“Everybody said the same thing: I guess I just outgrew him.”
by Katherine Applegate Although I remember my kindergarten teacher as old and experienced, she often asked questions like, “Who left the crayons on the floor?” or “Who forgot to hang up his or her coat?” Our answers varied from “I don’t know” to “not me.”
“Well,” she would say in her elderly, experienced kindergarten voice, “Mr. Nobody must have visited us again.”
So when my mother asked, “Who forgot to turn off the light?” or “Who left the milk out?” my logical, kindergarten answer: “Mr. Nobody.” In all fairness, the answer sometimes was “Mrs. Nobody.” I had a good imagination and a knack for staying out of trouble.
My brother had a fantastic imagination and, being the youngest, probably never even thought about being in trouble. He invented the Nobodies: Mr., Mrs., and their daughter, Karen. There were more siblings, but I’d have to research their names. The whole kit and kaboodle moved in with us.
Living with my brother’s imaginary family led to my sketchy understanding of responsibility. I learned fast to evade blame and flummox fault-finders by pointing to Karen. As my brother’s friend, Karen with her broad shoulders and inexhaustible boatload of patience welcomed my sister and me into her fold. And Karen’s parents never interfered.
Eventually I came to accept cause and effect, understand what it means to be culpable and relish the power of claiming my own actions, both wise and foolish. My brother grew into a responsible family man; my sister grew into a woman who could take care of the world. None of us named any of our children Karen.
The Nobodies gradually faded into the scrim of time, probably moving in with some other unsuspecting family.
Ever wonder who keeps leaving the cap off the toothpaste?