My mother Susan was far ahead of her time. I was born in January, 1963 (yes, thank you for the half-century mark birthday wish, now can we go on?). Though I’ve no one to ask, my guess is that as soon as she could walk properly again after delivering me tushie-first into this world and could manage to fit into her size six wool skirts, she returned to work as a physical education teacher (do not make the mistake of calling her a ‘gym’ teacher). Obviously, I needed to be taken care of because, brilliant as I am, I doubt that at three, five, or even six weeks of age I was adept at mixing my own formula, changing my own diapers, or putting myself down for a nap.
Enter Mona. No, not ‘Mona’ as in ‘Mona Lisa’, but ‘Mona’ as in M-short ‘o’-n-a. Rhymes with ‘Donna’. My parents hired Mona to care for me during the day. Mona was about ninety thousand years old, widowed, and if I remember correctly, didn’t particularly care for children all that much. She drank copious amounts of Red Rose tea, and each day opened a can of Campbell’s tomato soup for her lunch, feeding me the second half of the watered down mess along with a half of a can of Golden Dawn peaches–in heavy syrup. She ate the other half. Might explain my current love affair with food, I don’t know…
Since Mona subscribed to the belief that children should be seen and not heard, I had to make my own magic each day. Watching Jeopardy! followed by her “stories” simply did not fulfill my toddler and preschool needs. Jamie and Becky, siblings about whom my readers will learn in future entries (with nom de plumes, of course), were already in school, leaving me to my own devices. Readers, you have to remember that this was a time when at the end of the day if you were still alive, the adult(s) charged with your care could consider themselves as having done their job and done it well. So, because I was essentially alone all day, I had to make up my own special friend.
Enter Robin. Robin was everything to me. He was a boy, she was a girl, (and how clever was I to have chosen a special friend with a unisex name? Brilliant? I think so.), but more importantly, he/she was whatever I needed at the time. Looking back, I believe that Robin was based on the boy wonder character from Batman that my more seasoned readers will remember as a television series from the (cough) 1960s. A baby girl’s crush? Perhaps.
Robin and I were inseparable. We did everything and anything together, from picking dandelions to catching houseflies and storing them in mayonnaise jars with holes poked through the lid so they could breathe (done with a full-sized hammer and a six penny nail). I talked about Robin as if he/she was right next to me, and yes, Robin had his/her own place at the lunch table.
Mona was not impressed.
When she said to me, “Why do you insist upon this ‘Robin’ character eating with you? He’s not real. You’re just making him up!” I responded with, “You don’t know Robin. You’re nussin but an old yady.”
Well, after that less than unacceptable remark, she made sure that she informed James R. Abercrombie of my abject impertinence. Though I was not present at the time, I am certain that, as my dad drove her back to her daughter’s home that night in our 1966 Ford Falcon station wagon, he feigned shock and aversion at my reported indolence. But later (1994) he informed me that my ‘old yady’ comment was about the funniest damn thing he had ever heard.
Since the time of my infatuation with Robin, I’ve learned that children who make up imaginary friends tend to be gifted. Obviously, I am far from gifted—affected, but not gifted. And here’s another dirty little secret: Robin was the first person I ever slept with.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mona!