It was a nice sunny day and I was watching my son Tim, who was about 6 years old at the time, play in the back yard. He had worn the dog out by chasing her around and he had been digging holes under the porch for approximately the last hour – happily getting as dirty as possible and humming to himself. His older brother and sister (ages 8 and 10) were off playing with their own friends and his baby sister (age 4) was not interested in digging holes in the dirt. (Just a side note about my children’s ages – yes, I had them two years apart on purpose – that way if I remember at least one of their ages, I can get all of their ages!)
So, Tim was all alone in the backyard – or so I thought. I could hear him singing and talking because I had the backdoor open and he was right under the porch. He was telling stories and having conversations with a ‘friend’. At first, I thought he was talking to his dog, Liberty (who was named thus because she constantly escaped from the yard!) – but then I saw Liberty sprawled out on the lawn, still trying to regain her strength from playing with Tim earlier. Then I thought maybe he had an imaginary friend – which all children have at one time in their lives and it is completely normal. I even know some adults who still have imaginary friends – however, it’s a little different as an adult—the people are real, the friendship is not!
Anyway, I watched Tim wander around the yard talking to ‘someone’ and going to great lengths to entertain this new friend. I watched as he stopped by Liberty, laid something on her back and proceeded to introduce his friend to the dog. He then picked the object off the back of Liberty and went to the swing set. He placed something on one swing and then sat down in the other and began going back and forth – still talking. He then stopped, picked up something from the swing and put it on one side of the teeter totter and gently rocked back and forth. The ‘something’ was picked up and Tim went to the slide. Carrying the object carefully in his hand, he climbed up the stairs to the top of the slide, laid the object on his leg, covered it gently with his hand and then went down the slide. Then the cycle repeated itself and it went on for about another 30 minutes.
Finally Tim came to back door and asked if he and his friend could come in for a drink of water. I asked him to introduce me to his friend, which is when he opened his hand and showed me the biggest, deadest wood roach I had ever seen – and introduced me to Fred! It took all my strength not to scream and laugh hysterically at the same time! I recovered enough to tell Tim that his friend had dirty feet and needed to stay outside, but Tim could bring him a drink if he would like. That seemed to work for Tim.
I asked Tim where he met Fred and why was he carrying him all over the backyard. Tim replied, “I found him under a rock under the porch. He seemed so sad that I figured if I played with him for a while, he might feel better and start moving.” I didn’t have the heart to tell Tim that Fred wasn’t unhappy – Fred was dead!
It came time for Tim to come in for the evening and I told him that Fred would have to sleep outside because I didn’t want anyone to accidentally step on him and besides he was happier outside. We left him on a stool outside and went in the house.
The next morning, Fred was gone. I didn’t get rid of him – he just wasn’t there – probably blown away by the wind. However, Tim smiled because he knew that Fred had finally starting feeling better and had just flown away – happy after spending the day with a good friend.