Jessica went wherever Ruthie went. The swingset had two swings. There were two suitcases for an overnight at Grandmas. There were two chairs at the dinner table. Jessica was Ruthie’s best friend. Only…. “There is no Jessica!” say her parents.
This Kevin Henkes story tugs at my heartstrings. It’s not upsetting that Ruthie has a pretend friend. It’s cute and clever. Ruthie wasn’t unhappy or insecure. Jessica gave her confidence. Because of Jessica the pretend friend, Ruthie practiced being a real friend. And when the real “in the flesh Jessica” came along, it was a dream come true. She no longer had to make up a friendship. It was there in plain sight for pure enjoyment and Jessica was perfect. Ruthie and Jessica were real two peas in a pod.
Jessica meets Ruthie in kindergarten. Two timid little tots, wander together in line for the bathroom. It wasn’t like they met at the American Girl Doll store. It wasn’t even like they met at the neighborhood ice cream truck. . One didn’t even walk up to the other and say “Hi, Do you want to play?” It just happens in the everyday of kindergarten.
The Princesses and Goldi go everywhere. There is a place by her pillow for an extra bed. There is a riding “seat” (otherwise known as the cup holder) on her car seat. There is a doll house chair at the dinner table. The Princesses make up Goldi’s social circle. To Goldi they are the stand bys until the “real in the flesh” Princess can come to her house for a tea party.
It’s not upsetting that Goldi has imaginary friends. Conversations with the Princesses give her confidence. Because of the Princesses, Goldi is fluently prim and proper and is imitating social graces. Because of the Princesses, Goldi has learned a bit of how to be a real friend.
Only, “There is no real Princess!” I tell her. Those Princesses that she sees on youtube dressed up and twirling with the little girls and giving out autographs are nothing but money making fakes! Reality is, Goldi is not going to wander around one day and stumble upon another princess in a beautiful dress who lives in a castle and will be an instant friend. We are still waiting for Goldi’s “Jessica”.
In kindergarten, Goldi did make friends. Nice girls who held her hand and helped her. Girls who smiled and made effort to say “Hi”. Girls who hugged her and said “Come on let’s play.” Girls who paid attention to her stories. Girls that saw her querky self and accepted it. But Goldi hasn’t met her one stick to her like glue friend. Goldi has not met her Jessica.
It’s probably too early yet. But I wish it would happen soon while she is wandering through her early everydays of school. If it could happen so easily for Ruthie, why can’t it happen to Goldi? Even though Goldi has autism, she of all people needs, deserves and even longs for her “Jessica.”
Jessica would be there on the tip of her tongue when asked about a Saturday playdate. Jessica would seek her out on the playground when out in the “real world of play” for recess. Jessica would be the one she could run to if someone was mean to Goldi. Jessica would wait for her when Goldi had to tie her shoe. Jessica would hope and pray that Goldi was in her next year’s class. Jessica would put Goldi as number one on her birthday party guest list. Jessica and Goldi could be two peas in a pod.
Finding one tried and true friend for Goldi might take a miracle. Maybe as Ruthie’s parents said “There is no Jessica!” But every time I see Goldi smile at the sight of someone, every time I hear her call someone by name and say “I am happy to see you!”, Everytime she asks if so and so can come over to play, it gives me hope that Jessica indeed exists.
“Hi!” my name is Jessica” a cute girl tells Ruthie in the story.
“It is?” Ruthie answers with a exciting glow.
“Hi my name is Jessica. Would you like to play princesses?” a cute girl will tell Goldi.
“I’m Goldi and that would be lovely!” she’ll say with a sparkle in her eye.
Goldi and Jessica (or Nadine, or Janey, or Tulip or ….) will be two peas in a pod.