My Imaginary Friend

My imaginary friend was very real to me.

When I was a little girl, I had an imaginary friend. It’s name was “Haldico.”

I say “it” because Haldico was neither a “he” or a “she.” And I was fine with that.

A strange name for an imaginary friend, I realize this now, but it all seemed so normal at the time. As a matter of fact, I can’t really remember how or where the name came from; all I knew from that time is that it was right, it fit and it stuck.

In my five-year-old brain, Haldico took the heat for all of the things that I couldn’t admit to. Haldico broke the vase. Haldico scribbled on the wall. Haldico stole some chocolate. Yes, Haldico did everything I didn’t do, and he/she did it with gusto. I just stood by in the sidelines, watching it wreak havoc on my household, all the while feigning innocence and being incredulous at the unmitigated gaul of my illusion.

My very exasperated mom would ask me a question, knowing full well that the answer may likely include a reference to my “special” friend. I, of course, knew nothing about the ills that had occurred at my home. All I knew was that Haldico was in the house and that things that were apparently beyond my control were occurring.

The need and ability for children to relinquish their responsibilities, errors and bad choices to a non-living figment of their imaginations is as common as the Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. Like the latter three fantasy figures, imaginary friends provide not only gifts (chocolate eggs, money and various presents, respectively), but a focal point for all of their fears, their regrets, their anger and their pain. The imaginary friend takes on the lion’s share of the challenging and more difficult parts of childhood, and deals with them with the ease of..well…an imaginary friend. They are all-knowing, fearless and just a little bit bad, and our kids love that about them. Imaginary friends are universal superheroes (regardless of gender, or lack thereof) who thumb their noses at silly little things like “rules.” Imaginary friends are the James Bonds of the preschool set. And then some.

James Stewart With Harvey

Having an alter ego, a “fall guy” if you will, who is the foil for all of one’s transgressions is very appealing, especially if you’re well below the age of majority. When control of one’s whereabouts, environment and life in general is dictated by parental figures who often seem to be big time party-poopers, it should be no surprise that these imaginary friends exist. Relinquishing responsibility to an invisible but culpable allay would be appealing to anyone who has ever had the desire to live out their darker fantasies but has decided against their primal urges because, hey, “what will people think?!” Offloading one’s innate compulsions to a “figment of the imagination” is not only easy, but cathartic as well. Guilt, shame, fear…beogone!

Perhaps we as adults are somewhat envious of the fact that our kids - by virtue of their ages - are able to invoke the likes of a non-existent pal. After all - how many times would we like to step back from reality and blame someone else for our transgressions?

Who got this parking ticket?

My imaginary friend.

Who bombed their big presentation at work this afternoon, in front of a boardroom of executives?

My imaginary friend.

Who yelled at their kids for the third time this morning and questioned their general abilities as a parent afterwards?

My imaginary friend.

You see, the imaginary friend is so much more than a figment of our children’s and, by extension our imaginations. Imaginary friends are us in our rawest form, as spiritually ugly as they may be.

You see, the imaginary friend is so much more than a figment of our children’s and, by extension our imaginations. Imaginary friends are us in our rawest form, as spiritually ugly as they may be.

What these fantasies do and say are what we really want to do and say. And though the prevalence of fantasy-figure amigos may be more common in the younger set, they do exist in the adult population, if only in our minds. We daydream about stealing money from the till or pilfering supplies from the office. Of course we would never dream of doing such unethical, immoral and illegal acts…but our “imaginary friends” would. It’s so much easier to put the blame on someone else and unburden our consciences in the process.

And this truth has been figured out by our kids. No longer must they bear the brunt of parental discipline when they can easily pass on the responsibility for whatever ills have occurred to an unwitting and non-existent pal. The imaginary friend may have done the deed, but there’s no one really there to punish. From a kid’s perspective, what’s not to like?

As adults, we envy the freedom that kids experience, from their lack of responsibilities to their ability to live in the moment without a care in the world. No concern or fear of what tomorrow will bring and all of their todays are filled with fun and games.

Henry David Thoreau said it succinctly when he uttered “Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.

Something to remember next time our kid invokes the name of their imaginary friend as the culprit.

VIDEO: James Stewart Discusses “Harvey”

Image courtesy of Universal International Pictures/Universal

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