Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Imaginary Friend

When I was about 4 years old I started to play with an imaginary friend. My parents sat me down one day and explained to me that “this friend wasn’t real. He was a figment of my own imagination.” There was talk and questions between adults in the family concerning the roots of this “problem.” Indeed, everyone thought there was something wrong with me having an imaginary friend. I even remember talking to my “invisible” friend about the troublesome conversations people were having about us. I didn’t understand why the next door neighbour was more appropriate to play with than this friend who was there with me most of the time.

“Are you anxious or afraid?” people would ask and each time I’d answer, “no!”

After a while, people started questioning me on my imaginary friend.

“Is he a boy or a girl?” my dad asked.

“A boy,” I answered.

For weeks my mom tried to get me to play with my brother more and to understand that if I needed a boy in my life there were lots to go around with siblings and cousins.

“Is he your age, older or younger?” my dad asked.

“A little younger,” I replied.

I heard them say that maybe I was the timid kind and that it was easier to connect to an invisible friend than a flesh and bone one.

“Is he like us?” my dad asked.

“No,” I answered, “he says he’s jewish and that he lives far away, closer to the sea.”

Silence reigned for once. My parents wondered where I had heard the word “jewish” before.

“What does this mean “jewish”?” my dad retorted with a bit more enthusiasm this time. It was as if I had broken a spell of sorts.

“It means that he doesn’t go to Church on Sunday like us and he doesn’t pray to Jesus. Plus, he wears a little hat on the back of his head,” I described. After all I had seen the boy wear it enough times. I even questioned him about it.

For weeks there was lots energy in the house. People whispered when I crossed their path and I heard my father say to my mom: “Maybe this isn’t what we think it is!”

Things changed after that. I could keep a space for him at the dinner table. I could bring him in the car and I could talk to him freely and openly. I was even asked at times: “What is he saying now?”

When I turned 6 years old, my friend told me that he couldn’t come to visit anymore because he was starting school. I was already in 2nd grade and understood that he would be busy with homework and friends. We said goodbye and I never spoke of him again.

Twenty years later when I was teaching and lecturing on the Medicine Wheel, a young man called me one afternoon for a dream time chart. He introduced himself and we talked on the phone for hours as if we had met before. We connected so much that we started to call each other on a regular basis and eventually met in person. Then, one day my daughter who was 3 years old at the time organized a tea party in her room and invited LB and I to join. As soon as we sat down and grabbed our little tea cup, the memory of my imaginary friend came back. It was LB who looked up at me and said: “It was you!”

Overwhelmed by emotion and joy I couldn’t believe that sitting right in front of me was the imaginary friend I had known when I was 4 years old. LB was jewish and originally from the Maritimes – a city near the sea. He was also a few years younger than me. For hours we talked about what we remembered. We could actually describes each other’s childhood rooms as if we had actually been there. He talked about conversations we had and even described my old tea set. For us it was a mysterious revelation: “Could it be that imaginary friends weren’t imaginary at all?”

Today LB and I are still close friends. We both have families (spouses and children). We don’t talk to each other often mostly because we have busy lives but when we do it’s usually because we’ve been appearing in each other’s imaginary space (for lack of a better word).

When people ask us how long we’ve known each other we usually say: “We’ve known each other since childhood.” We giggle at the statement as if only we know what that means. There’s a connection between LB and I that is from out of this world and impossible to describes. Yet, what is reassuring is that we both feel it and we both recognize it. Both our children have had imaginary friends as well and when that occurred we tried to handle the situation differently than it was handled with us. I remember telling my daughter that imaginary friends were only imaginary to the people who weren't living the experience.

Her reply was: “It’s not an imaginary friend mom – it’s just a friend.”

Thank you to the Universe for giving me this experience and thank you for LB for living it with me from start to the end. Thank you LB for letting me borrow the picture too.



Anya said...

awww ,I never did have one, but I will embrace them if my babies one day discover their own friend. Another connection to the devine!!
thanks lisa:D

Ally said...

When I was little, I used to "imagine" having an older brother named Michael. When I was little, he used to watch out for me and give me advice.

When I grew up, actually in my 40s, I was introduced to my birth family - who found me? My older brother Michael!

It was kinda sad in a way, because he had grown away from being my big brother, and in this reality, now, we are not close. He found me, brought me to our mother, and then faded into the shadows again. And yet...

I remember the relationship we DID have, once upon a time, when he was my "invisible brother", and I will always cherish Michael because of that relationship that he doesn't even know/remember we had. But I do. And that means a lot to me.

Wapeyit Malsom said...

Thank you for sharing your story with us ALLY. I really appreciate it. Anya -- I look forward to hearing how your children experience this phase of their life when time comes.


JenniferLeigh said...

when i was little i used to have an imaginary twin. i'd play for hours with her. then when i got a little older my younger cousin mychal and i used to pretend we were twin sisters.

we would even go to the park and tell the kids there that we were twins. we would dress alike and everything.

i always just figured it was because i am an only child and am/was desperate for siblings.

Wheelkeeper said...

I used to be a nanny for a 6 year old girl, who had two imaginary friends. She would tell me where they were and what they said. I would let them get on the sled and give them rides. I didn't see them, but I knew she did and we had lots of fun. A few years later, when I went back to visit her, I asked her about them. She said, "Na, they were just imaginary".I felt sad, that she had been told this and doubted her own experience.