Do you know this woman? She is Miss Viola Swamp, and she is the creation of Harry Allard and James Marshall, an author/illustrator team in the 1980s. Miss Viola Swamp is a frighteningly strict taskmaster, complete with black clothes, crazy hair, and scary makeup. Miss Viola Swamp is mysteriously never seen at the same time as the lovely elementary school teacher, Miss Nelson, for Miss Viola Swamp is Miss Nelson (sorry to ruin the surprise for you). And finally, Miss Viola Swamp is Maddie's imaginary friend.
We can't pinpoint exactly when Miss Viola Swamp started living in our house, but it occurred after two pivotal events in Maddie's life: the birth of her sister and the receiving of a Scholastic DVD set that included two animated movies: Miss Nelson is Missing and Miss Nelson Has a Field Day. Slowly but surely, Miss Viola Swamp made herself at home. She accompanies Maddie on the swings out back, she sits with us at dinner, and once she even threw up on Maddie (at least that's why I was informed she was changing her clothes in the middle of the day last week).
We aren't sure why Maddie picked Miss Viola Swamp to be her dearest friend. Quite honestly, we're a little freaked out by it. It's not like she hasn't been exposed to scores of other children's literature characters in her life... nice ones, not hag-witches-who-scare-little-children-into-compliance ones. We worried for a while that we were being too tough on her after Gracie's arrival and our expectations triggered this imaginary houseguest, but we've now decided that she just seems to really, really like Miss Vio (as Maddie calls her for short sometimes).
Someday Miss Viola Swamp will leave us with only some really funny memories, but for now, it appears she is here to stay indefinitely. We're trying to be on our best behavior until then.