Sunday, May 2, 2010

Paging Mr. Saluba? Henry Saluba?

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:

Saluba, Henry

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:

Thomas Starf
Duncan Fairbo
Toby Hedrot
Harold Herdo
Freddie Helno (and his cousin, Marvin Wewontgo?)
Byron Birtonsot
Harvey Hyrton
Arry Artiono (Wasn't he on the Sopranos?)
Proteus Flatbert
Toby Tenrent
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.
Hey! Isn't that Thomas Starf?

Is there a Henry Saluba story from your childhood? Let's hear it!


  1. First, I have to tell you that this line cracked me up:

    Freddie Helno (and his cousin, Marvin Wewontgo?)


    You are in good company. My family of dolls (Barbie and her friends) had carefully constructed files listing their birth place, education, marriages, divorces and illnesses. Everyone had influenza listed in their file, because I was so impressed with knowing the full name for the flu. Good times.

  2. See, Dawn, I knew there was a reason we got along so well. LOVE the influenza. Your Barbies would have totally been welcome at my school for international child prodigies. (Do you know I laugh out loud -- literally -- every time I type that phrase?)

  3. {{giggling uncontrollably}} Is it just me, or do all of the last names sound British? Oh, wait... is Thomas the Train a British show? {My grandson hasn't watched it in years.} How brilliant of Ethan to keep that in mind!I love the American Idol contest for the trains!

    I had a school with textbooks I made for each student and papers that I graded, but no files. Truthfully, I spent more time making Barbie doll furniture from my mother's empty cosmetic containers and sewing doll clothes that I designed. A great post, Jen. *hugs* dani

  4. My name is Henry Saluba. For years now I have wondered if there were any other Henry Salubas out there, now I know that there was at least one. Doesn't matter if he was fake because he was real enough to you guys.

  5. lovely post on imagination and play and just how amazingly wonderful kids can be! it reminds me of my childhood friend, danny ( not so creative, i'll admit) and lola's from lauren chid's books: soren sorenson. also, a near perfect imaginary friend name! :)

    i found you through scary mommy, and am glad that i did! well done here. :)

  6. I want this child living next door. No worries, not a stalker, just delighted by his imagination....and yours. Well done Mom. I just want to know what happens next--I think perhaps a future in late-night comedy or politics(perhaps they are the same career)

    I think you and Ethan should collaborate on a book. Please contact me and have a great day with your boys!