Teddy, Teddy One, or The Tedsters – all names for Eleanora’s first friend, her teddy bear. He is a story in and of himself, but that is not for this blog. Here you will read about Italy….
She was 20 years old when we first met her. Her eyes are red, not a glowing red, just red. She has green hair and wears a striped shirt and shoes that are all the colors of the rainbow. She has lived in numerous places throughout the city of Chicago. Her last rental was in a condo building on inner Lake Shore Drive. She has had several weddings. The groom was never considered in the planning of any of these weddings – the planning consisted of creating detailed and colorful invitations to be sent to the guests and designing elaborate wedding attire adorned with pink feathers and accessorized with satin capes and plastic jewelry. Italy would show up at the house unannounced, often times ringing our doorbell only to be heard by our daughter. She would sit with us for dinner and Eleanora would make sure she was always given a serving of blueberries and a glass of milk. Italy traveled with our family on numerous occasions – I remember the one time she was running along the side of our car as we drove along a quiet road in Florida. Eleanora gave a shout out that she saw Italy and we needed to stop and pick her up. Of course her dad obliged and pulled the car over to the side of the road. Italy opened the car door and jumped in the backseat with Eleanora. She was such a colorful part of our daughter’s life, our lives, for about three years. Eleanora could talk to her for hours. She retold stories to Italy that had been read to her, told her about adventures with her grandparents and cousins. Called her on her “princess phone” and chatted away about nothing and everything. Eleanora and Italy shared something that was real – friendship. But when our daughter started kindergarten, Italy moved and we never heard from her again.
Italy was one of our daughter’s first friends – her imaginary friend.
While Italy no longer visits and is a faded memory for Eleanora, something about that friendship lingers. The first day of fourth grade is moments away and Eleanora, like many kids, looks forward to the posting of class lists. Seeing these lists to learn of the friends who will be with her in her class for the coming year is an exciting time around here. It is typical for kids to want to be placed with a few specific friends for the school year, but Matt and I don’t place much emphasis on this as we encourage Eleanora to branch out and make new friends regardless of who is in her class. We realize that Eleanora spends seven hours each school day with a group of individuals that help shape and form our daughter. And while Eleanora may not see all of the kids in her class as a best friend, where she is planning their weddings, inviting them over to hang out and have dinner, taking them on vacation, as she did with her imaginary friend Italy, each child in her class is unique and plays an important role in her life.
Italy taught Eleanora many things, but most importantly, she taught her how to be a good friend as well as what it is like to have a good friend. One thing her dad and I have noticed over the years is that friendships can get complicated. But even as they get complicated, friendships with good friends remain simple and true. Good friends are there when you need them. They are always willing to listen to your stories and provide encouragement when most needed.
While this year’s fourth grade class list may not look as Eleanora had hoped, Eleanora is blessed to have so many wonderful kids to share her school year with. This school year provides her with another opportunity to strengthen current friendships and make new friendships with those who share her time in fourth grade. This school year will be filled with many opportunities to spend time with friends, old and new. Eleanora learned authentic qualities of being a good friend with her first friend Italy and we know that the unique qualities of their friendship, while imaginary in many people’s eyes, are some of the same things she shares in her “real-life” friendships and uses to make new friends.