I remember when I was just a thought in your head. You were barely four at the time, and the other kids in your preschool class didn’t want to play with you.
So you danced alone up and down the hallways at home, humming your own tune and wishing you had a friend to play with. That was our first memory together. Why did you have to grow up?
I watched you on your fifth birthday as you blew out candles while everyone sang “Happy birthday, Laci!
” Once the festivities were over, we ran away together to play with your new toys, and spent the evening with fairies and dragons,
dancing in a field of flowers beneath the moon that shone like a great eye down on the two of us. Your little chubby cheeks were like rosebuds, your plastic tiara a queen’s crown.
Where did all of those happy memories go?
I changed throughout the years.
Sometimes I was your knight in shining armor, coming to rescue my princess from the horrible monster,
other times I was your partner-in-crime as you expertly plotted the cookie heist of the century.
We were convinced the old hag who lived in the vacant lot across the street had poisoned your mother’s corn casserole,
and the trees outside your bedroom window transformed into goblins and trolls at night, determined to hunt you down. Where did all the imagination go?
“I’m glad I have you, Oliver.” You said one day during an afternoon full of homework. “You make everything more fun.”
Together we wallowed in a swamp of third-grade math, hoping desperately, fleetingly, the swamp would vanish with the wave of a magic wand.
But alas, neither of us knew where your mother kept her wand. We hadn’t yet managed to locate it.
I turned to you and saw the mischievous glint in your eye. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I asked.
You nodded. “Time for a cookie break.”
And the alligators gnawing at the pit of our stomachs as we trudged through the murky swamp were silenced with a pair of chocolate-chip cookies.
Looking back, I wish we could have stayed in this moment longer. But just like you, I had no way of knowing good things never last.
I watched your ballet recitals from right beside you, where you floated like a feather over the stage.
We both knew your pink tutu was really Cinderella’s blue gown and your plain ballet slippers were instead made of glass.
And as we danced, the crowd watching us turned into the gentle sea lapping against the shore at night, still and serene, and the hard floor turned to quiet sand beneath our feet.
Oh, if only I’d known then it wasn’t to last.
I waited patiently for you during each day at school. As days turned to months and then to years, I was always right beside you, even if you didn’t pay much attention to me anymore.
When the final bell rang, sometimes you would escape back to fairyland with me, sometimes you dashed away to play with friends.
As time went on, and you entered junior high, you began to spend more time texting and chatting. That was fine. I was glad you had other friends.
But at the same time, I still missed all the times we dashed away to play with the unicorns in the meadow or stake out the old witch’s hideout. That’s all changed now.
I was everything you wanted me to be. I liked everything you did. Your favorite color was blue? So was mine.
You loved dancing, fairies, and Cinderella? Then I was your prince, your knight in shining armor, your dancing partner.
I was the best of imagination, and everything I was, my entire being, was yours. I was naïve and silly, just like the child you once were, to think it could have always been this way.
I thought we would last forever. But you’re moving on now, and I’m fading away, like fog on the bathroom window, floating away like a bubble blown into a breeze.
The only record of my existence is a single solitary picture drawn when you were six – the only one your mother kept around. It shows us dancing, hand-in-hand, over a field of flowers.
Just the two of us. How I long for the fun we had when you were just a kid with ratty blonde pigtails and a tired old tiara.
Will you still remember me? Will I fade completely, like a seasonal pond in the heat of summer, or the sun in the middle of a thunderstorm?
Remember me, Laci.
I was your best childhood friend.
You were the best friend imagination could wish for.