For years my sister, Elizabeth had an imaginary friend named Raidy Hutts. She described him as short with thick bifocals and patchy brown hair. I thought he sounded sick, but she assured me he was healthy and thriving in our house.
He was supposedly a yapper…a man of many words. Lizzy was known to carry on lengthy conversations with Raidy, rarely getting a word in edgewise, but often times shaking her head in agreement, or laughing at one of his irreverent comments. Of course all of this is speculation as I personally never met the man.
For most of our childhood, Raidy lived with us. He attended school, first communion, dance recitals, and even shared a bed with Lizzy and I. Often times I’d crawl under the covers only to be reprimanded that I’d left the poor guy no room. When I complained, my parents appeared disappointed, as if I hadn’t learned the first rule of Montessori….SHARE! So for the longest time I slept on the edge of our mattress for fear I’d crush Raidy… or gawd forbid, roll over and break his glasses.
During the subsequent years I found it quite odd that our family never spoke of dysfunction. Good Lord, we had an invisible man with stringy hair living with us, sharing our adolescent bed, and no one found his appearance…or lack thereof, a problem. And when I happened to mention that it was slightly embarrassing for a friend of mine to have a sleep over, and see an extra place setting at our dinner table, you would have thought I’d cut the cheese in church.
“It will take care of itself,” my mother scolded. “Your father had Chief Whopahassi when he was a boy…and your dad is perfectly normal.”
The ghost of a sage old Indian may have shared personal space with my father, but from where I sit, this in no way contributed to his normalcy. He was the sole proprietor of a bakery specializing in erotic cakes…with an emphasis on anything that might arouse yeast. Let’s just say, I never volunteered his participation in our annual class, “Fathers As Role Models-Career Day.”
Then one December, Mom made Raidy a stocking. On Christmas morning my sister took two socks down from the mantle, and began opening the packages inside. Raidy received a Garth Brooks CD, a slingshot, and a training bra. Feigning surprise, Lizzy squealed, “Just what I wanted!” I received a book of crossword puzzles, a required calculator for math class, and a birdcall whistle. A frickin’ bird whistle. I don’t even like birds. Needless to say, I had a mind to jam that wooden tweeter way up where Raidy Hutts’ sun don’t shine…(if I ever became privy to his whereabouts.)
Toward the end of sixth grade my sister stopped talking to Raidy. They’d had a falling out. No longer did Raidy sit at the dinner table or receive gifts. He was gone. Probably with as much warning as Chief Whopahassi’s last smoke signal.
Kids have sponge brains, and during those first few years there is no telling what soaks in.
My own children now grown, I found myself on a road trip to Vegas with a couple of girlfriends. We opted for the back road my family always took out of LA, a funky time warped stretch of two lane, beat up black top…called the Pear Blossom Highway. It was on this tumbleweed junkyard of a road that Amy lit up a bowl of medical pot for her bad back, prompting Jill and I to immediately discover a series of our own ailments mandating participation…dropping us all into that mellow road zone.
There, in the middle of nowhere, a twenty foot carved Indian stood beckoning to all, “JERKY, MOCASSINS, and ROCKS,” backlit by a giant neon sign flashing… “CHIEF WHOPAHASSI.” …somehow I just knew Raidy Hutts was in there whipping up a date shake to a Garth Brooks classic.