immortal charlie

stone, girl, originally uploaded by kelanew.

"mama, you know what? every time charlie dies, he just comes back to life again! he comes back to life every time. charlie's special; he's the only one who can do that. and so guess what? someday a long time from now when all the people in the whole world are dead, charlie will still be alive. he'll be the last person alive in the whole world. and that's what makes him special."

so, maybe everyone has conversations like that with their three year old about her imaginary friend who dies many times per week. maybe, as it has been suggested, it is just the normal thing at this age to start discussing life and death with that combination of matter-of-factness and awe that only a preschooler can manage. and, maybe other people know exactly how to respond all the time... but despite feeling like i've got a pretty good handle on how to guide her through the great mysteries of life, every so often i'm just completely speechless.

so not only are you telling me charlie is immortal, but that you've thought it through regarding how this will play out at the end of days? really? i'm pretty sure i have no response to that.


she of course experienced significant loss at what turned out to be a key time -- when she was old enough to "get" what was going on, but young enough that it has been part of her life for as long as she can really remember. consequence or coincidence, she does talk about death often. not in a morose way, but just as a topic of unending inquiry. all kids do process this eventually, but i suspect it might be a little sooner than normal in her case -- whether because of our experiences of the past year and a half, or because she is simply more curious about working out every little detail than is the average kid, i can't say. i guess i'm not overly concerned, but sometimes i am struck by it all.

but man, do i love charlie. charlie helps eva figure things out, and his (or her!) form changes to suit the needs of the day. sometimes he's in school, sometimes he's a teenager (the holy grail to a three year old!), sometimes he's a teacher. sometimes he lives in new york city, or has moved to guatamala. sometimes he has sixteen dogs, or is a big sister, or has a baby sister who is too loud in the car. and in this way, based on who he is that day and what he's going through, i get an extra glimpse of eva's view of the world, and know how she's processing the joys and challenges involved in growing up.

but charlie sure is a moving target; you never know what you're going to get. sometimes, from the beginning of the conversation to the end, i'll discover he has shifted -- to protect her from the appearance of having made a mistake or contradiction in her narrative. (she has a strong aversion to ever being wrong, which is a story for another day...)


"so, charlie will live forever and ever?"
"uh huh."
"hmm. i curious what he thinks about that."
"oh, he won't be lonely or anything."
"silly mama! he's just a robot!"
(aha, i forgot. every since maker faire, charlie is periodically a robot.)
"uh huh, and that's why he'll be the only one left when the dinosaurs come back."

1 comment:

Eliza said...

I don't know what your loss was, but my grandmother died when I was a little over a year old, and I know that I talked about death A LOT throughout my childhood. I think my mom thought I was suicidal or something when I was 10, since I kept talking about what would happen when I was gone, and who I'd will things to.

Anyway, I'm glad she has an imaginary friend, and an understanding mother.