This piece was originally posted on Medium.
I wasn’t born an only child. I have a brother and a sister. We grew up in the same house with our biological, heterosexual, married parents. I didn’t have abnormal problems making friends as a kid. In fact, I was playground-married twice – once in preschool, once in kindergarten. The weddings were frugal but heartfelt, and while things didn’t work out with Chris or Nick, I wish them all the best. And yeah, I totally remember their last names.
We saw a lot of movies as kids. A family could do that back then. Going to the movies in the eighties simply didn’t cost seventy-five bucks for five people. One day we saw Crocodile Dundee. And another day, we saw Flight of the Navigator. At this point, I can only loosely sketch the layout of the Crocodile Dundee poster if you want me to (Howzat for impressionable marketing?), but I cannot, for the life of me, describe the details of any plot within Navigator. The design of the alien creeps me out and I don’t like looking at it now.
But if you were to ask a three-ish-year old in 1986 about these two movies, she might stop and tell you to put your glass of water somewhere else, because “Allie,” her baby pet alligator, is lying precisely where your drinkware hovers, and you’ll squish him. Because she might have been me.
A lot of the Creation of Allie is based on conjecture: I am told that we had seen Crocodile Dundee and Navigator around the same time, and that is when Allie started appearing. But his “appearances” were true. Very real for me. Not so much in weight and mass, per se, but certainly in sight.
I saw my pet Allie. I remember seeing my pet Allie. He was dark green and limber, conforming to the spaces available to him. He used to lie on the dinner table beside my plate because he was only a baby then, maybe six inches long, with a significant portion being tail. Allie also grew, as babies tend to do, and got to a point where he didn’t fit on a crowded dinner table set for five humans. I would let him curl up in my shirt’s breast pocket. Eventually he would have to rest perched on my shoulder. I would wear him like a woman of means wears a fox stole, except he was alive, and only in my head.
I knew that Allie didn’t exist to other people. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have warned them of when they were about to place a glass on his tail. My parents didn’t try to correct me. Every once in a while, they’d ask “Where is Allie?” and I’d answer matter-of-factly, because, as a matter of fact, I felt I could see him. I’m pretty sure one time I told them Allie was on vacation, and that was probably the start of when Allie started to move out.
I can’t explain why Allie became my companion. I was a girly little girl. I loved dance class and I tried to stay up past midnight to find fairies having tea parties. What was I doing with a sharp-toothed reptile? It doesn’t even really make sense that he was the mash-up manifestation of Crocodile Dundee and Navigator. If he was, why didn’t I dream up a crocodile? Or why wasn’t he an alien? My first two guesses are: At the time, my mind didn’t distinguish crocodiles from alligators, or maybe I just liked the “gator” part of “Navigator.”
More probably, I was enthralled by the crocodilian shape, and Flight of the Navigator taught me that you can have animalian companions aside from the family dogs. I must have wanted a little buddy.
Allie never scared me, never bit me, never told me to do anything wrong. I don’t remember him making noise at all, I just remember him being there and being comforting. Decades later, while I’ve got your standard amount of baggage and back story, I can’t support the theories that only lonely or “weird” kids make fake pets, or that children create imaginary friends solely to cope with emotional crises. For me and Allie, we just wanted to have fun.
Cross-posting this piece brought me back to the days when I wrote in LiveJournal but all my friends were on Xanga. Come to think of it, that’s probably when my social media MPD began.