a round red boot toe stuck out from under a large paper bag. That was one found. Pulling it out, Leah
searched nearby for the other. There it was, behind the umbrella. Waving them high, she jump-skipped to the big cushion beneath the picture window, sat, and pulled them on. Mother came in with the red raincoat and helped Leah into it.
Dashing to the back yard doorway, Leah jumped the short step to the patio.
'Sarah, Sarah,' she shouted, 'come on. Let's go.'
That was all Sarah needed. She came frisking and prancing out of her little house, raising first one hoof and then the other as she came close. She nuzzled Leah's shoulder, and then unfolded and stretched her wings so they would be out of the way for climbing aboard. That was the invitation Leah was waiting for.
Taking a tight hold on Sarah's mane, Leah swung her leg across the unicorn's back and she was on. Twisting both her hands into the long silky hair Leah pulled herself forward until she was well out of the way of Sarah's wings.
'All set,' Leah shouted. 'Away we go!'
Sarah trotted to the far end of the yard until she was close to the fence. She faced about and began to run, faster and faster. Suddenly her wings
spread wide and with a leap they were in the air.
Up. Up. They spiraled around the old oak tree, rising higher with each loop. From far out, they dipped into a long glide and swooped down under the tree's branches, around and around the swing that grandpa had made for David and her, and up and around again. They flew along the top of the back fence, lifted, and cut across the roof of their house from one end to the other. Twisting about, Sarah hovered above the front yard.
Along the horizon, Leah saw the city of Portland hidden in rain curtains and mists.
Leaning forward, Leah spoke into Sarah's ear. 'Let's fly over to Daniel's back yard and see if he and Herbie the Lion are at home.'
Sarah snorted her understanding. She could talk, but did that only when it was absolutely necessary. She had a soft gentle snort and would rather speak her thoughts that way. It was a lot simpler, and Leah understood.
Curving around toward Daniel's yard, Sarah cleared the top of the fence, swooped, and held steady just above Herbie the Lion's house.
'Herbie,' Leah called out. 'It's Sarah and Leah. We're just flying by today and stopped to say 'hi' to Daniel and you. Come on out.'
Herbie the Lion stuck his shaggy head out of his house, blinked, and opened his jaws in an enormous drowsy yawn. Looking up, he grinned and said, 'Hi, there. Where are you off to?'
'Oh,' replied Leah, 'we're keeping close to home today. Rain, y'know. Also, Daddy will be home soon and I want to be with David to welcome him and roll on the rug and talk. I'll also be helping my mother get ready for dinner.'
'Quite right. Quite right,' Herbie said, shaking his head wisely, 'that is as it should be.'
'Where's Daniel?' Leah asked.
'Daniel and his mother are at the library,' Herbie answered. 'Daniel's books were due to be returned today.'
'I see. Well, Herbie, we must be off. Please tell Daniel we stopped by to say 'hi' and that we'll see him another time.'
'Will do.' Herbie the Lion yawned again and pulled his shaggy head back in.
Sarah's wings fluttered and they rose higher and higher. A moment later they were looking down on Daniel and Leah's homes and all the other houses on their street. Leah saw the glowing signs of the shopping center a few blocks away. The mists and rain curtains still hid the tall buildings of Portland in the distance.
Looking toward the end of their street Leah saw Daddy's car turn the corner.
'Daddy's home. Daddy's home,' Leah shouted. 'Time to head back, Sarah.'
Sarah snorted and dipped into her landing approach. Circling, she lost altitude each time around. Finally, coming in over the fence, Sarah arranged her wings for landing and bent her legs slightly to soften contact with the ground. Leah tightened her grip.
Close to the soft earth near the patio, Sarah's wings beat the air. She hovered for an instant, then lowered until all four hooves touched down. A four-point landing. The flight was over.
Leah slipped off Sarah's smooth back, wrapped her arms around her neck and gave her a tight hug. Sarah's hoof scraped the ground and she gave another of her soft, gentle snorts.
Daddy stuck his head out through the patio doorway.
'Hi, there,' he laughed, 'what's happening?'
'Out and about, Dad, been flying, don'tcha know?' Leah answered. 'Sarah and I just got in from a short flight around the yard and over to Daniel's place.'
'I see,' Daddy said. 'Well, I'm pleased you made it back in time for our before-dinner get-together. David is up. Come on in and we'll roll on the rug and talk for a minute before you help set the table.'
Daddy smiled down at her.
'Leah,' he said. 'Your mother, you and I are also going to have a talk this evening. A meeting; very important. Coming in?'
'Yup, Daddy, just about ready.'
She turned back to Sarah and gently pretend-stroked the unicorn's nose. Turning away, she crossed the patio and stopped at the short step to the dining room. Daddy opened the screen door and bent down. Leah wrapped her arms around his neck. Daddy rose, lifting Leah as he did, and caught her rain boots as they slipped from her feet. He stood them up outside, beside the doorway, to dry. Hugging each other, Daddy and Leah turned back into the house.
Leah hesitated, and glanced back. In her imagination, she saw Sarah fold her wings gracefully along her sides, lower her head and nibble at the soft, green grass. It was also time for Sarah's dinner.
With dinner behind them, Leah joined Mother in clearing the table. Nesting one plate into another and picking up a few utensils she carried them to the kitchen counter near the dishwasher.
Daddy rose from his chair, went into the kitchen, and dampened a cloth. On his way back to the dining room the winked at Leah as they passed. Leah turned to watch.
Daddy tiptoed behind David's high chair. David, finished with his eating, busily rolled leftover peas round and round his food dish. Without warning, Daddy quickly reached around and with the damp cloth wiped breadcrumbs, mashed peas and potatoes, and smears of chocolate pudding from David's face and from behind his ears.
David howled and twisted away, but Daddy was ready for him. A moment later, his face and hands cleared of food-well, as much as could be expected with only a damp cloth- Daddy hoisted David from his chair and lowered him to the floor.
Looking back over his shoulder as he scampered on hands and knees into the living room, David tangled with a fire engine. He rolled over on his back, looked up at Daddy, and laughed. The laugh stopped Daddy from rushing forward; the tangle had not been hurtful.
Daddy stooped and pushed the fire engine toward David, then joined him on the floor. They put their heads together, and as their hands touched and explored the fire engine they explained to each other how the different parts worked.
Leah, drawn from her work by the sounds of David's tumble, peered into the living room. Seeing all was well, she smiled, and carried another armful of dishes and tableware to the kitchen counter.
'Looks like our men are busy,' she said.
Mother nodded as she spooned leftovers into containers for the refrigerator.
'It's always good to relax after dinner,' she said. 'When we're done here, we'll join them. Then, in a little while, I'll bathe David and put him down.
You will take your bath, and then you, Daddy and I will have our meeting.'
'Daddy did say something about a meeting when I came in from the yard,' Leah said. 'What's up?'
'Let's just wait and see,' Mother smiled mysteriously as they loaded the dishwasher.
Finished with her work, Leah skipped along the hallway that connected her room to the living room. Little brother was down for the night. Leah, bathed, hair washed, blow-dried and brushed, was squeaky clean in her red nightgown.
She squeezed a space for herself on the couch between Mother and Daddy and they eased aside to make room. Daddy put his newspaper aside and Mother placed a card in her book to mark her place.
Glancing up at one, then the other, Leah put on her serious business face.
'Meeting time,' Daddy said.
'What's the problem?' Leah folded her arms across her chest, straightened her legs, and fixed her eyes on the opposite wall to help her concentration.
Family meetings were important. The meetings were still only for the three of them. When David was old enough to share in the family responsibilities, he would join the meetings.
'It's not really a problem,' Daddy said, 'but we're going to have a change in the way we live.'
'A change?' Leah frowned. 'Everything is going fine. I'm satisfied with the way we're living now. Why change?'
Leah turned to stare at Daddy, then shifted about to look at Mother, who smiled at her. Daddy put his arms around Leah and pulled her close. Mother reached over and straightened a wisp of her hair.
'Leah,' Daddy said, 'you may be a child, but you're no longer a baby. You're growing up. Before long, you'll be a young woman. Young women and young men need to learn about the world in which they live. Mothers and fathers, and grandmas and grandpas teach children much about the world and about what is right and what is wrong. That's fine, but knowledge about the world around you also can be given to you from somewhere else. Do you know of another place where a youngster learns about the world?'
'School?' Leah's voice rose.
'School.' Daddy nodded slowly.
'School.' Mother's soft voice repeated.
'I'm going to go to school?' Leah wriggled from Daddy's embrace, slid off the couch, and hop-skipped to the middle of the living room. Whirling to face her grinning parents, Leah bounced with excitement.
Daddy motioned Leah back to her place on the couch.
'Our meeting is not finished,' he said. 'We have more to talk about.'
Leah immediately stopped her bouncing. Meetings, she knew, were not to be interrupted by rude behavior. Climbing back onto the couch, she leaned back, folded her legs under her, and folded her arms again. Only now her eyes were sparkling with excitement. Pressing her lips together tightly, she forced the no-nonsense business look back to her face.
'OK,' she said, I'm listening.'
'We'll tell you what to expect, Leah,' Mother said, 'and, afterward, you may ask questions.'
'Not far from where we live here in Woodchuckaton,' Mother began, 'is the city of Portland.'
'Right,' Leah cut in. 'We've been to the city lots of times on shopping trips and for sightseeing and for visiting parks and....'
'Leah,' Mother put her hand on Leah's arm. 'Concentrate on what we
Leah looked sideways at her mother and her eyes twinkled. 'You mean no more interruptions. Right?'
'OK, I'm switched to my listener.'
'In Portland, and in all the cities and towns around it, are schools where children go to learn about the world. You're going to be a student in one
of those schools. You will attend every day except weekends and holidays. Is that clear to you?'
'At the school are worktables, books with lots of pictures, playgrounds, games, and many things to do that are fun. Children who are the same age as you will be there too. A grown-up will be in the room with you and the other children to teach and help you to understand all the new things you will do and see.'
Leah was having a problem being a listener.
'I think Leah either wants to say something or ask a question.' Daddy grinned. 'Shall we give her the floor for a moment?'
'Very well,' Mother said.
The questions tumbled out of Leah. 'When will I start? What will I learn about? What's the teacher's name? Will I get new clothes for school? What about....?'
'Wait a minute. Wait a minute.' Daddy laughed. 'Let's take them one at a time. We can answer a few of your questions, and the teacher of your class will answer others.'
Mother turned Leah to face her.
'You start school in three days,' she said. 'They know you are coming, just as they know of the others who will be with you. What you learn will depend on your teachers and on you.'
Suddenly Leah's face drooped.
'What about Sarah?' Her face clouded, and her voice changed to a whisper.
Mother and Daddy glanced at each other. Daddy picked Leah up, placed
her on his lap so that they faced each other. Their eyes met.
'Tell me, Leah,' Daddy said as he drew her close and gave her a full all-round hug, 'When we have a change in our lives in which you will be at school every day, where do you think Sarah will be while you are gone?'
'Sarah will always be my friend,' Leah's voice was a whisper as she leaned her head on her Daddy's chest. 'She'll be with me always, wherever I go. Maybe we won't go flying as often as we did before, but I'll always feel her close to me.' Leah raised her head, grinned, and added with a laugh, 'and that will always make me feel good.'
Leah and her Mother and Daddy sat on the couch, talking about the changes that would come with school. There would be a new time to get up in the morning, dressing to go out, packing a school lunch and having a comb and brush kit, and things like that.
Leah listened, and voiced opinions which Mommy and Daddy considered very carefully. The meeting was a sharing.
After a while, Daddy and Leah went to the dining room table and Mother brought cookies and milk. They sat around the table, munched the cookies, sipped the milk, and talked some more.
Daddy rose, came around the table where Leah sat, and picked her up. Mother kissed Leah's cheek as her head rested on Daddy's arm.
Daddy carried Leah down the long hallway, passed David's room, and opened the door into her softly lit bedroom. Daddy lowered drowsy Leah to her bed, tucked her in, and kissed her good night.
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