Anne of Green Gables had one who lived in a glass bookcase. James Stewart had one in ‘Harvey’. Gerard Depardieu actually was one in ‘Bogus.’ Several of my children have had them. It’s great to have friends. They enrich every part of our lives. But what if they’re invisible? Do they exist if others can’t see them? And are they the first sign of madness?
Mr Nobody accompanied one of my children through the first eight years of his life. He squashed in the car between the children and fastened himself in with his invisible seatbelt. He had strong opinions when arguments broke out. He had to be swung on his own swing when we visited the playground. He even demanded his own piece of cake when I baked, although he got short shrift with that one. He never caused trouble, went off on his own ploys when it wasn’t convenient for us to attend to him and appeared immediately when summoned. In that way he was actually better than most friends. And then one day he wandered off forever, never to be seen again, at least not by our family.
Many years later, when we told our youngest son about Mr Nobody, he tried to make him appear but it didn’t work. However often Mr Nobody was summoned, he never came. His loyalty was clearly to our older child and him alone. Months passed and one day an invisible monkey came to stay. He is still with us a year later. His name is Pom Pom and he has a well-defined personality. When he heard I was a writer, he demanded a book about himself, which is in the process of being written. His stories and jokes make me laugh. His demands for bananas are endless. His inability to settle in bed without yet another story is legendary. I hope it is a long time before he leaves us.
I have often wondered what space these invisible friends fill in our children’s life. Real friends abound for them so it isn’t that. I have come to the conclusion that there is comfort in a companion who never questions us, finds all our jokes funny, is firmly on our side when others don’t understand us and appreciates us for exactly who we are, not who we aren’t. Certainly, when I have to tell my youngest off for various high crimes and misdemeanors, Pom Pom is the first to come to his defence, articulating the arguments my child is too upset to make. And when my child goes to his room to nurse his grievances, Pom Pom goes with him and listens to a list of my wrongdoings with great sympathy. He is also a bridge between us when my son wants to come out. He may not want to talk to me but Pom Pom always does and usually has something funny to say that breaks the ice. I can also pass on the message through Pom that I’m not cross and would love to see them both when they are ready to come out.
I know he won’t be with us forever, which makes me sad and pleased in equal measures. Sad because I will miss the stories about him and his sense of mischief. Glad because I know that his leaving will be one further step along the path of maturity and independence that every child must tread.
When he does finally leave, I’ll miss him. I’ll miss this wonderful part of my son’s life before his sense of magic fades. I know Pom won’t come for the grandchildren, even if summoned, but I will tell them all about him and I look forward to meeting whoever it is that walks with them through that wonderful part of their lives.