Today while I was writing, I remembered that I had a lot of imaginary friends growing up. My friends included a diverse cast that, at one time or another, included Major Houlihan who was a character from MASH, “Closet girl” who lived in the huge walk-in closet I shared with my mother, and “Andy” who was the mission commander from the movie Space Camp.
My best and closest imaginary friend was one that looked exactly like me. She was my reflection in the washing machine that took up way too much space in the master bathroom of my parent’s New York apartment. There was a time when I talked to her everyday. I imagined that there was another entire world, identical to ours, but different. She lived there. All this happened through a tunnel, on the other side of the washing machine. A washing machine as a gateway to another world? We work with what we know, I guess. Alice had a Looking Glass.
In that world, nothing bad ever happened. When something bad happened in my world, it went the way I wished it had in her world. I didn’t envy her; I loved her. A place that was perfect and safe should take up infinite space in a child’s world. No one had allergies, no one was sent to their room for “talking back,” no one felt lonely.
In retrospect, I’ve always been a lonely person. It’s not something I would change about myself though. We’re taught to run from loneliness and solitude, forgetting that it serves a purpose. It’s the time to develop our relationship with ourselves.
My washing machine friend is something I’ve never admitted to anyone. It’s likely I was worried what people thought of me, having imaginary friends WAY beyond the time when it was “developmentally appropriate.” I still talk to myself when I’m sitting in traffic- no one can tell because they think I’m on the phone (thank you to the inventor of Bluetooth).
Hiding my imaginary worlds from others was unnecessary. I am grateful for my imaginary friends, for they taught me how to believe. We all have a parallel self, in a perfect world. It gives us hope to think about how things should be. If we don’t imagine the way things should be, how can we change how things are?