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Heidi Thurston column: A friend named George

My sons were around 3 and 4 when I first heard of George, and as I recall, it happened on a rather cold but sunny April afternoon.
We lived in the country at the time and I knew for certain that our only neighbors, though blessed with 10 children, had no one named George. Just the same, my youngest son kept referring to him and I thought perhaps the boy was from up the road and let it go at that.
It was not until one day when I came out to the kitchen and found a glass overturned that I learned just who or rather what George was. After having interrogated the boys, the younger one finally informed me, “George did it,” adding, “He says he is sorry and won’t do it again.”
Memories returned from times spent at my grandparents’ home where imaginary friends had been my only playmates in a world filled with older people so I quietly asked my son to tell George to “please be a little more careful in the future.”
As time went on, I got to know George. Through my son’s talking to and about him, I learned that George was a nice boy and the only son in a family of six.
“He likes to come to our house so he can to get away from his sisters,” my son confided one afternoon.
At this point I should mention that although he started out as the friend of my youngest son, our older son soon adopted him and the three of them would spend hours together playing. They would either be outside in the yard in their sandbox or on the floor inside the house on rainy days building homes and cabins with Lincoln Logs or clever creations with Lego blocks that my father had brought over from Denmark on one of his visits back to his native land.
Occasionally, George would do bad things that kept my sons from being reprimanded, but those incidents were few and far between.
One of the hardest times occurred when George stayed over night at our house. Have you ever tried to kiss an invisible boy good night, or tried not to step on him when going to their room to tuck them all in?
We moved to town a little over a year later and, as suddenly as he had arrived, George disappeared. My sons were older and headed for kindergarten and the first grade that fall and I thought perhaps they did not need him any longer; or perhaps George just preferred to live in the country. I never did decide what happened.
However, shortly after our youngest son started school an interesting thing happened. He came home and told me of his new friends and lo and behold if there was not one among them named George ó a REAL one. This boy soon became my son’s best friend and within a short time George and my sons became inseparable and spend most of their free time playing together.
It turned out that one of the reasons George liked to come to our house was because he liked to get away from his four sisters. So he would come to our house and fit in like he belonged and whenever he stayed overnight he would get a hug like my own sons and I never had to worry about stepping on him. You have no idea how comforting that was.

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