“Mummy, why did Bing Bong disappear?”
It’s not a new question. We had watched the movie Inside Out over Christmas – for the third time – and our kindergartner still loves it. He asks the same questions repeatedly when he is replaying scenes or events in his mind’s eye.
“Because Riley is now a big girl and she has new friends and new things to think about.”
“Because she’s a big girl. She doesn’t think about Bing Bong anymore.”
“Why did Bing Bong fall into the memory dump?”
I pause in my reply to make a left turn into the Toa Payoh neighbourhood. He begins the final phase of his preschool years today.
“You see, Bing Bong is like Pinky…”
At the sound of her name, our pink horse hops out onto my shoulder, waving a hoof cheerfully at the kindergartner in the back seat.
“They are both pink, right? I continue, smiling. “They are both imaginary friends. When you are a big boy, you may have other friends and not play with Pinky any more.”
“Russell, I love you very much!” Pinky cries, characteristically unable to keep from interrupting. “Will you forget me when you become a big boy?”
She alternates between hopping agitatedly on my shoulder and grinding her hooves into it. I focus hard on the peak hour traffic around us.
“No, Pinky,” the kindergartner says. “I won’t forget you.”
“Oh!” the little pink horse sighs, relieved. “You’re my best friend in the whole wide world, you know? You and Brownie. I always want to be with you.”
“I love you too, Pinky,” says the kindergartner.
“Yay! I love you! I love you!” Pinky cries.
Truth be told, the kindergartner has not been completely kind to Pinky in recent months, thumping her flat with his fist when she horses around him, chattering and tempting him to play, and often even telling her brusquely, “I don’t love you.”
His indifference does not seem to affect her, however – not for too long anyway; she loves the kindergartner so much, she’s always back to be near him.
“Can I sleep in your hair tonight?” Pinky is now asking, hopefully.
“My hair is so short now,” the kindergartner says – he’s just had a haircut, which means Pinky doesn’t have quite enough cover – or hoofhold – at her favourite resting place.
“It’s okay,” the pink horse says, “I’ll hold on more tightly.”
“Okay,” the kindergartner says. “You hold on tighter so you don’t fall out.”
I turn as gently as I can into the car park at his preschool. “Maybe we can write a Pinky story one day, huh, Russell?”
“So that we can have a special book about Pinky. She’s our imaginary friend, right?”
“So our story doesn’t disappear. When you write down your stories, they don’t go into the memory dump.”
“Good idea!” the kindergartner quips approvingly as he unbuckles himself from his car seat. “Pinky, come!”
Jocelyn Lau is the owner of the small publishing imprint, Kucinta Books. She has published two haiku collections about her preschooler, and hopes to put out a new title in 2016. This Pinky series is about a real imaginary horse that lives in her household.