Fictional Friends

books.jpgThe most neglected area of  psychiatry, psychology and sociology is the influence of fictional characters on our lives and personalities.  Unlike family, teachers and friends who, like it or not, invariably have their own agenda, fictional characters are totally altruistic.  They are dedicated to us with the love of a thousand puppies.  Their very lives depend on us and they return the favour by showing us people, places and things we would never see otherwise.  They let us indulge ourselves in the kaleidoscope of life — good, bad, beautiful and ugly — without ever having to get our hands dirty.  Over time, these fictional people become our fictional friends.  They help shape and come to share our hopes, our dreams, our joy and our despair, while offering us insight into just how we’re supposed to cope with this carnival of emotions.  But long before that, before Tom and Huck and Harry Potter, we are influenced by the mythological creatures of our childhood — the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy — and Santa Claus, the guy who taught me the value of sisters and that the world just isn’t fair.

Every child knows the meaning of Christmas.  If you’re a good kid, Santa Claus brings you presents; if you’re not — ya get dick.  It’s a simple either/or equation.  Like most kids, I was middle-of-the-road, but, come the day, Santa always forgave my transgressions and I got my share of good loot.  However, one year (I think I was six) I noticed Malcolm Carson, the total bully of the neighbourhood, had a brand new hockey stick just like me.  He’d got it for Christmas, just like me.  But, then, on closer examination, I discovered that his was a Victoriaville with a wicked Bobby Hull curve while mine was an ordinary CCM straight blade.  Now, I knew for a fact that Malcolm had not been a good boy.  Within the last month alone, he had stolen my hat, pulled my hair, punched me in the stomach, washed my face with snow, threatened to make me eat dog poop and chased me home on more than one occasion — with poop in hand, I might add.  (FYI, I wasn’t even one of  his more frequent victims.  There are people from Mayfair Grade School who are still in therapy because of that little bastard.)  Anyway, this was a total tear in the fabric of my reality, and even though I didn’t understand the words, for the first time in my life, I understood the true meaning of WTF? I approached a sister with my conundrum (unlike parents, sisters normally gave you the straight goods.)  Her response (and I think she was reading Jean Valjean at the time) was:
“Santa Claus is a busy man.  There are millions of children in the world. He can’t look after all of them.”
“Then, how come I have to be good?”
“Santa Claus likes you.”
“He doesn’t like Malcolm?”
“Probably not.  Look, Santa Claus does the best he can, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  It isn’t fair, but that’s life.  You got a hockey stick; what more do you want?  You need to quit worrying about what other people are doing.  Forget about that little brat.  And the next time he punches you, you punch him back.  Like this.”
“Now, get outta here, I wanna finish my book.”

Friday:  What happens when you learn how to read

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