Saturday, March 13, 2010

Imaginary Buddies

Tommy and Tammy lived through the door in the sign post. It was a door they could freely exit and enter, but it didn't work for me. I could get glimpses of their world, but I could never enter it. They could come through at will, and were great playmates.

I'm not sure where Suzy lived, but she was my friend too. She was much more adventurous than I was and I loved hearing her tales. Her friends were forest creatures and faeries.

Of course looking back, I know my three friends were imaginary. I think I knew it even then. But my older sister, who also happened to be my best friend, had gone to school and I was lonely. I was shy and spent a lot of time with these buddies. I can still picture them today, even the sign post world.

I also realized about then that those picture books and chapter books contained even more worlds for me to explore, more places I could visit. They had more friends who would keep me company while my sister was at school. Of course, the books were easy for a long time, but the seeds were planted.

I think these early friends opened a lot of doors for me. My sister never had them. She also doesn't read fiction. Is there a connection? Was I more receptive to the worlds of imagination because of my loneliness? Or would I have been a reader and writer regardless?

So, I want to know. Do people who invent/discover imaginary friends go on to be readers and writers? What's your experience? Any imaginary/invisible buddies in your life?

83 comments:

Mary Brebner said...

The characters from my books were my imaginary friends--I could go anywhere and visit them any time. Love that yours visited through a sign post!

Jemi Fraser said...

Mary - true - I wasn't thinking in that direction. Characters I loved spent a LOT of time with me :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I don't remember any imaginary friends, but I made up stories. They often grew out of things I played with, such as clay made out of river shale, plastic horses I built a stable for and paper dolls that I designed clothes for out of colorful paper bits. I'd never thought about it, but maybe I should do more visual art in conjunction with writing.

Jemi Fraser said...

Tricia - I did those too! I created whole worlds with my LEGO blocks. I loved my paper dolls too :)

You are certainly a visual art kind of gal :)

Julie Dao said...

Great post! I don't remember having imaginary friends, unless stuffed animals count :) I would play with them for hours and I could hear them talking back to me. I wrote stories about them. And of course books were always my friends.

Jemi Fraser said...

Julie - stuffed animals always count! I had billions of them - or so it seemed :)

I did the story thing with them as well. Wow - this is bringing back all kinds of fun memories :)

WonderBunny said...

I am not a writer. I prefer to read others writing. But I do remember making up stories as a child. My parents always had all kinds of stuff in the backyard - plywood sheets, chicken wire and of course left plants that I would build forts with and then hid out in all day. I always had stories going on in my head while I spend the summer days playing.

Jemi Fraser said...

Hi WonderBunny! (love your name BTW!)

Sounds like a perfect setting for a kid - all kinds of fun to spark imaginations. I loved creating forts as well. We had a wooded area behind our house I spent many happy hours in.

Thanks so much for dropping by :)

Mason Canyon said...

I'm an only child so I had imaginary friends. My mother used to tell a story about my grandmother (her mother) wanting my family to move out of the country because I was "talking to myself." My mother quietly explained "who" I was talking to and said I'd be fine. From that my love of reading expanded my imaginary world.

Jemi Fraser said...

Mason - love it! :)

I think my mom just ignored it, knowing it was normal-ish. Don't really remember their reactions - I'll have to ask her.

shawnawks said...

Too funny! My sister and I had imaginary friends named Jenny and Jennifer (Obviously I wasn't nearly as creative back then) They were, of course, sister too! My sister doesn't write or even read much, but I'm pretty sure I held onto my imaginary friend way longer than she did, she is older so I had the loneliness when she went to school too. I can't really say if that helped me to become the reader/writer that I am today.

Jemi Fraser said...

Shawna - Jenny & Jennifer - I love it! Kids are so much fun :)

Maybe it's more a younger sibling/only child thing than a writer/reader thing. Interesting!

Karen Strong said...

I didn't have any imaginary friends growing up, but I did make up a LOT of stories about animals or trees. Maybe these make-believe stories--the characters in them were my friends?

Jemi Fraser said...

Karen - sure, why not? :)

It seems we all made up stories from a very young age.

Laurel said...

Like Julie, I had a large menagerie of stuffed animals and each had its own personality and back story. Some of them got into fights, some were married, some were siblings. I also spent loads of time playing outside, imagining stories with invisible friends--an owl, a family of foxes and a rabbit whose names I can't recall.

What does it mean that my imaginary friends were always animals rather than human?? I couldn't stand baby dolls and didn't connect to Barbies as friends so much as actresses in little plays and scenarios I made up for them. Same with those peg-shaped Fisher Price Little People.

Regarding your question--I think the appeal of the imaginary world and fiction are a matter of temperament. Those with the Myers-Briggs "sensing" temperament (versus "intuitive") simply prefer what's really real. My big brother, who grew up to be an engineer, didn't really "get" my way of playing. He likes to read biography and memoir. Go figure.

Jemi Fraser said...

Laurel - my folks and sister have always been surprised by me. They don't read fiction, they don't like fantasy/sci fi, they don't understand wanting to write,... But they've always been supportive of me and my "oddities" :)

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I didn't have any invisible or imaginary friends, but I truly believed my stuffed animals were alive inside, and that if I just loved them and played with them enough, they could be like the Velveteen Rabbit. I still hold out some hope for Henry, my giant stuffed dog. :-)

Wendy aka Quillfeather. said...

I think there's a very fine line between imagination and reality. Dreams for example. They're very real at the time, much like imaginary friends - of which I had many. Between you and I, I still do! Well, the characters in my book are real to me anyway :)

chasing empty pavements said...

I had an imaginary friend when I was younger named Suzie Q and I'd forgotten all about her when I started to grow up and then just a few months ago, I remembered a time when she used to be my best friend and I used her in a story, but it just wasn't the same.

Jemi Fraser said...

Shannon - the one animal I was sure would eventually come to life was Fluffy for me :)

It's funny how favourite books affected us. I was sure my toys played when I slept!

Jemi Fraser said...

Wendy - your secret's safe! My characters become very real as well. Very real. :)

VR Barkowski said...

Never had imaginary friends growing up, probably because I was always so excited to be myself - it was crowded in my house. I've always imagined myself in books, though. Still do.

Jemi Fraser said...

Jade - Yeah - I would worry about bringing my buddies into books as well. It's hard to translate the childhood reality into the adult "real" world. Now, if I had George Lucas or James Cameron to help me out, maybe the world behind the signpost could pop onto the screen :)

Jemi Fraser said...

VR - lol :) It's hard for me to imagine a crowded house - there were only 4 of us. And my folks were great about allowing us privacy from an early age.

It is so easy to slip into the book's world isn't it. One of my fvourite things to do. :)

Lorel Clayton said...

That's a beautiful story. I always wanted an imaginary friend when I heard about them. I guess I didn't because I've always enjoyed being alone. I could spend all day off adventuring and making up games for myself as a child, and books were a natural extension of those solitary adventures.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lorel - I like my alone time too - always have. But I think there was a pretty big gap when my sister went to school. Once I could really read, my invisible buddies disappeared :)

TerryLynnJohnson said...

This post brings me back! Yes, I did have an imaginary friend named Mary. I also had a stuffed dog that I talked to. He was a good listener.

Jemi Fraser said...

Terry Lynn - My dog Fluffy was a good listener too :) Most of us seem to us remember our buddies pretty well, don't we?

Medeia Sharif said...

I didn't have imaginary friends, but my mind would get lost in repetitive, fantastic daydreams of superheroes and TV show characters.

Jemi Fraser said...

Medeia - I did that too! The first one I remember doing that with was HR Puffenstuff. Very bizarre characters. Lots of fun. :)

Boy, it's starting to look like I did nothing but make up stories in my head. I did other stuff too. Sports. Played with friends. Really!!

Susan Kelley said...

I had too many brothers or sisters to want any more friends, real or imaginary, but we did make up entire worlds we played in. The back of my dad's pickup truck was our ship and we fought off pirates day after day.
We settled the wild west in the little patch of woods edging our farm. We built snow horses and rode them on great cattle drives. Oh, the days before video games...

Cate P said...

I think there is a connection between imagination games and fiction reading. How else can you really place yourself in the character's situation or see things through their eyes if your mind doesn't have the ability to transport you there? Otherwise you are just reading words and not a story.
I vaguely remember talking to 'somebody' when I was young, not sure who, and am an avid reader, always have been.
Thank goodness.

Jemi Fraser said...

Susan - lol :) I can't imagine that many siblings. It must have been marvelous - most of the time anyway!!

And yes, it's amazing what we did without video & computer games. I'm so glad my kids never got too interested in them. Much too active for that :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Cate - I don't remember not reading. It was something I loved from such an early age. My memories of childhood are not always clear, but my imaginary buddies are clear as a bell :)

michelle said...

I never had imaginary friends - I know I used to make up heaps of stories... until I was caught out! I looked back as I grew up and wished I did have imaginary friends.
Interesting to think about Jemi

Jemi Fraser said...

Michelle - I've always assumed the imaginary buddies were due to my sister going to school - probably were. But it also seems to be the first memories I have of making up stories. Of really believing in make-believe. :) Powerful stuff.

Jackee said...

Such a cute story. :)

I didn't have imaginary friends, but I was the kid who would lie awake at night making up stories for hours. And I was very good at playing make-believe in the day time too. :)

(I was shy as well up until high school.)

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I think you're on to something. I also developed a great love for fiction when I was young. My mother was quite ill when I was little, so I would escape with a book. I used to pretend Lassie was my dog. Lassie Come Home was one of my favorites. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. :)

Lisa_Gibson said...

I never had any imaginary friends. :( I think I just tortured my brother into playing with me. My uncle used to have an imaginary friend when he was a kid. His name was Sinchel. Interesting blog post Jemi.

Talli Roland said...

Oh, I definitely had imaginary friends. I don't remember their names now, but I know they were there. I used to love creating different worlds - building forts in the forests, defending the world against invading aliens... it's amazing how imaginative kids can be!


Great post!

Niki said...

I'm an only child and spent hours playing in my 'imaginary world'. I was always reading and daydreaming. Actually I still do. And now that I write, it's amazing to be wandering around in the world of my own stories. :o)

Jemi Fraser said...

Jackee - I still lay awake at night making up those stories. I'd say I'm in good company :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Kathi - reading can be a great escape when real life is too tough. Lassie was/is such a terrific companion

Jemi Fraser said...

Lisa - lol - it sounds like torturing your brother brought you enough fun :)

I like your uncle's name for his buddy! Much more creative than mine!

Jemi Fraser said...

Thanks Talli - a lot of us built forts and had our adventures there! It must be a requirement for being a kid :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Niki - I completely agree! It's so much fun to wander in worlds of our own creation. I wouldn't give it up for anything.

Thanks so much for dropping by.

Helen Ginger said...

I don't remember having imaginary friends as a child, but I do have characters in my head. I can't see them, but I do hear them.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Jemi Fraser said...

Helen - my characters roam around in my head as well. I tend to see from their eyes, so I don't often see them. For me it's more about feeling their emotions though.

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Oh, I love this. You know, my three year old has an imaginary friend named Skadilla. Sometimes she talks about her as if she were real, and sometimes she merely acts out Skadilla's roll through her dollies. But my little one also loves to make up stories, as well. She'll concoct some pretty crazy tale. I wonder, then, if there isn't a connection in all this? At the least, I think it takes a certain amount of creativity to come up with imaginary characters. How cool that you had these guys growing up.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh...I had imaginary friends. :) Super E and Mary. We all lived in a tree in a vacant lot together.

I guess our characters are a more socially acceptable form of imaginary friends for grownups.

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Jemi Fraser said...

Carol - I loved my imaginary buddies - I bet your kids are the same. I love the name Skadilla! That's so much fun.

I think your kids are lucky to have each other, their imaginary playmates and a mom who gets it! :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Elizabeth - Super E and Mary! Awesome :) Trees seem to be playing a big role in our childhoods as well.

I like your phrasing - socially acceptable imaginary friends it is!

Indigo said...

Growing up with a hearing disability I always felt like I was missing out in life, so I imagined what I might be missing.

Then as I got older my mother started regulating what books she found unacceptable (anything with 'those' big words she didn't understand). It was a pretty strict (unhealthy)upbringing. I would read whatever I could get my hands on for an escape. Those escapes built worlds inside of me, friends, people...and now they all get to see the light of day. (Hugs)Indigo

Jemi Fraser said...

Indigo - I was so lucky with my childhood - not much money-wise, but lots of love, lots of caring, lots of chances to be myself and to take risks.

I've taught so many kids without those advantages. I'm so very glad that books exist to help out those kids. They can see not only what should be, but the possibilities as well.

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I played alone a lot as a child but I never had an imaginary friend. I do talk to myself a lot though, which bothers my family and friends to no end.
Love this post.
Warm regard and a lovely week to you Jemi.
All my best,
Simone

Jemi Fraser said...

Simone - I tend to talk to myself too, but my kids have picked up the habit, so I don't look so odd :)

Hope you have a great week as well!

Dawn Simon said...

I've always had a huge imagination. We once talked about something like this at critique group, and I think all of us were very imaginative as kids. Interesting to think about.

Jemi Fraser said...

Dawn - I think you're right - most authors probably had active imaginations. :)

Michele Emrath said...

I had imaginary friends VERY young, and then an active imaginary life through playacting and Barbies as I grew older, but my imaginary friends disappeared when I was about 7. Interesting that I never made the connection with this childhood imagination, and the creativity I tap into now. Thanks for making that connection for me, Jemi!

Michele
SouthernCityMysteries

Jemi Fraser said...

Michele - you're welcome - it's a fun connection!

I did a lot of playacting with my stuffed animals and dolls and LEGOs throughout the years. So much fun :)

Nicole Ducleroir said...

I had an imaginary friend named Hanky. He was male, which is interesting looking back because I have four sisters but no brothers. I guess I wanted one! I think writers have fertile imaginations, so I wouldn't be surprised by way those imaginations manifested themselves.

Great post, and great comments!

Jemi Fraser said...

Nicole - Hanky - I love it!

Sounds like you wanted a brother pretty badly :) One of my buddies was male - I've always been fascinated by twins & that's probably how that came about.

E. Elle said...

I minored in psychology so I actually know a lot of the "technical" reasons children create imaginary friends. But I personally believe it goes far beyond science.

My imaginary friend was a girl named Starla. She had long, long blonde hair and big blue eyes. She was with me for years. Then one day, she said she had to leave me and just disappeared.

I don't know if there's a correlation between creative minds and imaginary friends.

But I do know that I still talk to myself. :o)

Jemi Fraser said...

E - I like Starla's name. It's interesting she told you she was going - wow.

I talk to myself too - and I've managed to pass on that odd little trait to both my kids :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My stuffed toys were real people - does that count?

Alexa said...

I had an imaginary twin brother called Kit and my stuffed toys were all real. I even used to leave water trays out for the toy dogs! Oh and my bike was really a horse in disguise, he'd been enchanted, obviously!

Jemi Fraser said...

Alex - oh my, YES! Stuffed toys always count. My collection numbered over 200 at one point :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Alexa - an imaginary twin! Love it!

Love the enchanted horse/bike - I bet you and I would have gotten along really well with our imaginary troops :)

Lisa and Laura said...

I think it's incredible that you can still picture exactly how they look and the world they lived in. You were a born writer!

Jemi Fraser said...

Awww - LiLa - you're so sweet! My folks would just think I was a little bizarre seeing as I don't have many other memories of childhood. I like your thinking better :)

Anne Spollen said...

My mom called the pediatrician because I used to set a place at lunch for Junie. Only I could see Junie. The doc told her I would be fine.

Boy, did I prove him wrong.

Jemi Fraser said...

Anne - that's awesome! I bet you and Junie had a lot of fun. I'm so glad the doctor knew it was okay. :)

And you're way better than fine!

Shelley Sly said...

How did I miss this post?! I've been absent on and off in the blog world, I guess.

Consider this post as me raising my hand that 1) I've had imaginary friends (as much as I hate to admit it) and 2) They kind of evolved into my characters. Instead of talking directly to an imaginary person, I put myself in the shoes of my characters and communicate with them as one of them.

Jemi Fraser said...

Shelley - Don't hate admitting it!! I loved my invisible buddies! :)

I love that. When I'm letting my characters walk around in my head, I tend to see through their eyes - sort of the same kind of quirk!

Stephanie Thornton said...

I never had an imaginary buddy, but I told my sister I did and that I liked playing with her more than with my sister. Just to be mean. Because I was nice like that.

No wonder my sister's a little goofy now.

Jan Morrison said...

I believed in fairies and that my dollies came to life at night. And nothing would convince me otherwise. The play of imagination is vital for good living! There are lots of cultures that do believe in all sorts of creatures we don't have time for. I like the richness of my childhood and don't want to give it up! We have proved we can time travel - we do it through our writing.

Jemi Fraser said...

Stephanie - that's hysterical :) Kids are so creative when they're trying to drive their siblings crazy! So much fun!

Jemi Fraser said...

Jan - so very true. Sometimes there's just too much reality in our kids' lives. There's something so vital, so freeing, so joyful about make-believe. We need to make sure our kids have lots of it.

catwoods said...

What does it say about a person if they shared their imaginary friends with their siblings?

My sister and I played with Hilda (the mean giant). She reads, but doesn't write. I do both.

Jemi Fraser said...

Cat - that's awesome! I love that you shared Hilda. :)

Well - there goes that theory! Although she does enjoy reading, so maybe it's still okay :)

Elle said...

This is a lovely post! I had an imaginary friend - he was an old man called Ben who lived in my first house. I used to talk to him all the time but to be honest I'm convinced he wasn't imaginary!

Jemi Fraser said...

Elle - Thanks - I loved my friends - imaginary or not. I wouldn't be surprised if Ben wasn't imaginary at all :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Elle - Thanks - I loved my friends - imaginary or not. I wouldn't be surprised if Ben wasn't imaginary at all :)