When I was a kid, I had two imaginary friends. Luanne and Connor. To be honest I don’t remember too much about our actual time together. What of them is still with me is more from the remembering of my mother’s stories. I think that is how many of our childhood memories stay with us, through the sentimental attachment to the telling of stories of these moments.
There was a photograph around, of my mother, sitting on a rock, pregnant with my brother, our two dogs of the time with her. I clearly remember one of those dogs licking my face and my mother’s laughter rings through that memory. Dixie and Trixie. I was 3 years old. When asked about first memories, this is the one I site. But do I really remember that moment, or is it because of the photograph, and my Mum telling the story of that moment whenever we looked at that picture? A special moment between mother and daughter, that I need to hold on to.
It is like this with my imaginary friends. I clearly remember getting into an elevator and telling some people off, because they were either standing on my ‘friends’ or letting the elevator close before they were safely inside. Do I really remember this? Or is this a story conjured in my mind from all the times my mother laughingly told on me? This is around the same time as the photograph, as we still lived in apartment buildings when my brother was born. So I was 3 and 4 at these times. Is it possible I still have these memories, 34 years later? Or am I just holding on to fragments of the time and of her?
There is another imaginary moment that comes to me. Mum and I riding the streetcar, watching out the window for Elly the Elephant, who might have made it out of her hiding place to play tricks on us on the way home. I can almost see that big pink creature’s backside going around a corner. I can remember the big fern plants that the lady friend we had been visiting had in her living room. And my Mum happy.
These imaginary friends had been vivid enough in my imagination at the time. But as I grew up, learned to read, discovered the wonders of escaping into fairy tale and fictional worlds, I let those creatures go. The world of imagination was a bigger place than my elevators and backyards. I could wander through life not in the city or in my real life, but seeing all of that through the filter of wonderland, of wonderful lands that I could run away to in my mind! I can still do this, if I am bored, or lonely or feeling overly creative. I can still navigate my life through fantasy, although in growing up, I have learned not to need to. Is Elly there waiting for me, hiding behind the shower curtain? No. But I think she is out there, teasing other small hopeful children, and I like that idea.