By Katrina Rasbold

When I was a little child, I had an imaginary playmate named, “Jeanie.”  Jeanie was a boy and I can’t recall a time in my life that he wasn’t with me, up until the time that he left.  When I was a little over a year old, I found a doll at the store while my mom was shopping, grabbed it and wouldn’t let it go.  They bought it for me and the first word I said was, “Jeanie,” the name for the doll.  I still have that doll boxed up in my garage with other memories.  Its eyes are dull now and barely visible and the filling to its little stuffed body is grainy.   It was one of those old vinyl babies, long before there was a Cabbage Patch, with the soft little newborn features on its tiny head and the little vinyl arms and legs attached disproportionately to its stuffed body.  They probably paid $3-4 for it and I imagine that ate into the grocery budget for the week as poor as we always were.  To me, then, Jeanie was a baby and so was I. 

I grew up with Jeanie, whether out of boredom from there being no other children around where we lived (my brother wouldn’t come along until I was 5 and a half and we lived out in the country) or because he was already there.  As we grew older, he developed angelic looks. He was blonde with curly hair that was long for a boy of that time, back when buzzcuts were the norm from the time a malechild had hair to buzz.  He looked something like this: 


His dress was always nondescript and he was just always there.  There was never an arrival or departure.  It took me a long time to figure out that other people did not see Jeanie.  I just took for granted that if I could see something so clearly, so could they.  

We would play together endlessly.  Jeanie not only knew all of my secrets, but was also intimately familiar with the old farmhouse where we lived.  He was the one who showed me the little door in the back of the closet under the stairs.  There was nothing *in* the little door, mind you.  It just led into a small, stuffy area, about the size of a modern day washing machine.  God knows what it was used for, because I can’t imagine.  Our house was on a few acres of land and Jeanie and I had the run of it.  We played outside making mud pies to sell, climbing trees, teasing the cows, running through rows and rows and rows of corn, playing in the sheets my mother would hang out on the clothesline and a million other kid things.  

I shared my food with him and he always ate ravenously.  For all of our poverty status, we always had food of some kind.  My grandfather was a janitor at the Owensboro Canning Company for about 100 years and used to bring us bushels and bushels of green beans that would fall from the conveyor belt, good old Kentucky Runner green beans.  My dad would go in half and half with my uncle and buy a pig to butcher every couple of years and that would hold us in pork for a while.  We had a huge chest freezer and it would usually have packages of corn, pumpkin, apples, squash and green beans in it, from the canning company and our garden’s yields.   Mom was a freezer, not a canner.  The pork would be in white packages of various sizes and shapes, labeled in mom’s writing.  My Pappaw came up with a huge, and I mean HUGE bag of dried pinto beans the year the garden failed and all that winter, we ate pinto beans and ham.  I can’t believe I still love pinto beans and ham.  J  Another favorite is applesauce and cinnamon toast, which was my breakfast and lunch every day from the second my mom conceived Allen until she popped the thankless little brat out.  She couldn’t stand to smell anything cooking (a pregnant trait she lovingly passed on to me for the first 3 of my 6 kiddies) and cooking the toast and applesauce didn’t make her puke.  We had chickens most of the time, so eggs were usually around as well. 

Jeanie slept in my bed at night and we’d stay up way past lights out, talking and giggling.  He never got me in trouble as imaginary playmates are prone to do.  In fact, he usually tried to talk me out of it.  Once, I took all of our best stainless steel flatware and poked it through the vent at the bottom (the ash catcher) of our giant black coal stove (one of those things that kids quickly learn is not to be hugged or even courted).  He begged me not to do it the entire time, tears rolling down his face.  Afterwards, my mom cried too as she was pulling the melted lump of metal out of the stove.  I was totally without remorse to the point that while she was bent over digging, I made my way up to her sizable ass that was jutted up in the air and took a big ol’ bite.  She whacked me so hard that I literally flew back about 2 yards behind her and hit the wall with enough force that some of the plaster fell out of the tall ceiling and got in my hair.  Poor Jeanie cried then too, as did my mom, so we were all in chorus.  I guess mom had just had enough that day.  Made a mental note to myself not to bite mom on the ass again.  Although I am a firm advocate of nonviolent child discipline and haven’t spanked any of my three younger children, I must admit that it held impact and was quite effective, on me, anyway. 

One day, we were playing in the front yard.  My dad worked in a car body shop (It was called “Short Brothers’ Auto Repair and Painting and I always wondered why the owners, Don Moore and Don Moore, Jr, were not short, but quite mammoth guys) and he’d come up with some old rubber car floor mats, four of them, in fact, that had wavy lines all down them, deeply grooved, and another with tiny squares set into diamond shapes.  At an auction, my parents had picked up a Box of Crap (they were experts at finding Boxes of Crap at auctions and I think that’s where I got my thrift shop bug) that had a fruit cake can with about a million six marbles in it, including some absolutely faboo shooters.  Jeanie and I were hunched over, as only kids can hunch, intently making designs on the mats by placing marbles of different colors into the grooves and indentations in the floor mats.  I was going to be starting school (first grade…we didn’t have kindergarten or Head Start or preschool) in a couple of months and I was nervous, but eager to see what it was all about.  Jeanie asked me if I thought I would be OK at school and I told him I did, but I was a little scared.  He told me I would be fine and that he would miss me.  That was news to me because since he’d been with me all my life, I presumed he was coming with me.  He looked sad and told me that he couldn’t go and that he knew I’d be OK, not to worry.  I was processing this, thinking hard in that kid way, while we went on playing with the marbles.  Suddenly, his head jutted up and he said, “I’ve got to go now.”  That was even more news to me because he’d NEVER gone…never once.  Before I could react, he took off flying for the road, about 200 yards across our front yard.  Down the road, I could see coming an old clapboard truck.  It was much older than my dad’s pick up and the clapboards were so rickety that it was weaving and bobbing side to side as it rattled down the one lane dirt and gravel road that ran in front of our house.  I was horrified as Jeanie ran right for the truck.  It clipped him hard.  I saw his little body fly up into the air (and can see it now as I remember it) and then both he and the truck were gone. 

The next thing I remember, my mother was carrying me back into the house and I was still screaming.  My mom tells me that I didn’t eat anything for a couple of days and didn’t want to get out of my bed.  I would lay there with my Jeanie doll, crying sometimes, having nightmares and not talking to anyone.  I don’t remember anything except seeing the “accident” and my mother carrying me into the house.  

I only saw him two other times, both times as an adult.  The first was when I was 20-years-old, living on Guam.  It was Joe’s 4th  (go on, do the math, it’s not pretty) birthday and we were having a party for him with about 8-9 kids there.  The house we lived in was set up with a lanai, which is a large room at the front of the house, sort of an enclosed, indoor porch where we and the people we knew kept the kids’ toys like a playroom.  We ran with a group of couples who all had kids and it was great to let the kids play in the big room with sliding glass doors.  We could watch kids and have some quiet at the same time.  I was cutting the cake for Joe when I looked up and saw Jeanie standing on the other side of the lanai door, looking exactly the same, chewing on the end of one finger, looking as though he wanted more than anything to come in and play with the kids and have some cake.  I was overwhelmed with memory and emotion.  I hadn’t thought of him, hadn’t remembered him in years and years.  I started to shake from the intensity of the moment.  I cut a piece of cake and asked Paul to give the kids some.  I went out to the lanai with the cake and when I got there, he was gone.  I realized that what I had seen was not him through the glass, but the reflection of him in the glass.  I sat on the lanai for a few minutes, ate the cake and let the memories return. 

The other time I saw him was in the dream I had this week that I wrote about in my Nonsoapy Journal yesterday.