Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake
jaylake

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[child] Living in the imaginary world

I had a nice chat with the_child over the telephone tonight. We were talking about candy fairies and tooth fairies. I told her I thought my Granddaddy Lake might have been a tooth fairy. She asked me why. I explained about the time that my (step)mother and I found a box full of teeth at Granddaddy's house. (This is true, btw, not some talespinning on my part.)

It was after he had passed away and we were all up in Gainesville, TX, closing out the house. Mom and I were in one of the upstairs bathrooms (it was that kind of house) taking all the boxes out of the bathtub (it was also that kind of house). She reached for a box which tipped over and rained several hundred human teeth down on the two of us.

At about 15, I found this riotously funny. Mom was Not Amused. My laughter was especially Not Amusing. We'll draw the curtain of good taste over the rest of the scene, but suffice to say it was a familial donnybrook of Thurberian proportions.

And you people wonder why I write what I write.

So back to the_child some more. When she was very little, she had a special place called her "wood house." It was where she went when she was lonely or sad or mad, and she would come back with reports of doings there. Sometime after we all moved to Portland, it transmogrified into her "rainbow house." She had a rainbow house mother, a rainbow house father, elaborate descriptions of her home there. The place had continuity, time progression and even narrative arcs. It developed a whole village. the_child had a twin there, who sometimes exchanged places with her here.

She never seemed to distinguish between the mythic reality of the rainbow house and the empirical reality of our everyday lives — she simply moved transparently from one place to the other as she needed to.

One day when she was about six, I was driving somewhere with her and her friend T—, a boy of seven. the_child made some matter of fact comment about her rainbow house. T— asked what that was. She started to explain, saw the contemptuous look on her face, and her voice faltered.

The rainbow house died then and there. I could have cried, and almost did. There was nothing for me to say. Maybe I was lucky to be in at the kill, so I could witness the passing of that age of her childhood. the_child has literally never mentioned the rainbow house again.

Like my grandfather the tooth fairy, the rainbow house lives on in me. I remember the stories, what it meant to her, even have some of her drawings.

Someday when she is ready, I will pass it back to her.
Tags: child, family, personal, writing
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