What the Catbird Heard – Part II


Grampy, did you ever have an imaginary friend?” The geese honked loudly as if laughing at the little girl’s question.

“No, Cecilia, I didn’t. But Grammy’s mother did. She called her Lime Creche.”

“That’s a silly name. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

Nor have I, Cecilia. I don’t know where she came up with it. But it was her childhood friend who used to play with her and follow her to school.”

“Sterling says that there’s no such thing as imaginary friends, Grampy, but aren’t there some things that are real that not everyone can see?”

Her grandfather stopped short of the spillway, surprised by the truth of what his grand-daughter was saying. “Well, yes, I think so, Cecilia. People say they see ghosts and spirits and the like.”

The like, Grampy? It tickles me when you talk like that. You sound so serious!”

“You’ve got me there, Cecilia. I can’t help it. But I want to give you the best answers I can… Ideas are real, too, but we can’t see them. We can only see their results. And gases are real, but we can’t see them. Then there are atoms, protons and neutrons and subatomic particles… And other solar systems… And stars! Some even that we see but which don’t exist anymore!  Now you’ve got me started, Cecilia. I’m sorry. That’s probably more than you wanted to know.”

“No, Grampy, I want to know everything. Even if I don’t understand you, I like it when you get so excited. It makes me feel the same.” Two mallards skirted the shore, pushing aside the budding water lilies exploding now into yellow and white.

“Now that I think about it, Cecilia, there are lots of things that are real but which we can’t see. There are even colors that we can’t see but that scientists can with special filters. Or animals with their different eyes.”

“Animals don’t see what we do, Grampy?!”

“No, Cecilia, they don’t hear what we hear either. The more I think about it the more I realize that there are as many worlds as there are ways to look at them.”

“Then Sterling is wrong, Grampy! There are such things as imaginary friends! I told him so!”

“Not ‘wrong,’ Cecilia. Maybe just not as wise as you yet… Do you have an imaginary friend, Cecilia?”

“Yes, I do. She’s called Buddah Baby.”

“Buddah Baby?!” her grandfather laughed. “And you thought Grammy’s Lime Creche was a funny name!”

“That’s what she told me her name was, Grampy. I don’t think she thinks it’s a funny name at all.”

“No, I suppose not.  But tell me about her. When do you see her? What’s she like?”

“She doesn’t come to school with me, Grampy, but she is always here when I come home. She likes to play school and go outdoors. She sends me postcards from places she visits. And she loves birthday parties with cake and candles to blow out!”

“She sounds a lot like you, Cecilia. Full of life!”

“I guess we’re a lot alike, but you can’t hold her like me. And you can’t see her. And she never seems to get mad at me.”

“Why would anyone get mad at you, Cecilia?” her grandfather wondered, overcome by the innocence of her belief.

“Oh, they do, Grampy. Mommy and daddy… and even Sterling. They weren’t happy with me when I dropped my gum and Nugget licked it, then I put it back in my mouth! And they screamed when I picked up a dead bird!”

“Cecilia, they’re not mad at you. They just don’t want you to get sick.”

“Sometimes I say a word wrong or make a mistake when I’m adding my numbers, and mommy loses patience with me. I can’t get sick from that, Grampy.”

“No, Cecilia, you can’t.”

“Well, Buddah tickles me when I make a mistake, and we both laugh.  She wonders what’s behind every door and doesn’t hear when she’s told something can’t be done. That’s why I like her.”

“You know what, Cecilia, I like her, too. Maybe Buddah has an invisible friend for me.”

“Oh, Grampy, you’re silly. Grownups can’t have invisible friends. Besides, you have Grammy.”

“Yes, I do have Grammy, and I’m lucky at that. But maybe adults should be able to have invisible friends, too. I think sometimes adults accept the world as given and forget that we can change it. An invisible friend would remind us of that.”

“Buddah doesn’t want to change the world, Grampy. She just likes to laugh or smile at it.”

Her grandfather smiled and stopped short of the second spillway, swollen now with spring rains. “That’s just it, Cecilia. Adults forget how to laugh. Especially when people die or get hurt.”

“There’s nothing funny about people getting hurt, Grampy.”

“I know, Cecilia, but does Buddah Baby stop smiling? Does she ever not want to play?”

“No, she doesn’t. You’re right.”

“How can that be?”

“I don’t know, Grampy. It’s almost like the pain isn’t real to her. Like she sees the next step… or that everything changes…”

“Or that what we think is real is not?” Her grandfather took a deep breath.

“Isn’t that where we started, Grampy? You did that on purpose!”

“Maybe so, Cecilia. Or maybe I have an invisible friend, too, and didn’t know it.”

“I wasn’t going to tell you, Grampy. But Buddah told me that long ago.” The little girl grabbed her grandfather’s hand and smiled. “She’s funny that way.”