10-4, Good Buddy!

We had a playdate with one of Alex's friends from preschool today. As the kids were playing, Alex's friend wedged herself into a 25-gallon Rubbermaid storage box. Alex continued to stack cardboard bricks up beside her, all the while talking about building a bridge over his friend's head. Meanwhile, the friend kept glancing below her into the container and talking to people named Harry and Temp. Her mom informed me in that Harry Potter and Templeton the Rat (from Charlottes Web) are her imaginary friends.

This led to a discussion about those crazy specters who accompanied many of us throughout our childhood years. So far, it doesn't appear that Alex has any imaginary friends. He is incredibly creative when it comes to imaginary play, but doesn't seem to have one consistent invisible buddy by his side when he "puts out the fire on Broadway" or "climbs to the poop deck of the pirate ship." And Ben doesn't seem to need an invisible friend yet, given the constant companionship of his older brother.

My niece, on the other hand, has thousands of invisible friends. The central character in her adventures is a microscopic cat named "Tiny Shadow Kitty." TSK has been a trusty cohort for many mishaps and escapades in my niece's short life. Over time, TSK popped out some kittens or found some friends, because now my niece enjoys telling me about the complicated genealogy of TSK's even shorter life.

I, too, had an invisible friend as a kid. Mine wasn't a furry creature or a magical young boy, however. At the age of four, my invisible friend was a 14-year old boyfriend named Tracker. And Tracker was a semi-truck driver. I used to put on a blue and red striped dress that came down to my toes. With my Big Bird houseslippers peeking out from under that dress, I communicated with Tracker on a plastic CB radio as he drove his rig to my house for our dates.

I don't think that Tracker and I ever officially went out on a date. All of my time was spent preparing for the date and talking to him as he was en route. We had longing conversations about his latest cross-country haul and the adventures we would have once he finally made it to my driveway. I guess even then, the anticipation was part of the fun.

1978 must have been a big year for truckers, because I distinctly remember the series of events that led to the creation of Tracker. First off, there was a television show that premiered that year called "BJ and the Bear." I have vague memories of the show, but according to IMDB.com, the show was about "B.J. McKay, a guitar-playing independent trucker who travels with a fun-loving chimpanzee, named Bear, and finds himself caught up with a bunch of young women trying to flee a white slaver who happens to be the local sheriff."

I'm slightly appalled that at tender age of four, I watched this show - given the whole young women, white slaver aspects. But all that I remember is how cool I thought it was that BJ got to drive around in a truck...that had a bed in the cab...with a chimpanzee. In all of our torrid CB communication, I never confirmed that Tracker had a chimpanzee, but let's be honest, I don't think I would have been dating him if he didn't. The lack of a chimpanzee can definitely be a dating dealbreaker!

We also had an amazing, albeit little known board game, called "10-Four, Good Buddy" made by Parker Brothers. I'm guessing this game wasn't around for long, but it was the source of the black plastic CB radio that was the lifeline to my boyfriend.

The game also came with a CB slang list. My older brother and I would pour over this for hours memorizing phrases like, "Bit on the seat of his britches" (Got tagged for a speeding ticket) and "Eighty-eight’s around the house" (Good luck and best wishes to you and yours.). You can imagine how colorful our dinnertime conversation was when my brother and I would break into our trucker talk.

Needless to say, Tracker eventually went the way of all other imaginary friends - back to the plane of consciousness where they meet and greet and wait to be claimed in some form by another kid looking for companionship. I've always hoped that some other kid latched onto Tracker and actually got to see that big rig and meet the chimpanzee. If not, I'm sure Tracker's hanging out in Imaginary Friend Heaven with Tiny Shadow Kitty, watching over me and sending out eighty-eights to all.

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