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Friday Slide Show: Imaginary Friends Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

4 November 2016

When we worked at a weekly magazine, we had three places to work within our own little office. It's been almost 18 years now since we climbed the stairs and walked into that room. But we can still see it.

One place in the corner you couldn't see from the hall was where we did our software development in C that ran the business. It was fun to plop into the 40-year-old metal swivel chair, fire up the MS-DOS DEC Rainbow and tweak a setting or two.

Another, which was by the window, was festooned with SyQuest drives, external hard disks, a Mumford box to interface with our typesetting equipment, a scanner, a modem and more. A little Mac SE sat in the middle of it all to help us do our design work, including lay out the magazine.

Then there was the desk where we read our mail, interviewed people for production positions, solved problems that always began with a knock on the door and a lilting "Question?" which we began to confuse with our actual name.

When visitors dropped by the office, we'd introduce them to our imaginary staff at each work station. They'd laugh. But we'd only smile.

We were thinking of those long ago days this morning because earlier this week, a nephew turned 18 on us. He didn't ask permission or even let us know he was thinking about doing it.

Of course he didn't alert us he was coming into the world 18 years ago either. Not until he had. And his first act, according to his mother (who was a witness to the whole thing), was to slap the doctor. You know, before she could slap him.

In those days, we used to celebrate the birth of a relative with a little good luck charm of some kind and an ancient ritual.

The ancient ritual requires opening Virgil's Aeneid at random to tell the fortune of the newborn. In this case, it fell to Book VII, line 910:

Neptune's son and tamer of horses, whom no one can fell by fire or steel.

It is perfectly legal to read into a fortune like that anything you feel is appropriate. We always took it to mean he would be stronger than he thinks, always at home wherever he found himself. And who's to say he isn't?

Still, as we knew from our work experience, nobody really goes it alone. A person needs friends. And so our gift to him 18 years ago was the set of imaginary friends in today's slide show. They're finger puppets, so he could take all five of them anywhere easily.

We wrote a little note about the line from the Aeneid but we also mentioned the need for friends even if you happen to resemble Neptune's son. We had supplied a starter kit, in short, of imaginary friends.

He returned the favor a while ago, writing an intelligent piece for us about Bodie that including a number of nicely-composed photos he took while he was there, too.

And proving there is nothing at all imaginary about his talents.

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