This week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop has the theme Imaginary Friends
What is a friend? From the books that I read and the TV shows that I watched, a friend was somebody with whom one shared everything. Best friends would do fun things together, talk freely about thoughts and feelings, sleep over at each other’s houses. There would be love, respect and mutual trust in warm, fuzzy abundance.
Except at eight years old I didn’t think like that. This is my adult interpretation of how I remember thinking at that time. As we all should know by now, memory can be a cunning trickster; who knows how it really was.
I do remember having a couple of playmates before I was eight. On my first day at school, aged five, I sat beside the one I was taken to play with most (our mothers were friends) and wondered why she kept sitting in her chair as she wet herself. Other children cried in front of everyone without shame, which I also couldn’t understand. The behaviour of these children perplexed me.
A year or so later a local boy I liked to play with took a couple of photographs of me looking as if I was about to ride my sister’s bicycle before I learned to do so. I asked for a camera for my next birthday. I spent time with these children and liked their toys, but were they friends?
And so I would consider that my first, best friend came into my life when I was around eight years old. We would play at each other’s houses after school and I enjoyed those afternoons. We may even have become the sort of friends I thought we should be as we got older, but her family moved to a house several miles away and sent her to a different grammar school. Although we didn’t lose touch until university, we drifted apart and found new friends to be closer to.
At primary school though, she was the one that I played with the most. She was also the one who I always wanted to do better than, although I never succeeded in this aspiration no matter how hard I tried. In tests, if she was top of the class then I would be second. She won a slew of dancing medals compared to my two or three. She went on holiday by aeroplane to Majorca or Tenerife while I was driven to a caravan in Devon or Cornwall. I did not feel pleasure at her experiences and accomplishments, but rather the green eyed monster of jealousy.
I took out my frustrations at my shortcomings in my imaginary life. I did not have an imaginary friend, I had a slew of imaginary enemies who I showed up as lesser beings than I, before torturing and murdering them in the fields, woods and glens around my parent’s home.
I would be a master archer, hiding behind trees and killing my enemies with a single shot. I would be a master assassin, aiming my gun from a bedroom window and taking out those who made me feel small as they walked down the street. I would run across fields as fast as the wind while those I hated got left behind and were laughed at. My bicycle was my sleek and beautiful horse on which I escaped the hordes who wished to put me down.
The games that I played on my own allowed me to be the action hero, powerful and admired by all. I would save the world and gain the wonder and attention that I craved. When I played pretend games with my friend I had to compromise and share. Much as I enjoyed her company, if I got above myself in our game she would simply get up and go home.
I was a slow, fat child. Sometimes I would stuff pillows up my t shirt and look at myself in the mirror, wondering what my mother would think if I ate all the cakes, biscuits, sweets and crisps that I longed for and turned out like that. In my games I was lithe and beautiful like the little girls who were chosen to wear the pretty tutus in my ballet class, where I was put at the back with the other awkward floor thumpers.
Towards the end of primary school I played my imaginary games less and developed a desire to fight back in real life. I still longed for admiration and dreamt of a day when I would gain fabulous qualifications and a job where all would look up to me.
Friendship is still something of a conundrum to me, but at least I can now gain genuine pleasure from the experiences and accomplishments of those I care for. My imaginary enemies continue to be psychologically tortured and murdered in abundance; these days I write it all down.
You can read the other great posts in this week’s link up by clicking below