My Imaginary Friend

I became aware that I had mentioned my imaginary friend, Gumbye, in a previous story without introducing him to you, my readers. Let me do so now. I was five years old and pretty much an only child having a three-year-older sister who had figured out that her life was better without me. Other than having family meals with her, I was the only child. I felt alone. I would play with my toy cars in the dirt under the pepper tree on the west side of our simple frame home on Huntington Drive, Highway 66, in Monrovia, California, in 1938. There was a vacant lot that once had a house built there. What remained was the foundation and the concrete front steps, my playground. I would play and imagine being involved in stories and say out loud the narrative as my story developed. I was doing so one morning just on the porch of the concrete remains as I heard clearly a young, male voice say, “Good morning. May I join in your story?” I was thrilled. Someone to play with me. Prior to this, there was no one. “Well, sure,” I said. “My name is Bernard. My family and friends know me as Bubs. Who are you?”

“I’m Gumbye, named after the farewell statement of Shadow Smart in the comics.”

He was interesting looking, older and taller than I, had an overgrown crewcut, not by plan but by necessity, wore culottes, unusual in Monrovia, and had Ked high-top tennis shoes, and smiled continuously. He moved closer with anxious expectations on his face.

“Gumbye, do you live close?”

“Yeah. Just over a couple of blocks by Parker.”

One morning I decided to climb the tree in the back of the lot behind the remaining foundation of the house that wasn’t anymore. I categorized each tree I encountered as either a good tree to climb or a not-so-good tree to climb. Its branches were equally spaced all around and up to the top of this straight, tall tree. I was well on my way up the tree without an unconquerable challenge that brought me up to where I was high enough to be able to see four square blocks of my neighborhood, all along Huntington Drive where our house was, east to Maple Street and on to King Street where Mrs. Brewer gave me oatmeal muffins. She was feeding her dog in the backyard of her residence on King Street when I was surprised by Gumbye’s shrill voice, “You sure climb trees like a city boy. Too slow.”

“How long have you been here,” I said.

“Long enough to pass you.”

He was smiling in a knowing manner as he passed by and said, “Get to the top and have a look around. See all your world and appreciate it and know you can go beyond it whenever you want.”

Gosh. I never considered that before. I looked back and Gumbye was gone. Mom didn’t know I was up that tree. She would have been horrified.

Buddha asked his father, “What is on the other side of the wall that surrounds our paradisiacal home site?”

His father answered, “Just the world.”

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Bernie Suttle
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