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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Imaginary Posse

When I was little, I didn't just have an imaginary friend. I ran with a large and diverse imaginary posse. This was a complex system with an inner circle of close, invisible playmates and a cast of thousands of unobservable acquaintances. Like real life, I've forgotten most of those acquaintances, though every once in a while, I'll come across a slip of paper tucked into a childhood book where I will have drawn one of them and I'll shake my head lovingly. "Aaaaaah, Abigail. I wonder what ever became of her. I'll have to do an imaginary Google search later."

My inner circle is a different story.

There was Henry--still one of my favourite names--who was a film projectionist. He lived in a small, bachelor pad--sparsely furnished but neat. He was bald. He didn't love that, but there weren't too many Rogaine-like options back in 1980.

There were the twins. Andi and Emmi were identical girls. Very popular. Very thin--in fact, their mother was often worried about their weight. Andi was a little more rock-n-roll, Emmi was a little more studious. Emmi could be a bit of a pill, constantly lecturing us about doing things "the right way" (she was so into doing things "the right way") but she kept us in line, you know? The twins were crazy, always pretending to be the other one. I remember one time Andi had this date and she didn't want to go (I know, I know, we grew up fast. I mean, we were only six and we were dating. But that's the way life goes in the 'burbs) so Emmi went on it for her. And the boy didn't know. He didn't even know that he was dating the wrong twin.

But my girlfriend, my best friend, my heart, was Sonly (pronounced, in case you don't know her, sown-LEE). She was originally from Japan. She had long black straight hair and gorgeous dark eyes. She had a lot of brothers and her parents often told her that she couldn't do things as well as her siblings. She kicked those boys' invisible asses across the sea and back in everything she did. She was an expert fisherwoman. You should have seen how many fish she could bring back from a single trip. Her parents were often close to death, starving, and Sonly would save the family and show them the error of their ways in favouring her brothers over her. Of course, they would forget these lessons quickly. She had to prove herself again and again and again.

Oh Sonly.

I really miss her.

It's hard to grow up and grow apart from your imaginary friends. I mean, I still visit Henry every once in a while--he shares a birthday with Josh's grandmother (and he's a film projectionist and my husband is a film festival director...strange coincidences, right?). But I didn't even know how to get in touch with the twins to share my good news when we found out that we were carrying twins almost four years ago.

Sonly and I drifted. At one point, we were so close, I was sure we were going to be married one day. I told her all of my secrets. She was the only person who knew all my hiding places in my room. Hell, she was the only person who knew the truth when I created my secret admirer to make my sister jealous (my sister claimed that she "knew" that I had created my secret admirer. Something about how stuff showing up in our mailbox in franked-stamp envelopes on a Sunday being the tip-off. Damn older sister meddling in my imaginary life!). My real friends may not have known about Sonly, but Sonly knew all about them.

We all know how we grow apart from real friends--they achieve what we can't and we become jealous and pull away. We simply develop new interests and the circumstances that brought us together are not strong enough to overcome a lack of middle ground. We move. We start new jobs. We get distracted and focus on things other than friendships. It is the mark of a true friend to weather through adulthood, remaining close and going through the various changes of dating, marriage, divorce, parenthood, life crises, loss.

But how do we grow apart from our imaginary friends? I mean, I invented them. You would think I could have done a better job in imbuing them with attributes that would allow them to grow with me. It's interesting because Henry is the only one I'm still in-touch with and he certainly wasn't my closest imaginary friend growing up. And Sonly, who was my right arm, she was my bones and blood, is lost somewhere. Wandering the world; perhaps wondering how I am.

Maybe I don't really want to know how Sonly aged. I mean, if she is popping out babies in two year increments (always planning her pregnancies so she wouldn't be massive during those difficult summer months), yammering on and on about how her husband just has to look at her, would I want to sit through a whole dinner with her? Wouldn't it ruin my old memories of Sonly--when we used to sit on my bed, whispering about our shared crushes on KD Lang and Michael J Fox, drawing pictures together?

But maybe I'd find out that she also had difficulty conceiving and carrying to term. Maybe Sonly and her wife used donor sperm. Or she had to go through seven fresh cycles of IVF to conceive her singleton. We'd laugh when we found out that we went to the same clinic and had somehow missed each other in the waiting room. I would tuck my fingers between hers and say, "I've missed you so much. I can't believe how things turned out for both of us. I didn't know when we were little how hard all of this was going to be."

It's hard to grow up.

Who were your imaginary friends? Are you still in touch? Do you miss them or have you not even thought about them for the past twenty-five years (and if that's the case, what the hell is wrong with you--they were your best friend! Yes, I'm the type of woman who sticks up for the invisible friend).


Michell said...

I have to admit that I haven't even thought of my imaginary friend until I read this post. Oh and when I watched the movie "Drop Dead Fred" years ago. I had one imaginary friend who was a very tiny pink mouse which I actually have a very tiny pink mouse (that was my friend and it had a voice only I could hear) that still resides in my jewlery box at home.

Jen said...

Lulu... she lived in a tree in my parents back yard. The tree is in a low spot, and when it rains, a puddle forms around the tree... and when it REALLY rains the puddle turns into a "lake."

So when the lake forms, to this day, it is referred to as "Lulu's Lake."

My son has an imaginary friend named "Comveigh" who has a baby brother/sister named "Sumveigh" (he says that I can have the baby if I want.)

Anyway, I like to think that Lulu is Comveigh and Sumveigh's mom : )

Flicka said...

I have two friends who weren't imaginary, it was just that no one else thought they could talk. Elsie and Ed are stuffed elephants. I've had Ed since I was born; I think I imprinted on him. And Elsie came later as someone's attempt to replace the increasingly tattered Ed.

Both of them still talk to me. When things got bad with Sarge, I slept with them both and used their big, floppy ears to wipe away my tears. They're way too old to be slept with regularly now; far too fragile. But we talk all the time. The most magical thing though, is that my husband can hear them, too. Which helps me know that I made the right choice in men. :-)

Grad3 said...

You know- it may make me a little lame but I never had imaginary friends. When I wanted to hide from my life, or chat with someone, I had my books. So I guess in a way, they were my imaginary friends.

How could one not swept up in the drama of Sweet Valley? Or not want to go hang out with Claudia from The Babysitters Club? She was the coolest!

Jen said...

I never had imaginary friends. I wish I had. They would have been helpful when I moved all the time and didn't have real friends.

I think my sister had an imaginary friend for a little while, but it was nothing that stuck around. Like grad3, I read books all the time.

nancy said...

I never had any imaginary friends either. I don't know if it's because I had a buttload of brothers and sisters, so I never had a second to myself to come up with one, or that I'm just not that creative. Probably the latter because my mathlete-ness ~always~ trumps my creativity.

But I've got a VERY neat and tidy checkbook. heh.

orodemniades said...

My one imaginary friend turned into some of the characters I write about in my books. Actually, maybe all of the main characters in my books.

Go figure.

Dreamer4agift said...

I had an imaginary friend that was a horse...yeah, quite a big friend, I know, but man, she was beautiful. Grew from a pony to a horse. She was a white stallion and I always took her to church with me (being a pastor's kid, we were there a LOT). I would hold her leash out the window and she would trot along beside me all the way there. I would talk to her and then when we got to the church I'd tell her to be a good horse. I'd feed her apples and sugar cubes if she was good. She usually only showed up when I was going to church. But she was a good girl.

I don't keep in touch with her anymore, but I've thought about her from time to time, especially when reminiscing about childhood. I always wanted a real live horse and asked for one every c-mas/bday (and STILL do, I might add), but never got one. However, one day I will have a horse, and I think she will be a live version of my long time imaginary friend.

I never had human imaginary friends. I would try and think them up, but they always disappeared--hmm, maybe that's b/c my real friends did the same thing growing up.

Thanks for sharing.

deanna said...

I never had imaginary friends, either, and I feel a little pained that my imagination was slacking off!

Instead, I had hoards of stuffed animals who attended shows at the theat-ah, assorted tea parties (and complained about how much they hate tea and why can't we drink juice instead) and hosted puppet shows on the wall next to my bed at night.

Books filled in the gaps when the animals weren't company enough. GRAD3---I still haven't gotten over my joint crush/hate for Bruce from Sweet Valley High. Oh, he was a trixy one.....

Chebbles' Mama said...

I think I went to camp with Sonly.

And if anyone's seen a stray imaginary girlfriend named Darren, let her know I'm looking for her!

TeamWinks said...

Yep, his name was Charlie,and he did all the bad things that I got blamed for as a child. Perhpas I'll write him a letter on my blog.

Jess said...

I hadn't thought of my imaginary friends in years.

Kinda, Pinda, and Melbin. I don't even know the sexes or anything, though I guess Melbin was a boy and I really meand MelVIN.

I also had a pet bird. PC-Birdy.

I was a strange child. I blame my lack of siblings.

And I can blame my lack of siblings, ironically, on infertility. Imagine that.

Bea said...

"Aaaaaah, Abigail. I wonder what ever became of her. I'll have to do an imaginary Google search later."

Just wanted to say this cracked me up.


Beagle said...

I don't ever remember having an imaginary friend. Which seems odd now that I think about it. I was (am) an only child and we moved a lot. You'd think an imaginary friend would have come in handy.

Maybe I lacked imagination?

PCOSMama said...

You know, I don't recall any imaginary friends either... though, like Grad3 and some others, I read all the time. My nose was always in a book, so that was my imaginary world. I so wanted to be part of the Babysitters Club!

Am I the only one who thinks about re-reading some of those series' from my childhood? I haven't done it yet, but I secretly hope my daughter will read them some day so I can get my hands on them to see if they are as great as I remember!

Anonymous said...

I didn't have any imaginary friends unless you count.... ummm... me.

That's right, I was actually WEIRDER than the average bear. Not only was I an only child with ridiculously high self esteem, but I was an only child with ridiculously high self esteem who preferred to talk to herself... frequently.

And my partner wonders why I'm so insistent that Kiddo NOT be an only child. Yikes.