As a college student, I briefly nannied this horrible shit of a Kindergartener. I say “briefly” because when one’s head and heart tells them to address a 5-year-old as a “shit” (even internally), it becomes clear that career choices at some point were askew. Also his mother paid me like a blind beggar, insisting she was shoving silent dollar bills in my cup when I noticed the lack of change’s jingle. Anyways, a major contributor to this boy’s hideousness was his imaginary turtle, Yertle.
I read enough to understand the Seuss from whence the turtle came to life for the boy, but Yertle’s innocent children’s book upbringing didn’t negate cold, hard facts. It was Yertle, the kid would claim, who kicked me in the shins. Yertle, he would giggle, loved creeping behind the couch and pulling hair from the nanny’s scalp “cuz he’s snapping turtle so he’s snapping etch yer head!”. Yertle also enjoyed long bouts of eye-gauging, coloring Crayon murals across walls, and playing Spit Fountain. And surely every night it was this faux tortoise who stirred the boy from sleep, forced him to jump off his bed and scale bookshelves, or stick plastic figurines into very live outlets. This Yertle The Turtle, all be him fake as a spray tan, was ruining my perfectly carefree college existence. Being nineteen and as sensitive as such, I took the opportunity to break bad news to the boy at every turn. After months of watching the small child weekly, I told him daily that the imaginary could not be real, that Yertle was fake and his lack of being was a good thing, as I wasn’t getting paid by Yertle’s mother not to punch him. In turn, the 5-year-old told me hourly of Yertle’s incredibly detailed life, refusing to believe that what he wanted to be simply wasn’t.
We went for a walk one day. I counted down the minutes until his mother returned home. He daintily walked Yertle on an invisible turtle leash. And I almost didn’t hear it, the boy’s gentle crying, when I looked to find him crouched over the sidewalk. And even upon hearing it, I almost didn’t believe it, as I’d come to have full faith that the kid had little soul not possessed by some kind of awful. “There you are,” he lisped through tears. “Yertle”. A random turtle crossed our path, and this boy- so fiercely told that what he so believed was true was not- felt the full weight of seeing something real that he had always hoped would be.
Me: “Kathy loves crafting. I bet she’d be helping me craft if she lived closer”.
Doubter: “Hmm. Ok. Yeah, um. I bet she would.”
Me: “You know Kathy lived in Haiti and she had dinner once with a dictator/ President/ terrorist dude. His name is Baby Doc but not like the OBGYN. He sold people’s body parts and stuff so he probably wasn’t a real doctor at all. I wouldn’t certify that guy.”
Doubter: “Of course she did. How did this Kathy also live in Kentucky. It was Kentucky right? Has she had dinner with Colonel Sanders who was probably not a real Colonel?
Me: “Oh, well yeah. She’s in Kentucky now with Sara. Sara’s her partner. Have I told you about Sara? Ahh, she’s just the coolest. She saves the world all Captain Planet style. I’ll have to check about dinner with the Colonel, though. She never blogged about that. Ew! But she did just write the most interesting thing about growing up in the Mob. Well, kind of in the Mob. Basically enough in the Mob that there were raids and FBI guys and her dad’s shady business dealings and hidden papers and all kinds of secret spy sounding stuff! So, you know, about 100% more in the Mob than I’ve ever been.”
Doubter: ” Haitian Dictator Dinners, Kentucky Captain Planet, Mobster Crafting. Got it. Wow. Sounds like this ‘Kathy’ is busy. And you’re friends?”
Me: “Blogging buddies like you would not believe! I’ve never met her or anything, Oh!, but I get to meet her soon…. on my wedding day… for the first time.”
Doubter: “Oh, honey. Sure. Just… sure. You and your imaginary Kathy have a really, um, special friendship.”
In conversations such as these it became clear that to these real-live people sitting across from my real-live self my so-called relationship with this figment of blogging grandeur was as false and dumbly rejecting reality as walking Yertle on his little, turtle leash right down the aisle with me. But I knew what I knew. My imaginary Kathy is kind and smart, a fiercely talented artist, an honest soul who shares it all on her blog. My imaginary Kathy supports my writing, my family, and myself. My imaginary Kathy is a friend I feel I’ve cherished for years. My imaginary Kathy talks like we are all right there with her, sharing sips of coffee and rejoicing in the knowing of each other. My imaginary Kathy planned to be there on my wedding day, and more than all of this, my imaginary Kathy is not imaginary. I’d heard all the skepticism, laughter at a silly friendship that could not possibly be. I tried my best to be brave in the face of doubters as I made my way through rows of guests at my wedding reception. I saw her in all her realness, vibrant and warm just like I thought she’d be, and I felt the sudden understanding of a boy on a sidewalk:
There you are.
I don’t think words were said. If they were I can only hope I didn’t call my imaginary Kathy, Kertle, right to her very real face. There was just a flood of emotion, a teary thank you to the universe that a thing, a person, I’d so hoped to be was. Kertle and her partner, the planet-saving Sara, danced and dined and loved and talked among my family and friends, those folks I’d always accepted as real by blood and human contact. If they were just a figment of my imagination, the two fit in with the world of the real and real crazy swimmingly.
Beyond the getting married bit, the treasure of my wedding day was discovering Yertle or Kertle or whatever it is that we call “beliefs we didn’t need to see to believe but got the chance to see anyways”. Throughout the night I’d catch mental snapshots of Kathy and Sara, loving with an authenticity a government doubts. I heard them laughing their way into a family of amazons, sure if one were to see their petite selves amidst the rest of us 6-footers, one would surely doubt they were kin. I shouldered up to their table and had a conversation as old friends do, grasping occasionally at the solid table and inappropriately reaching for their hands to make sure this was skin, and noise, and true.
I met a blogging friend for the first time on my wedding day. I thought she was wonderful, in and out of posts and comment sections, but she was more. By the end of the evening my family extended invitations to more upcoming weddings, Facebook friend requests, and hugs, and it was clear. There was no doubt that regardless of the means of the meet, the time known, the history had or yet to be made, a friend is a friend, and to doubt that would be to diminish it. So, thank you, my imaginary Kathy, Kertle, for being the real deal and making our wedding day special beyond what we ever could imagine.
Have you ever met a blogging buddy in person?
Was he or she what you were expecting?