Jimmy, Mickey and Chamber invited themselves into our family for two years when we lived in Oklahoma. I’m normally quite accommodating of guests, even the kind that invite themselves. But two human years can actually felt like two DOG years when the guests take to entangling themselves in your hair, rummaging through your underwear drawer, starting fist fights, complaining about the texture of your pulled pork, and scaring your child to the point that she’s hiding behind your winter coats in the closet.
I shouldn’t really accuse them of inviting themselves. I do believe Toni was the one who actually brought them into our home and, hence, made herself responsible for their upkeep and well being…. as much as a three-year-old can be held responsible for things like upkeep and well being of anything. She always saved a place for them at the table. Made sure they had enough blankets at night. Reminded them to brush their teeth each morning. And was honest enough to inform me when they were making faces behind my back and whispering curse words into her ear.
While I never actually SAW any of these mischievous sprites, it was quite disconcerting when, all of a sudden, Toni would scream that I needed to get up because I’d just made myself comfortable on Jimmy. Or cry because Chamber was stuck in the top drawer of my dresser and desperately needed rescuing. “Did you hear that?” she might say while we were watching TV. “UGH. Chamber and Jimmy are fighting again. I’ll be right back.” And she would run to her room to break it up.
As one would expect, friends and family were intrigued by Toni’s imaginary yet HIGHLY consistent guests. “Is Chamber a boy or a girl?” they would ask. Toni would smirk and twirl her eyes. “A girl, OF COURSE.” “What does she look like?” they’d want to know. “She’s THIS big,” she would say, cupping her hand in the air for them to see. “She has long, black hair. She likes to wear dresses. And she fights with Jimmy all the time.” “Where did they come from?” they’d ask. “I can’t tell you,” she’d whisper. “They told me never to tell.” “And where are they now?” they’d continue to probe. “Jimmy is on your shoulder. Chamber is sleeping. And Mickey is in Mommy’s hair,” she’d say, giving me the sudden urge to scratch at the back of my head. I was at my wits end with these “friends,” when, for example, Toni would hide herself in my closet because Mickey was angry at her for tattling about his bad words.
But then things changed in 2001 when I took a promotion and we moved to Colorado. Much to Toni’s chagrin (and my complete and utter elation), she could not convince her troublemaking friends to come with us on moving day. Oklahoma was their home. And in Oklahoma they were determined to stay. We never heard from Jimmy, Mickey or Chamber EVER again. Would you believe they never even called to see how their host family was doing out west?
Six years later I have another three-year-old little girl who has brought a “friend” into our home. “Gramma.” Isn’t that so much nicer a name than Chamber? She’s nicer in other ways, too. But while Gramma doesn’t use foul language or sleep in my underwear drawer, she DOES get blamed for a lot. Emma’s crayons littering the bedroom floor? GRAMMA was looking for the red one and couldn’t find it. Emma wants a third serving of grapes? Well, it’s only because Gramma says she needs them. Gramma does everything from pulling out all her books when we aren’t looking to waking her up in the middle of the night to sing gospel hymns. She tells Emma it’s her birthday quite often. And doles out the cupcakes as often as she does words of advice that generally contradict ours.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Gramma would do ALL these things if she were in commuting distance. Indeed, Emma’s Gramma moves as stealthily as a comic book hero. I’m positive she can scale buildings and shoot webs, if only Emma had the vocabulary to tell us so.
In three weeks we will be flying to Delaware to meet Grandma Rose. Emma has never met Grandma Rose before. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll recognize one another. I’ll keep you posted. I’m just so thankful she’s not much for fighting and is much too big to fit in my underwear drawer.