There is an interloper in our house. He’s small and green and called Hayley. Or he’s ‘absolutely massive’ and called Steve. He mostly lives in a hole in the garden although he sometimes resides at the local arts centre. He gets up to all sorts of mischief. He’s a grasshopper and he’s my four-year-old son’s imaginary friend.
This grasshopper is the go-to guy for any situation. Run out of milk? “It’s OK mummy, my grasshopper can go to the shops.” Can’t reach something on a shelf? “My grasshopper can jump really high and get that!” Too tired to drive the kids to school? Leave it up to grasshopper! OK, maybe not.
Grasshopper is also the fall guy in our house. My son assures me that he’s the one who makes a mess in the living room or leaves a trail of muddy footprints across the carpet. And where toileting matters are concerned he hasn’t got very good aim. Yuck. Bad grasshopper.
I’m getting quite fond of him though. He reminds me that an imagination can be helpful in all sorts of situations. OK, the invisible milk that he gets from the shop doesn’t taste quite so good in my tea as the real stuff, but when it’s poured from a jug balanced on a spiky insect limb, it’s surely an ingredient no dairy product can beat! And wiping wee off the bathroom floor might be as unpleasant as ever, but at least I can have a laugh imagining a long-legged, bouncy insect trying to use the loo.
And grasshopper gives me something to live up to. He’s an example of how wonderfully creative children are and – from the point of view of a writer – that’s kind of like throwing down a gauntlet.
So, where do I get my inspiration? What’s my muse? A great big, small, green imaginary jumping insect called Hayley. Or Steve.