my daughter started pre-school, she would come home every day and tell me about
her friend Lorraine. I knew all the little girls in her pre-school class and
none of them were named Lorraine. My
daughter went into elaborate descriptions about what Lorraine wore to school
that day, and what compliments Lorraine had given her about her own outfit. She
once told me that Lorraine whispered in her ear that she was her favorite.
“I tell Lorraine everything. That’s the kind of friendship we
have,” my daughter explained.
realized, of course, that Lorraine was imaginary.
“Lorraine wasn’t there today,” Kim said,
out of the blue, one day after school, as we were driving home.
“Maybe she was sick,” I suggested.
“I don’t think so,” Kim said, looking out
“Why not?” I asked.
“Lorraine isn’t the type to just get
I thought about that for a second. Kim was
probably right. What are the chances
that someone who doesn’t exist would just suddenly catch a cold? Then I thought about it some more, and
realized that Kim was probably phasing out Lorraine. She’d been in school for a few months by then. She was making friends and feeling
comfortable. Lorraine was probably just
a transitional character.
The next day Kim told me that Lorraine
changed her hair color and that she was considering dying her own hair red. I
told her it was fine with me, but that she’d have to go every six weeks to a
salon to touch up her roots. She said
she’d think it over.
Weeks went by and no talk of Lorraine,
until one day, when apparently Lorraine came to school wearing the biggest
diamond ring Kim had ever seen. “Bigger
than a piece of gum,” Kim explained.
“Was it her mom’s ring?” I asked. Kim looked at me like I’d asked a ridiculous
question and then she started laughing. “Lorraine’s mom?” she said. I
thought it was a perfectly logical question. What are the rules for making
assumptions about figments of the imagination?
A few weeks later, Dan and I attended
back-to-school night. The parents quietly filed into the room, and each of the
mothers quickly found their child’s seat. I sat down in my daughter’s little
chair and touched her name, which had been handwritten by the teacher, on an
index card, and scotch-taped to her desk. Dan stood in the back, with all the
other fathers, leaning against the wall.
I opened Kim’s desk and saw her little
magic markers, the hair bands that never made it home and a half eaten oatmeal
raisin cookie, neatly tucked in its wrapper, that didn’t look familiar. I saw her worksheets with her big
handwriting all over them and a note that said, ‘Hi” in about a dozen different
handwritings. I breathed in the smell
of her pencils, her paintings and whatever else I could detect of her other
life. It occurred to me at that moment
that her world did not begin and end with me. She had experiences all day that had nothing to do with me. Experiences that she needed to cope
with—experiences that I wasn’t there to fix. I wondered how she managed without me, but something about the contents
of her busy, and yet organized desk made me realize that she was doing just
I closed the top of her desk and looked up.
I glanced at the women next to me, all carefully examining their children’s
belongings, as though they were peering into their child’s ear to make sure it
Just then I felt someone behind me touch
my shoulder. I turned around and
“I’m Lorraine,” she said. “You must be Kim’s mom. She looks just like you.”
“Yes, I’m Jake’s mom. Did she mention me?”
“Yes, every day,” I said, turning my
body around so I could face my daughter’s imaginary friend head-on.
“Kim and I talk on the carpool line. I
always get there a few minutes early and she’s always waiting by the fence to
tell me what happened that day. She’s
“Thank you,” I said, somewhat in shock,
glancing down at Lorraine’s ring finger.
“Would Kim like to come over to our house
and play sometime?”
“I’m sure she would love it,” I said,
hoping that Lorraine understood Kim would be coming over to spend time with
her, and not her child.
That night I came home and told Kim that
I met Lorraine. Somehow I felt like I was intruding.
“Oh! Good,” Kim said. “I was hoping you two would finally
meet. Maybe we could all go out to
lunch sometime. Us three.” I thought about how nice that would be, and
how lucky I was to have a daughter who thought I would fit in with her friends.