In the past few months, I was reminded of something from my very distant Chicago past. The reason those memories have resurfaced almost 70 years later is because of something my niece Jessie told me. Having heard much of the family lore surrounding my upbringing over the years from her mom and my sis, Joanie, Jessie was aware that the person she’s always referred to as Uncle Bubby during his first few years growing up in the Chicago suburb of Oak Lawn had a couple of invisible friends. In a neighborhood somewhat lacking in kids my age, my two pals provided sounding boards for some of my earliest chatter.
Jessie couldn’t wait to tell me all about her own sweet little 4-year-old daughter, Luna, who’s also managed to find a couple of invisible friends named Honey and Cookie. As Jessie detailed some of the interesting one-directional conversations she’s overheard amongst the three, I couldn’t help thinking back to my earliest times and my own invisible pals that shared time with me in my bedroom closet. Their names were Freezer and Goddy. Now, as a preschooler, to be honest, I really didn’t think much about the significance of their names nor did I take any role in naming them. After all, let the record reflect it was they who first introduced themselves to me.
However, when I later thought back on those times when I needed a couple pals that the neighborhood couldn’t provide, I suspect one was Freezer because that was where those popsicles I craved were, the ones promised for good behavior and the ones I only received when my mother relented and lowered the behavior bar considerably. As for the other, Goddy, I believe that was because in our Catholic home, well, there seemed to be a lot of talk about this God guy, especially on Sundays when the Grindrods made their way to mass at St. Christina’s Catholic Church.
As for Luna’s pals, of course, I probed Jessie as to the possible significances of the names Honey and Cookie. Her surmise is Honey is thusly named because Luna has heard the endearing moniker so often from her mom and others and Cookie is thusly named because, well, who doesn’t like cookies, right?
I suppose when it comes to the reason for kids’ imaginary friends, I think they exist because for a period of time they’re needed. In my case, once my family and I made the move to Lima in 1958 and moved into a neighborhood awash with potential playmates, Freezer and Goddy vanished. Or, maybe they just decided to remain in Oak Lawn and look for another little boy or girl to befriend.
Following Jessie’s amusing narratives involving Honey and Cookie, I began to think a bit more about this business of speaking to no one that anyone else can see and decided the adult equivalent is when we talk to ourselves.
While visiting my sis and brother-in-law last March in their Floridian home in Fort Myers, we were watching one of the PGA golf tournaments before going out to dinner, and I saw my new favorite golfer, a young fellow by the name of Tyrrell Hatton, competing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
During close-ups of him following his shots, his lips were moving at high speed, accompanied by frequent hand gestures, often in what I judged to be full exasperation because that stupid ball was not behaving properly. The self-chastisements on the greens for putts that refused to dive into cups were often followed by even more self-chatter on the next tee as he prepared to tee the ball up.
Now, in my younger days, I caddied enough to know that golfers lead the league in both talking to the ball they’ve just struck and castigating themselves after such strikes, but Hatton had taken the whole talking-to-himself thing to a whole new level, since so much of the chatter went on even before he swung the club. As I watched what I considered to be an elite performance in the self-conversation category, I had to wonder if the habit extended beyond the course, and I’m betting it does.
Of course, having now lived alone for more years than I had my family in-house, I know more than a smidge about the art of talking to yourself. Actually, despite the joy and companionship that my Lady Jane provides, the fact is most days she’s not physically present as I patter around the castle. It’s not unusual, especially when I’m in watching a live sporting event or a movie, for my lips to be flapping away. On work days, while driving, my self-conversations often continue. While once upon a time, that might have caused some funny looks from my fellow motorists, now that the hands-free technology is so widespread, no one bats an eye when they spy me chattering away with no one else in the car, since their assumption is I’m talking on the phone.
I suppose just as that preschool version of myself back in Oak Lawn needed Freezer and Goddy, the adult version of that former Chicago kid so often needs the sound of a voice, even if it’s just his own. I think there’s probably a lot of folks out there who know exactly what I mean.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected].