My little ones have invented a game they like to play, which they call The Door Game. It goes like this:
Grace goes into her bedroom, and William stands in the hallway on the opposite side of the bedroom door. Once they're both in position, Grace opens the door as wide as it will go. William laughs hysterically and then pulls it shut as quickly as he can, which causes Gracie to laugh hysterically. She then throws the door open again, just as William runs out of the way.
It's a fun little game that usually ends with purple fingers, as they're caught between the door and its frame, or tender feet that have been run over by the door. Despite what most normal people would consider to be deterrents, as well as my own stern-voiced requests to end The Door Game once and for all, they continue to play.
Hanging from the doorknob is a defeated-looking rabbit. The rabbit holds what is essentially an arch of piano wire over its head, like a steel rainbow, and it's this loop that gets hung over the doorknob. Since William can't reach the doorknob on his own, he uses the rabbit to play his part of the game. Being the highly intelligent problem-solver that I am, I decided that if I took the rabbit away, The Door Game would end. As soon as I removed it from the door, Grace began her protest.
"No," she insisted. "That's Noogie's rabbit!"
"What?" I asked.
"That rabbit belongs to Noogie, not you! You put it back!" She was yelling and angry. "He's right there and put his rabbit back."
"Right where?" I asked.
"There," she said, pointing to the toddler-size chenille easy chair in her room.
"Is he there now?" I asked.
"Well he's not there right now," she said.
"Okay," I said, and went to look for my wife. "Are you aware of 'Noogie?'" I asked her.
"I think Grace has an imaginary friend."
"Oh?" I went on to relay the story, including the part about my impressive problem-solving skills, and asked if I should locate a child psychologist right then, or wait until morning. My wife, who is much more rational than I am (and who has a master's degree in early childhood education), assured me that it isn't uncommon for 3-year-olds to have imaginary friends.
"But where did 'Noogie'" come from? I mean, it's such a ridiculous word...'Noogie.' What does that even mean? How'd she come up with that?"
"Who knows," she said. "Kids like to make words up."
Don't I know it. When my sister and I were very young, we spent our afternoons making my mother crazy while my father was at work. At the time I thought we were just having fun, but now that I spend three days a week home alone with my own children, I know the special kind of torture it can be. Much like I do with my own children, my mother tried to keep us "on task" as often as possible, having us "help" with the dishes, color in books, use Play-Doh or make crafts. The activity we loved most was making hand puppets out of paper bags, then hiding behind the living-room furniture to put on little shows. We decorated the bags with crayons, construction paper, glue and anything else we could get our hands. We even created recurring characters, the most infamous of which was Sally See Comps.
I don't remember who came up with the name, but like Grace, we were at the stage where it was fun to make up nonsensical words. My sister and I would each make our own ornately decorated Sally See Comps puppet and put on elaborate shows that featured her as the star. For reasons that we did not understand, my mother hated that particular puppet and always asked us to change her name or to stop making her altogether. This only made Sally more attractive to us, and most of her shows revolved around the loud repetition of her name.
Only in our adult life did we learn that, all that time, our mother thought we were saying "Sally C Cups.” I wish I could lay claim to such wit as a 6-year-old, but I'm afraid I can’t. To this day, I still snicker whenever I see a paper bag.
Maybe "Noogie" isn't so bad.