Confession: My children have some unusual playmates.
We’ve tried hard to provide each of them with smart, scrupulous, well-meaning kids of their own age with whom to play, but these other characters keep popping up: slightly shady characters without credentials or background checks or – indeed, any background at all.
Aarick started it.
Shortly after his father read him Charlotte’s Web at age three, Aarick produced a friend named Wilbur. Wilbur was five years old, and had a wife named Steering Wheel and two bright children, Robunga and Kiwi.
Other friends popped in briefly. There was Justin. There was the unnamed friend with a mother called Always-Tired. There was the lovely lady Christmas, whose name changed to Snow after a while, and then to Spring. There was Tom, and Mr. Lock.
Regan had no unorthodox friends until Aarick went to school. Then suddenly Dan showed up.
Dan was one of those unforgettable characters, so vivid that “dumber than Dan” became a family byword. Dan liked losing games. If you were playing Monopoly with him and you gave him a choice of say, going to jail or getting $500, he would choose jail every time. He thought jail was a place where they gave you flowers and stuff.
Eventually Regan had to find an alternate playmate since Dan cheated so much, so he brought Susie on board. Susie was a nice level-headed playmate, a sort of inoffensive team player who was there on call, and never there when you didn’t want her. She was good for leverage, so Regan could threaten Dan into good behavior.
Later still, Ivan the Terrible joined the party. Regan’s parents frowned on Ivan the Terrible, but there it was—they couldn’t just ignore the guy.
Meanwhile, all of Kelly’s friends were squeaky-clean and kosher. And then Regan went to school…
Suddenly Kelly was playing with Dan while Regan was gone. Uh-oh. This was not okay because Dan hates girls.
Regan decided to just give Susie to Kelly so she would stop playing with Dan.
Sure! Both girls were quite happy with this arrangement. And Jonni started coming around too and made it a happy threesome. Her real name is Jonathan, but she goes by Jonni and she is a Girl! Kelly gets quite upset if this fact is not understood.
I am thinking of finding some friends too.
Mrs. Sunny-Side-Up, who takes me out for breakfast on Saturday mornings. And pays. She likes to pay; if I try to talk her out of it she gets quite cross and threatens not to bring me along next time.
Miss 409, who does my cleaning when I’m not looking. At least she says she does, and I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings by poking too carefully into corners. What are a few cobwebs between friends?