When I was a child, I had an imaginary friend named Tom. He was the best. We did everything together. Then one day Tom wasn’t there. I haven’t seen him since.
To this day, my mother still believes Tom was not real. I get it. She would walk by her son’s room and hear him having a full-blown conversation with someone. All she heard was a one-sided conversation. It never dawned on her that maybe her son just likes to monologue and maybe Tom was not one to interrupt art. My mother went straight into thinking Tom was just an imaginary friend. In hindsight, I wish my mother did not go straight into thinking Tom was imaginary. Her first theory should have been that Tom was a real friend of mine who did not like to be surprised by strangers, and often would hide at new people. Maybe Tom was a ghost? Tom could have been an 18th century ghost befriending a naïve child.
I always appreciated Tom. When I was scared, Tom was there to comfort me. When I felt the need to discuss if Bugs Bunny was the real villain rather than Gossamer, Tom was the voice of reason. Sure, Tom was not great at trust fall exercises but he did offer companionship when the night light did not work as well as it should.
The point I’m making though is whether Tom was real or not, he was there for me when I needed him to be.
Why can’t imaginary friends exist into adulthood? Why do these imaginary friends leave? Tom could have helped me so much later in life. I never learned to dance. I walked into my first middle school dance confident that I would be the next John Travolta. As soon as the first girl reached out her hand, I fast-walked out of the door and decided it was a good time to do my first long-distance night walk. Tom could have been my first dancing partner. Tom could have given me good advice on what to do the first time I saw a bear in the woods because I was lucky that my decision to approach it with a stick did not end with a fatal bear hug. I could have used Tom in my life during many heartbreaks.
I have concluded that imaginary friends are not in our adult lives because they feel like they are not wanted or needed. Imaginary friends feel they are forced to leave society and venture into the realm of peace, the same place where our first pets retire to, but only choose to tell our parents about their new accommodations.
Let’s invite imaginary friends back into our lives. Long walks on the beach do not have to be lonely anymore. No one has to drink alone anymore. I feel like our politicians would make better decisions if they had someone to talk to rather than no one. Your son has an imaginary friend? Well introduce him to yours. Let’s have a father-friend-son-friend retreat.
Imaginary friends may not been our real friends, but they were our best friends. What is a real friend anyway?