Eric and the Girl Next Door

We moved to a rental house in a quiet San Antonio neighborhood when our son Eric was 3. Our neighbors had a son, also 3, and a daughter who was 7. She became one of my son's favorite playmates. She had mastered the art of bicycle riding; something Eric was a little slow in picking up. To Eric, she was a superhero! After a few months, the family went on a vacation to New Mexico and expected to be gone only a couple of weeks. The days dragged by for Eric. He really missed having those kids around.

One night our family was sitting in front of the TV when both my wife and I noticed a shadow dart across the wall adjacent to the TV. Several times during the next couple of days, in fact, the shadow was glimpsed by a few of our visiting friends. The shadow was always just barely noticeable at the edge of vision. Each time we saw the shadow, my son would suddenly get quite excitable. He would run off to his room and squeal with delight. He carried on animated discussions with a new-found imaginary friend for hours. It got to where he rarely came out his room. He was always busy talking to someone we couldn't see. Cute.

After the neighbors had been gone a month, I saw somebody caring for their lawn. The caretaker was the neighbor kids' uncle. I was upset to hear the family had been in a serious auto accident early in their trip and had lost their daughter. After much thought, we decided to tell Eric, as gently as we could, that the little girl next door would not be coming back with the rest of the family. That's when he floored us by telling us (in 3-year-old lingo) that she already had come back and he played with her all the time! We were spooked. We immediately tried to curtail his play time with his new friend, but the friend just kept coming back.

We were getting pretty worried about this invisible friend when the family returned from New Mexico. They looked bad. I didn't have the heart to mention Eric's new friend and the circumstances surrounding its appearance. They wouldn't have believed us anyway. That day, Eric's friend didn't show up. Or the next. Eric became agitated about it. He even began to act somewhat depressed. Within a few days, however, he began to play with the neighbors' son. They became best buddies. They would ride bikes (training wheels and all), then go to his room and play.

And every once in while, you could swear there were more than two voices coming from his room.

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This page was last updated on December 30, 1997.
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