Lummage & Gigs write home
Growing up, my brother and I had dozens of invisible friends. Not imaginary: invisible. We didn't invent them, exactly. We discovered them.
We caught sight of our first one when our Big Wheel tricycle rolled down a hill, its pedals moving as if someone invisible was riding it. We looked at each other and laughed. And suddenly they were all around us, those invisible friends.
Sally was my favorite. She was pretty. She wore a dress each day and her hair was always neat, held back in a headband, curling out perfectly at the end. It was the seventies, so that was the style. Of course I wanted to be like her.
Bill was big enough to reach things without an invisible ladder, and he was extremely helpful. He was always the last in the group to figure out what was going on, though. He asked for the definitions of even the most common words, and the others were always explaining things to him.
Trezzie was small and athletic. (How could you not be fast, with two zz’s in your name?) She liked to sit up high on things, like shelves or mantles. I never wondered about it then, but looking back now, I’m not sure how she got up there. Could she fly, or did she jump unusually high? Did Bill put her up there? I wish I could ask my younger self.
Though we called them invisible friends, not all of them were friendly. There was a Bathroom Monster who I never wanted to be alone with, so I purposefully left the door open a crack each time I was in the bathroom. And I don’t know what was living down in the basement, but that was another place I didn’t want to go alone.
My longest lasting invisible friends were Lummage and Gigs. They were not in the same gang as Sally, Bill, and Trezzie. They were friends only with each other, and me. They kept in touch for years, as it turned out. My dad knew about them, because I told him all their adventures. He was entranced by their names. “Lummage” and “Gigs” are the kinds of names that just spring from a child’s mind and take hold in family lore.
Every so often Dad would ask what Lummage and Gigs were up to, and I’d answer without pause. I always knew where they were and what they were doing. Lummage and Gigs are in college, I told him one time. College was a mysterious place to me then, but I knew it was a place you could go when you were old enough.
Lummage and Gigs have joined the theater, I told him next time. (I thought the theater was something you could run off and join, like the circus.) Dad asked how the audience could see them, since they were invisible. I said the audience was invisible as well.
Lummage and Gigs are in France, I told him the next time he asked. They took a plane, and now they’re in France, and they speak French every day. This was a while ago now.
Come to think of it, Dad doesn’t ask about Lummage and Gigs anymore. That's probably because I’m 48 now, and have real people in my life (a husband, a daughter) that he asks about instead. It's only natural that we no longer talk about jet-setting invisible friends.
But of course Lummage and Gigs are still out there. They’re doing humanitarian work now. Lummage has gotten a medical degree and works with Doctors Without Borders in a makeshift hospital in a refugee camp. Gigs has gone into law, working with children in detention centers on the U.S. border with Mexico.
As before, their audience is invisible - because who pays attention to refugees and children on the border when there is so much else going on in the world? But still they go to work every day.
They miss the days when they did everything together (college, theater, that trip to France), but they’ve each found their separate calling and support each other from afar. They write each other invisible letters daily, and talk when they can. And every once in awhile, send me word to let me know what they're doing.
Of course Lummage and Gigs aren't real, but there are real organizations to help refugees and children in detention centers. You can read more about them:
Doctors Without Borders/Medicins Sans Frontieres
Kids In Need of Defence (KIND)
The Refugee and Immigration Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)
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