My 7 year old daughter, Iris, has always believed in magic and all things whimsical. She has held a deep grasp for empathy since she was a toddler and always seemed to have a firm but unexplained understanding of how the world worked.
When Iris was 2 ½ years old, we went to visit my husband’s family in Albuquerque, NM. My husband’s father had passed away 11 years earlier. We had only prior to this showed Iris a picture of her deceased grandpa and told her, “That’s your Papa Bency.” We did not tell her he was gone or even bring him up when we went to see my husband’s mom. When we arrived in Albuquerque at Grandma Ramona’s house, Iris immediately said, “Papa Bency is here.” We all eyed each other quizzically, got goose bumps and shrugged our shoulders.
As the week long visit went on, we noticed Iris constantly talking to herself. We asked who she was talking to and it was always…”Papa Bency”. One day we heard the front door creak, no one was there and Iris said, “Papa Bency just got here for the party.” We did indeed have a party that night with 40-50 family members! As our trip came to an end, we asked Iris what her favorite part of the vacation had been. We thought for sure she was going to say the aquarium visit or playing with one of her 25 cousins but her response was simple and matter of fact…”playing with Papa Bency.”
We haven’t had a chance to travel back to Albuquerque since then, and Papa Bency never “appeared” at our house.
When Iris turned 3 years old, she had two steadfast friends join her life. Lydia and Mango were her imaginary friends. They occasionally joined us at the dinner table but mainly stayed up in the attic crawl space I converted into a play area for Iris. The stories Iris told me about them were so detailed. She described what they wore; how they did their hair; what they talked about and was even sad when one of them got sick and couldn’t play one day. The stories were so believable it made me almost want to check the crawl space a few times to confirm they were only imaginary. When Iris was 4 years old she came to me very sad. She said, “Lydia and Mango have died. They were in a terrible accident.” Iris’s only outside influences were Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer. We had never talked about death or “terrible accidents.” Unfortunately, Lydia and Mango never joined us at the dinner table again.
In the past two years, Iris has acquired a strong belief in unicorns and two more new friends. Iris knows not everyone believes in unicorns but it does not deter her in any way. She scoffs at their disbelief and is on the constant search for these beautiful beasts to prove everyone wrong. She is currently saving all of her money to afford a trip to the magical forest where she believes they all reside. Her new friends are the Bedtime Fairy and the Tooth Fairy. They are actually just pen pals as she actually has never seen them. She writes to them religiously and though the fairies are sometimes delayed in responding (mainly because they don’t know they have an awaiting letter), they ALWAYS answer back. Iris has learned through her correspondence what their nicknames are, their favorite colors, their birthdays, their ages and that the Tooth Fairy just got a boyfriend named Cupid.
Iris delights me, challenges me and makes my world amusing and fanciful. I miss the days of “Papa Bency, Lydia and Mango.” It seems those days were here and gone in a blink of the eye. I’m cherishing every minute I have watching her wonderment in unicorns and her “friendship” with the fairies. Before I know it, they may all be gone too.