A Visible Imaginary Friend


I think it has been awhile since I shared about my good friend at work, Jean.

She is the one who calls me, “Little Bird,” while I call her “Big Bird.” She is also

the one who taught me about patience at work and in relationships. She had

me laughing out  loud at our first break, where she was telling me about her

granddaughter’s “obsession” or attachment to the character from the book,

“Elf on the Shelf.”

I exclaimed, “It is time to put Elf on the Shelf away, Grandma! Christmas is

long past!”

Jean crinkled up her mobile face which is always so full of expression,

almost like a ‘caricature’ or how a mime acts.

She adamantly declared,

“I cannot since she has possession of him, she takes him home after she

spends the night, talking to him during the day and whispering to him before

she goes to sleep. I am a little worried about her attachment to this doll!”

Jean (otherwise known only by me and now you, as “Big Bird”) told me that

she had a recent “Elf on the Shelf” party with balloons, cupcakes and of course,

guest of honor:  the Elf.

Her little toddler Shelly whispers to the Elf, “Happy Birthday to you, Elf!”

and Jean told me she could not help but take photos of the grand event

and sing “Happy Birthday, dear Elf” to the little guy.

I gave her some comfort telling her that my two oldest children, who were

born only 18 months apart had their own version of an “Invisible Playmate,”

in the character “Tigger” from Winnie the Pooh. Although Shelly can see

her Elf doll, my two kids would ‘use’ Tigger for their excuse for ‘bad behavior’

and Shelly uses the Elf as a way to explain why she is misbehaving.

“Elf told me to kick back and not make my bed today,” or “Elf told me it was

okay to get a cookie out of the cookie jar without asking.”

I told her there wasn’t much difference between her granddaughter having

a “Visible Imaginary Friend” and my two kids having the same “Invisible

Imaginary Friend.”

She chuckled at this thought. Jean went on to tell me that the main

difference she felt about Elf was, he gets dragged around everywhere.

I told her “Tigger” had to be literally seat-belted in and if I were in a hurry,

my two kids would roll down the window yelling,

“Mom, Tigger is jumping up and down outside our car!”

I actually had to pull over on a busy highway, after I stopped to get gas,

to let poor forgotten Tigger back into the car!

“At least if you forget the Elf, you know you did!”

I listened to this fun-loving friend, who while we do morning exercises, she

is the gawky and awkward ‘leader’ shouting out at us like a Drill Sargeant,

“Big arm circles. Forward! Backward!” as her arms look like helicopter wings

getting ready to take off in flight.

Jean’s softer side comes out while away from work and especially can ‘see’

this in her loving stories about her granddaughter.

Jean rarely mentions the man she waited for years and years. He was her

“first love” and her “first and only husband.”

I hesitate to ask her how her love life is going. You may wish to check out her

love story.

Jean’s little granddaughter ‘hit it off’ with my little grandies, “M & M” girls. Her

name is Shelly and she originally was named Michelle. She goes to preschool

but she is considered ‘backwards’ since she whispers to herself. I gave Jean

a short ‘piece of my mind’ about her preschool teacher’s thought processes:

“Jean, daydreamers are such creative and deep thinking children. I know that

my one brother and my oldest daughter have always been the ones teachers

misunderstood. Sometimes they are ‘learning disabled, gifted in some areas

and weak in others.”

Jean told me Shelly loves to help her when she works at the fair in the Fall.

She wears a little apron, takes orders from adults and hands money to her

grandma (Jean).

I mentioned this is a great way for her to open up and be comfortable with

a variety of people, taking directions and also, she is able to pour drinks

into cups and deliver to the customers. I hope that when Shelly goes to

elementary school, her teacher has some experience with daydreamers,

since they are the ones who often bring us art, music, literature and may

be the next inventors or scientists of the world.

While I hugged Jean after our half work day and wished her a very happy

Easter, she told me a sweet whisper,

“You know you’re my favorite, Robin!”

I smiled, nodded and replied in a similar manner.

Then, she pulled my arm as I was getting ready to leave and she said,

“Shelly tells me this every time she sees me, whispering the words into

my ear.”

Are you a daydreamer? Did this ever ‘hold you back?’

If you were not considered a ‘daydreamer’ but had a sibling or a child

who was, what did you do to encourage their becoming part of the

existing world instead of ‘living in their imaginary world?’


About reocochran

I am experiencing crazy and hapless adventures in dating that may interest people over fifty. I am now approaching 62 later this year and enjoy taking photographs, incorporating stories or poetry on my blog. I have many old posts which are informative and written like essays. I have several love stories collected from family and friends. Even strangers spill their stories, since I am a grown version of the girl next door. I have been trying to live a healthy lifestyle with better food selections and active hiking and walking. I have written four children's books and illustrated them. They are not published but a battered women's shelter used one about neglect and abuse for their children's program and a 4H group used my "Kissing a Bunny is like saying a Prayer" as a coloring book. Please comment or respond so I may get a chance to know you. Sincerely, Robin

60 responses »

  1. Little Shelly sounds adorable, and so does your friend, Jean. I think your story suggests a poignant thought, which is the importance of the grandparent/grandchild relationship. They are the special adults in a child’s life that create and encourage fun without judgment. I know you do that with your grandies, as I do with mine, and clearly Grandma Jean is equally fun-loving with Shelly. – Mike

    • You are so right, Grandma Jean is accepting of her Shelly. Thank you, Mike, for expressing how my post made you feel it held a poignant thought. This is really meaningful to me. You have put us in the ‘grandparents club’ where we are the ones who really make a difference. I believe this will carry them through many moments in their lives, Mike. I still think highly of my Dad in my memories, but my Grandpa could ‘do no wrong!’
      I am glad you enjoyed this post and hope you have a fun weekend, Mike!

  2. You could say I’ve lived in an imaginary world for much of my life, keeping me fulfilled due to my lack of social activity. My overactive imagination is what keeps my sense of creativity sharp, though! I wouldn’t trade it for the “real world” any day…

  3. Grandma Jean and Shelly are so sweet to read about. Sometimes I enjoy very much living in a dream world but then other days I want the reality of interactions with people… I used to make up voices for my dolls as a girl and had many ‘imaginary’ times with them that I look fondly back on today. I wish you a beautiful Easter weekend with your family, Robin!

    • Christy, this was nice to read about your imaginary play with using different voices for your dolls. I think this is always nice when children are given free time to play in their own way. Sometimes I fear the future will ‘take away’ such fun times, along with good use of imagination. I hope you had a special Easter weekend, Christy.

    • I enjoyed this special creative thought of your life being a daydream and this is wonderful to be “awakened” by “love and brilliance of others.” This was deep, thank you!

  4. Our daughter had several imaginary characters. She had a huge stuffed elephant which was her ‘elephant mom’. Elephant mom would let her do certain things like field trips or go outside. It took me a while before I finally understood why she was telling her pre-school teacher that I wouldn’t let her do certain things—it wasn’t me, it was her imaginary elephant mom. I let her go on with her imaginary friends. The boys had attachments to stuffed animals that went everywhere with them.

    • I liked hearing about your daughter’s “Elephant mom,” April. This is so interesting. I felt she had quite a unique, imaginary life. I also appreciate your sharing about the boys attachments to their stuffed animals. My brother had an Eeyore which really did look ‘loved’ by how worn out it was!

      • I still have our oldest son’s dog. He picked the name Lalow. After many surgeries, it is very worn. My daughter? She told my mom and dad whoppers of stories. 🙂

      • Thank you, April for adding the well loved dog’s name. This is like a part of “Velveteen Rabbit,” where the animal becomes alive due to so much love. “Lalow” is so sweet. I have the teddy bear of my oldest daughter, it looks so ‘plain’ and a little ‘flattened’ since it is one which really was loved, too. I love children who tell ‘whoppers,’ and have kind of disagreed with parents about the fact they should not say this: “Why are you lying to us?” Teaching preschool, with some special education included, I felt like I should try to protect that independent and imaginative side of the children. I would respond, “Wow! Really cool that you came up with this story.” I didn’t label it any other way.
        I think you should write the story about your daughter and I will illustrate it, April! Smiles!

  5. Wow, should I weigh in here …. hmmmmm ….. Yes. I was born with second sight, so didn’t distinguish between visible and invisible worlds. I kept it to myself, as home was not the safest place to share, and somehow I got the message that it wasn’t okay to share with friends, either – because I never, ever did. Still, when my girls were growing up, I never told them ‘what to see.’ There was never any dispute about ‘reality’ versus ‘imagination,’ and both are fabulous artists as well as great people. I think, as Shakespeare quipped, that “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Aloha, Robin!

    • Bela, seriously this is both enlightening about your art, being passed on to your own children. But I am saddened by your childhood where you had to keep this secret and not share it. Thank you for trusting us with your knowledge of visible and invisible worlds. I found this to be fascinating.
      Thank you also for the quote from Shakespeare. I am so glad your daughters are fabulous artists and great people. This is a tribute to your strength and for being a great mother, too. Aloha, Bela!

  6. Yes, I have always been a daydreamer. It’s hard for me to stay “here” for too long and probably appear spacy occasionally to people. My mom called me “absent minded professor” when I was growing up. My kids were not as big into daydreaming as I was.
    Robin, your little bird name reminds me of Fiddler on the Roof. Have you seen it? He calls his 3rd daughter Little Bird.

    • I had totally forgotten this about the father in the musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” Luanne! Thanks for also sharing about your daydreams, both present and past. Also, your children’s not so much into daydreaming…. Interesting what conversations can be begun with the idea of daydreaming, Luanne. I feel your poetry shows imagination!

      • It’s hard for me to forget, as many times as I’ve seen it. Once upon a time, Marisha was a bottle dancer. She kept that wine bottle up on her head, too.

    • I had forgotten that your daughter had played in this musical. That must have been quite a ‘stunt’ to practice, wonder if she ever did this as a party entertainment ‘game?’
      As I drove home last night, all of a sudden I could hear Tevia’s voice booming about “Tradition!” Smiles!

  7. I could almost see your friend, Robin. This story really resonates with me…I play Johny Johny with my two year old pal, running around the house and giggling loudly, with our little cow, pixie watching and big teddy waiting for us to board the train, sometimes accompanied by small teddy and the little teddy is always left behind! It is so much fun to put all of them including a few more, in a special car, made out of soft drawer, pulled from a book rack and go wroom..wroom, just like mommy! And yes, we must carry a phone too, which is constantly used to tell mommy that we are good!

    Such is our imaginative play, precious moments to cherish!

    • Balroop, this really is precious! I think you must write a short poem or story about this lovely imaginary play time. Thank you for sharing this and I won’t try to tell you all that I loved about it now.

      • I love writing children’s stories, have written four little books, which I don’t circulate or try to ‘sell’ but encourage others to try their hand. I had a lovely letter from only one publishing source, all the rest would just send the copies back in the SASE, a big manilla envelope with my return address. My favorite two are about my youngest daughter and her bunny, a 4H project, which I titled, “Kissing a Bunny Is Like Saying a Prayer.” The other story was about my middle son, “Where is James and His Dinosaurs?”

  8. I had an imaginary friend called Barry. He was very real to me, I can still vaguely remember what he looked like. He wasn’t very loyal though – he took off somewhere once my younger sister was at an age that she could play with me.

    • This is so cool, Jenny. I think Barry sounds like a good friend who ‘knew’ your sister needed you to play with, so he took off somewhere. Maybe since you can still vaguely see his image, he is still with you! Smiles!

  9. Shelley sounds adorable, Robin. I never had an imaginary friend, but I do remember pretending that my dolls were real people. I would line them up on my bed and teach them the ABCs. Have a wonderful Easter! xo

    • I was wondering if anyone played ‘teacher’ with their dolls, like I did! This was a nice way to learn about each person’s imagination and childhood play times, too. Jill, another thing we have in common. So glad you found Jean’s Shelly adorable, Jill.

  10. i think there is a place for both kinds of friends in the world. the imagination is a wonderful thing and helps children to deal with the world and make sense of it )

    • This was a great lesson you mentioned, learning how to deal with the world and making sense out of it. Thanks, Beth! I always feel you give such good insight, but we know you have fresh ideas from those kinders.

  11. What a close and comfortable friendship you share. That you treasure each other is evident. We all need a friend like Jean. I hope Shelley gets the nurture she deserves.

  12. Our family toddler, Annabelle has one imaginary friend that is a dog. But I have to tell you before I forget, Robin, that based on one of your posts I bought her The Brownies and at 3 1/2 she loves it. I hope to get the rest of the books for her. Thank you for that tip and for this post. Jean and Shelly sound wonderful.

    • Beth, this is so lovely of you to have found The Brownies, they are such little rascals! I am glad the 3 1/2 year old is enjoying them. I love the name, Annabelle, since I have known a woman who is a member of our church, her last name is Nutt. Isn’t that funny? Her husband would wear a kilt to church when there was a Scottish holiday, especially at Christmas and funerals, too. I miss Harold Nutt.
      I like your Annabelle’s having an imaginary dog. This would make sense since dogs are quite faithful friends. My Mom told me about her imaginary friend, by the way I did not include this in the post. I went off to Mom’s for Easter and told her about my blog, which she introduces me as her daughter, ‘the writer!’ Ha ha! She mentioned hers was a King Snake, so she could go and play in the woods with no fears. I wrote about “Rosie” and her snake awhile back, since she felt a little ‘different’ from others, having been told she could not go in the public pool due to her eczema. They called her cruelly, “Zema Puss,” in elementary school. I would ‘dream up’ a snake, but it would not be the gentle one she chose! It would be like Steven Kellogg’s Boa Constrictor that his character, “Jimmy,” invented in his story book. (“The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash.” I love his illustrations and met this wonderful author/illustrator. We spent about one and a half hours talking at a dinner and then, on the way from Bowling Green State U. to the airport in Detroit, Michigan.)

    • This is such a great idea, Ian! I shall tell Jean to start calling her “The Little Princess.” I like how you described children’s imagination, as a “fairyland of magic,” too.

  13. What a wonderful posting Robin,
    hey have a lovely weekend and incredibly
    Happy Easter my lovely friend 🙂

    Sorry for my extended absence from WP but I will be back soon 🙂

    Andro xxx

    • No problems or worries, Andro. The last time I was peeking into your naughty blog, I loved the photos of you and your lady. They were very well done, you have a great relationship, from the way you showed this for all of us to see. The vixens and other ‘wicked’ people and characters in your story, ‘pale’ in comparison.
      I hope you had a Happy Easter, sorry I did not post after I headed towards Mom’s. Busy weekend, but lovely moments spent with grandchildren, oldest daughter, two brothers, sister in law and Mom/Grammie/Great Grammie. Smiling back at you, Andro!

  14. Hello Robin, It is always a great pleasure to come and visit your wonderful den with stories full of life and joys. It is a great post which deals with imaginary friends and close knit relations you share with your grand children. The little princess is so adorable, reading about delightful things she does made me so rejuvenated after a hectic schedule I had during last week. It has been a long time I commented on your posts, hope you will understand the reasons for it. Happy Easter and lots of love to all your near and dear ones.

    • You never need to apologize, I am very sporadic, a ‘hit or miss’ person on blogging and staying in touch. You have been traveling and have had projects, as I have had work and family to take me away. We are close despite our being away, don’t worry. Thanks for mentioning this. I also know I write ‘too much’ to be able to read quickly and comment!
      I hope you did feel relaxed and it helped bring back some memories you may have had involved with playing and using your imagination.
      You still use your creative mind and imagination, with your lovely posts and poems! Hugs, Robin

    • I am sorry that someone would yell at you for this simple carrying out conversations and whispering to your imaginary friends. So appropriate that you still use your fertile imagination to inspire us, to enchant adults and children alike with your poems, posts and stories, Brenda. We all learn from how we may have had someone be a little ‘hurtful’ or tried to ‘quiet’ us, so we improve as parents! Smiles!

    • I like the idea of shaking the trees to see what you can find, along with the great fun cats bring into our lives. I enjoy visiting my girlfriend, Jenny, who has the funniest set of calico cats. In fact, one of my ‘favorite’ posts was a silly poem about the two characters of Tayla and Kira, the calico cats! ha ha! I am going to be 60 in November, hush!

  15. Robin … You’re right to tell Jean not to worry about her granddaughter, Shelly. My Mom used to tell me that I had an imaginary friend and one day she said that I scared the heck out of one of my relatives when they were about to sit down on a chair: “Watch out for my dolly.” (I think it was an imaginary doll.)

    Also, there’s Jimmy Stewart and “Harvey.” Stewart’s character was so much sweeter than his meddling relative who wanted him put away, believing Stewart was crazy in believing in an imaginary friend. 😉

  16. What a nice story. Being a good listener makes you a special friend. Put me in the Grand Kids Club. I have five of them. As far as day dreaming goes, some people call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one….:)

    • I do feel a kin-ship with other grandparents, so glad you are one of those, too. I appreciate this saying being a good listener can make a person a special friend. I also appreciate daydreamers, which brought us into this subject by my post. I like your musical reference, “I’m not the only one. . .” smiles!

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