Monday, July 20, 2009

Two Clowns, a Boy with Glasses, and Me


For the first six years of my life, I was an only child living in a neighborhood with few children my age. And though I spent a lot of time playing alone, I wasn’t lonely. I had a big weeping willow tree in the back yard on which to climb, and from which I would swing for hours on a wooden seat (with splinters) suspended by long ropes. I also had a record player and a stack of Little Golden Books. One of the books was about clowns, and each page showed the colorful jesters performing circus acts. The one that sticks in my mind was of clowns pretending to be stuck in a burning building, hanging out windows with crying faces and painted on tears, while more clowns in firemen’s hats pretended to squirt water on the building. Ha ha.

Frankly, the clowns terrified me. So I did what any self-respecting child would do - I hired bodyguards. Okay, I invented them, then I hired them. Of course, I named them and gave them identities, too -- well on my way to becoming a fiction writer, I suppose. At any rate, Jocko, Bimbo, and Glassy were my constant companions for several years.

I wish I knew what my reasoning was for giving them those names, because now they sound like characters in a bad Mafia film. Jocko and Bimbo were impish little boy clowns, so I must have figured it was best to keep my enemies close. And Glassy was a smart boy who wore huge black-framed glasses. I don’t have a clue as to why, although I was quite a Superman fan at the time. But, seriously. Glassy?

My children think it’s hilarious that I had these imaginary playmates, especially with such odd names. (My children should consider themselves lucky they didn’t end up with those names.) At any rate, I wonder how many kids today have imaginary friends, or whether all the television viewing, computer usage, and video gaming has robbed them of time to use their imaginations.

When I was a teacher, I emphasized creative writing and was bewildered by kids who didn’t seem to get pretending or imagining. It took a lot of work before they were able to invent stories. Seeing how popular the Harry Potter books and their like are today really does my heart good. They’re pure fantasy, and hopefully they’ve stimulated more than a few young minds to pretend they’re wizards off to battle the evil Dementors, Wormtails and Voldemorts. Rest assured, I’ve already taken care of the clowns.

Did you (or your children) have imaginary friends?