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.
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).