Standing in front of the dressing table facing my sisters on the bed, I twirled a button threaded onto an arm’s length of yarn. My sister Mary giggled, “Tell us about yourself, Rosie Spearmint.”
Like an actor on a stage, I maintained a serious expression as I informed her, “I’m a little girl and my Daddy used to own a grocery store.”
Betty elbowed Mary and hissed, “Ask Rosie why her Daddy doesn’t have the grocery store anymore!” Betty had been with me when we dreamed up this game, so she knew the answer.
Mary frowned and questioned, “Hmmm. Did you say your Daddy used to have a grocery store? Why doesn’t he have it anymore?”
I sighed theatrically and answered, “I ate him out of business. He bought cookies and cakes, bacon and cheese to sell, but I have such a big appetite, I ate it all up before he could sell any of it.”
Laughing, my sisters flopped onto their backs and hooted.
My make-believe game had me claiming to be someone other than Kathy. As the youngest member of our family, I loved making my siblings laugh and this schtick was doing the trick!
Wiping tears from her eyes, Betty sat up and said, “Rosie, I want to talk to your Daddy.”
Still twirling the button, I nodded and solemnly said, “He’s right here.”
Mary sat up, interested in what was going to be said next.
Betty questioned, “What is your name, Mr. Spearmint?”
Huh! This was a new twist on the game. My mind tumbled around searching for an answer. Without the slightest smile or interruption in twirling the button, I put my right foot forward and bowed as I informed them, “My name is Spearmint Spearmint.”
My sisters howled with laughter. One stopped laughing only long enough to breathlessly ask, “Did you see how she put one foot forward and bowed?”
The other nodded and chortled, “That button never faltered, it just kept on twirling!”
Rosie Spearmint was never an imaginary friend; she was more of a story being told by an amateur. My sister Betty, five and a half years older than me, was like the bolt of lightning that brought Frankenstein to life. She provided the spark that drew Rosie Spearmint out of my imagination. For me, the task of making up a story girl was merely the gathering of my small world’s flotsam. It is hard to trace the lineage of an imaginary girl, but I am going to try.
My real-life daddy liked to tease me about my healthy appetite, saying, “You’re going to eat us out of house and home!” Rosie Spearmint ate her father out of not only his house, but also his business.
The little girl’s first name belonged to not only my grandmother, but to one of my sisters. It made me think of large, fragrant old-fashioned red flowers and sunshine.
My Mom always kept a five-stick pack of Wrigley’s spearmint gum on hand in a kitchen cupboard full of fascinating things and wonderful scents. Calling to me like Aladdin’s Cave-just opening the cabinet door caused a scrumptious wave of cinnamon, mint and cloves to waft out. The smell of my favorite spices whetted my appetite, but then I’d find chocolate chips, raisins and marshmallows lurking on the backside of the shelves.
Mom only chewed half of a stick of gum at a time. Her frugal habits were probably the result of having lived through the Great Depression and World War II rationing. Because of her careful rationing, the importance of her gum took on an increased significance to me. Of course, the little girl’s last name would be Spearmint!
If I played two days of the Rosie Spearmint story games with Betty that summer, that would be about all. On one of the days, the story girl was a wild child who lived in the orchard with us. My sister and I each had apple trees we climbed, where each branch represented a room. Rosie Spearmint was right there with us.
When Rosie Spearmint disappeared, I hardly noticed, because I had moved on to a new story by then. Despite her relative short sojourn in my life, when I think back, I remember her with joy and great affection.