One of the reasons I love my friend Ilise so much is that we were rather frighteningly similar (and, ok, weird) children. (Speaking of Ilise, she recently contributed one of my favorite entries for the Overheard blog. Where's yours? Huh? Huh?)
Anyway, while my third grade self was busy pretending to run a school for international child prodigies from my bedroom -- What? You mean you didn't do the same?? With files on all the students?? -- Ilise had a project of her own. She took her mother's address book and added her own entries to its pages. So when Ilise's mother got to the letter "S," she found, in little girl scrawl, a listing for one of her daughter's imaginary friends:
Just saying the name Henry Saluba -- or even better, Saluba, Henry, just as Ilise wrote it -- still makes me laugh out loud. There's just something so perfect about the name itself: the way it's precisely the kind of slightly off-kilter, not-quite-real-sounding name that a nine year old girl would make up, probably thinking it seemed perfectly legitimate and grown up. For me, Henry's name has become a kind of easy shorthand for that beautiful creative spirit kids have in spades. It speaks of a time when imagination is so powerful it's almost palpable, when there's absolutely no limit to who or what you can invent. There's something a little wistful about his name for me, too. It makes me ache for the way childhood homes felt on quiet days, when the grownup world droned, Charlie Brown-style, at the peripheries, and you lolled around looking for something to do or someone to keep you company. It's the very same feeling I get, by the way, every time I read my boys Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day. (I'm reminded, too, of one of my favorite magazine pieces of all time: Adam Gopnik's "Bumping Into Mr. Ravioli," about the imaginary friend who was always too overscheduled to play with Gopnik's three year old daughter.)
All of which will explain why I found the project Ethan undertook yesterday so hilariously adorable.
He chose 23 of his Thomas trains, drew an elaborate chart on orange construction paper in which he made up last names for all of them, and then...made them all compete on American Idol. (Think of it as an international school for child prodigies. When *I'm* your mother.)
I was drafted into playing Ryan Seacrest and announcing each contestant, after a carefully scripted cue from Ethan. And here, America, are your top 12:
Freddie Helno (and his cousin, Marvin Wewontgo?)
Arry Artiono (Wasn't he on the Sopranos?)
Salty Harborn (who I'm pretty sure is a porn star)
and my favorite, Rheneas Flart
I have no idea who was in the engines' bottom three. But I heard that Henry Saluba is the mentor next week.
Is there a Henry Saluba story from your childhood? Let's hear it!