Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Imaginary friends .....

As a child, I had very few friends.  There were a number of reasons for this:  when with my grandparents, we lived in an area that had very children of my own age nearby.  I wasn't able to develop many school-based friendships, since I attended the school(s) where my grandmother taught, and they weren't in my neighborhood.  By the time we arrived home from school, there was only limited time during which to nurture friendships with the few children who did live in the area.  

No doubt, though, the main reason I had so few friends was that I wasn't an especially likeable child.  Angry and self-centered -- more so even than typical for a normal pre-adolescent -- few classmates wanted to be friends with me.  In one Sunday School Christmas gift exchange I eagerly opened my gift and found two "Little Golden" books, written for children in first or second grade.  Since I was in 5th grade at the time I was surprised and when I looked over at the girl who gave me the gift, she smirked and stuck her tongue out at me.  She'd obviously intended the gift to be an insult -- and it was.

It's the thought that counts and, unfortunately, the thought was very un-Christian like.

I did have one best friend, V, but when I moved first to a new neighborhood, and then was whisked away out of state, we lost our connection.  Of course, even when we lived across the street from each other, there were limits to how much time we could actually spend together.

Not that I didn't WANT friends.  I did -- desperately.  In 4th grade, I asked a classmate to spend the night and she agreed.  A day or so later, her mother called to cancel, telling my grandmother that the girl was afraid to spend the night away from home.   Whether that was true or whether she simply decided she didn't want to spend the night with me, I don't know.  Regardless, I was very upset and instead of talking to my classmate and saying something like "I'm really sorry, maybe we can get together another time," I loudly announced to the other students that "She's afraid to go to a sleepover.  What a baby!  HAHAHA!"

Shortly after moving to our new house, a neighborhood girl came over to introduce herself.  We spoke for a while and then I suggested playing a game that involved closing her in the garage.  (I know, I know -- but it seemed like a good idea at the time.)  I honestly meant no harm and had no intention of making her STAY in the garage (REALLY!), but she didn't know that and started screaming at me to let her out.  Again, instead of empathizing and apologizing, I laughed as I opened the door.  She ran home, in tears, and we never spoke again.

Is it any wonder I had so few friends?

In 5th grade, my school sponsored some kind of Halloween event and many PTA members participated.  One of my classmates remarked that she knew who one of the sheet-covered "ghosts" was because she recognized her shoes as belonging to a friend's mother.  I was sad and terribly jealous that she obviously spent so much time with her friend that she was familiar with the mother's wardrobe.

To make up for the lack of real friends, I created a cadre of imaginary friends.  When playing tetherball in the backyard -- I hit the ball with my right hand, and an imaginary friend would hit it with my left hand.  (My left hand also played dominoes against my right hand.)  I had long conversations with my imaginary friends; supplying all the voices myself.  I acted out scenes from my favorite TV shows (more on this in the next entry), putting myself at the center of the action and having my imaginary friends fill in for the secondary characters.

It was a lonely way to experience childhood, and that loneliness would last well into adulthood.