I was reading another blog the other day (OOPS. That is allowed, isn’t it?) when the topic (stuffed animals, blankies, and imaginary friends) sent me off on a memory spiral. Never mind my childhood blankie and favorite stuffed animals. The part that made me start to reminisce was the imaginary friends thing.
I’m not sure how young I was when my imaginary friend, Linda (no last name), moved into our barn, but I remember my mom anxiously insisting that I wasn’t allowed to take her to school once I started first grade.
Nor was I allowed to take my imaginary dog, Lassie (also my favorite TV show), to school.
Well, duh. Dogs are never allowed in school. Unless it’s a service dog or maybe on show-and-tell day.
Linda was cooler than I was. She wore funky glasses, while my own were plain and ugly in my mind. Yes, she lived in the barn, but in “our” world, the barn had been renovated into a wonderful residence. We played at her house a lot. She always had cats (barn cats) around. I, on the other hand, wasn’t allowed to have pets inside.
Except for Lassie, whom my mom couldn’t see!
I was vaguely aware of my mother’s concerns. I truly believe she was considering therapy for her young daughter who spoke of this girl and dog who weren’t really there. Keep in mind, I was sixteen years younger than my only sibling, who was away at college, leaving me as an almost-only child. We lived on a farm and I didn’t become acquainted with the one girl who lived relatively nearby until several years later.
Linda was my sole playmate. And since she was always at my beck and call, I was never lonely.
In hindsight, I can see that Linda, her renovated (at least in my mind) barn home, and my collie dog were the first hints at what my future held. Now I make up friends and create houses and assorted structures, where there are none, on a daily basis. I conjure up whole herds of horses, several cats, and an occasional dog. They all go into my stories. And I admit, I find it vindicating when my readers talk to me about Zoe and Pete as if they were as real to them as they are to me.
My mom was still around and aware of my books and readers, at least through the first two in the series. Gradually, she faded into her own world of dementia before passing away prior to the release of No Way Home. I remember the puzzled but pleased look on her face at my first launch party. She never did fully understand my vivid imagination nor my invisible friends, even when they ended up in print.
How about you, readers and fellow writers? Did you have imaginary friends when you were young? Do you think there’s a link to a vivid imagination as a child and your current creative endeavors?