When my daughter was in Kindergarten her mother and I went to our first ever parent teacher conference. Everything was on par – she talks, she colors, she contributes, she’s five.
And then it got weird.
The teacher told us she was very concerned about Penny because she really enjoyed talking about her grandfather – but the stories she told were unbelievable.
The teacher’s concern was abnormally heightened because Penny was so detailed in the tellings of her stories of this raggedy man; and she was able to tell the stories over and over again – at the same level of detail.
The teacher asked us if we had heard any of these stories, and with a grin – I replied “oh, you mean Rainbow?”
That’s where it got weirder.
When Penny was three, she began randomly telling me stories about an adventurous old man – who had a white beard and only one eye. He lost the eye fighting a shark, and later succumbed to his wounds – and now talked to her – exclusively – through some portal in the afterlife.
As the stories grew, she told me he was her grandfather. And because of the depth of the stories – the detail, and the incredible minutiae – I was all in; I wanted to know more and more – but I needed to figure out what we were dealing with:
- Was this a little girl communicating with dead people?
- Was it her amazing imagination and she was just sharing her excitement?
I showed her pictures of her mom’s grandfather. Nope.
I showed her pictures of my father, who had died before she was born. Nope.
I even showed her pictures of my Uncle, who she knew, but had recently passed on to the afterlife.
But she insisted that she was still talking to this person.
Time marches on: It wasn’t until we were all out to breakfast one Sunday when Penny announced to us that I, was in fact, Rainbow – but from another dimension.
Actually, she didn’t know the word “dimension” then, so she said “not from here”.
Either way, here I was her dad and there I was her one-eyed grandfather, with a white beard and matching ponytail, who died fighting the shark who took his eye. But not at the same time that he was fighting the shark. No. They fought a lot. Until one day, Rainbow killed the shark. Then, according to Penny, he got a little older, and then he died.
She thinks it had something to do with the missing eye and salt water. Totally the shark’s fault. Had to be. Because it’s that bond that brought them both back. See, the shark ended up turning into a mermaid, and Rainbow married that mermaid – but only after they both came back from the dead.
Oddly, Rainbow still only had one eye, but – you know what? This isn’t my story, so I’m not going to correct her.
I’m telling you all of this because today, on the way home from school, Penny asked me if I had heard from Rainbow recently.
This has always been her story.
She’s never asked for my contribution.
So, of course I had seen him, sort of.
I really had only heard about where he was from some people in town.
“Truth is” I told her “before winter, Rainbow was living in a treehouse in the the woods, selling mosquitoes and moths to a tribe of people that lived in those woods. But he moved on when the cold of winter forced him into the mountains.
“We’ll have to see what happens when all the snow falls and he can ride the river back down”. I concluded.
I figured that bit of on-the-spot story building would satiate her seven-year-old mind, but if anything – it just opened a door.
I looked in the rear view and her mind was on fire; eyes wide.
She went on to tell me – shaking her head back and forth and smiling – “of course he went up into the mountains! That’s where his wife lives, in their cabin. But only in the winter, because she has to go back to the ocean when it’s warm out. She’s a mermaid, remember?”
(Of course I remember! Who forgets a mermaid?)
Penny kind of faded into a daydream after that. Probably drumming up more adventures for the old man. Smiling the whole while. Kiddingly scoffing at me about the whole thing as she faded.
In fact, she hasn’t said much since then
She’s upstairs with Quinn, building Mega Bloks castles in their loft – mind still spinning with stories of this dimension-traveling old man who I guess I may or may not, someday be.
Before we left the conference that night, the teacher, who was still rattled and baffled that we knew about this whole thing and had ZERO issue with it, asked me if I thought Penny needed to talk to anyone about this. As “it wasn’t normal for a five year old girl to think so expansively and overtly”.
My response was simple…
“I hope she talks to everyone about it.”
That’s the last time I talked to that teacher. She was a fine woman – good with kids and all – gave me no cause for alarm. She just sort of distanced herself from me from that point on.
I’ll always love you, Penny.
… Well, you tell me.
P.S. I don’t know Robert Plant and I post this with full knowledge that I don’t have any right to any of the amazing work he does. However, given the context, I hope we’re cool.