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The Return of the Imaginary Friend

March 16th started like any other day: we overslept, we cursed a lot, I jumped into the shower and washed my face two times because I couldn’t remember if I had done it the first time two seconds earlier.  Oh, and Bronner returned.

Bronner is the ChickieNob’s imaginary friend, who first came to live in our house when the ChickieNob was three, remained a pretty constant companion through the rough transition to school, and disappeared in November or December of 2008.

Bronner has been our friend in times of high-stress.  For instance, when the ChickieNob was balking at potty training, Bronner was right there beside her, equally cranky at the idea of sitting on the toilet.  When the ChickieNob was having a shit time at school and came home crying daily, Bronner was there to occupy her thoughts as she quietly waited for pick-up time.  Bronner is sometimes a difficult additional child, what with the fact that I have to bathe her, feed her, and clothe her lest the ChickieNob screams that I don’t have enormous love for her.  But overall, Bronner is a good friend to have around–one that gives me a lot of time to get things done while the ChickieNob chuckles at Bronner’s silent jokes.

Imagine our surprise when in a time of low-stress, when things are trucking along nicely for the twins after the Great Binky Giving-Up of 2010, the ChickieNob woke up to solemnly tell us that Bronner made her eat monkey.  Eat monkey?  Bronner returns after a year-long absence only to force my daughter to consume treyf?

Later in the morning, the ChickieNob rethinks this and giggles to herself, “I made a mistake.  I misunderstood.  I did not eat monkey.  I only watched monkeys eat bananas.”

There was an audible sigh of relief that Bronner has not started dropping PCP in her sabbatical.  But there was a strange knot in my stomach all morning, especially as I informed her teacher of Bronner’s resurgence despite the fact that I made the ChickieNob promise to leave Bronner in the car so I could have a chat with her during school hours.

Was there stress that I didn’t know about?  Am I so overtired that I’m missing the fact that stress is sitting in our living room much in the same way I wash my face twice every morning because I’m too stupid to remember if I washed it the first time until I’m midway through the second washing?

Or perhaps Bronner is back not because anything is wrong, but because everything is right and it’s nice to have old friends visit sometimes.  The Wolvog was also happy to hear that Bronner has returned and while he never had his own imaginary friend, informed us as he looked out the window that he is now seeing “crowds of people outside” who all want to be his friend and could we help him name them.  An imaginary friend caretaking neophyte.  By the time he had named the first one, Bronner had already gotten dressed, eaten Life cereal (and not monkey brains), and played with her own imaginary friend, Ursula (yes, our imaginary friends have their own imaginary friends for the times when we’re just too damned busy to play with them).

My mother picked them up after school and they bounced out of the classroom gleefully. “I have given 100 friends your address and they will all be at your house!” the Wolvog informed her.  I had already warned my mother of Bronner’s return so she took it in stride until they reached her house and the Wolvog looked around at the emptiness outside the car.  “I don’t know what they’re thinking, but my friends have all brought weapons.”

Wait, scratch that, we don’t have imaginary friends.  We have imaginary Orcs.

After calling me and attempting several times to relay this story (my mother was laughing so hard that on the first few tries, I kept hearing that the friends all brought tampons), she let them free-float through their play and finally asked the ChickieNob why Bronner returned.  “She comes when we’re lonely,” the ChickieNob stated, as if she had read this fact in a clever New Yorker article.

It sort of begs the question, how can twins be lonely?  Ones who share a room and go to school together and play endless rounds of Strawberry Shortcake at the Monster Truck Jam.  Ones who have several playdates a week, a wide circle of friends, and two activity classes?  Ones who move easily between togetherness and natural separation as they run with their individual friends.  Being lonely in a crowd of people is an adult concept.  Feeling isolated within a relationship isn’t something children can comprehend.  Loneliness exists for the preschool set, but the concept of loneliness when surrounded by people comes much later.  So how can a child who spends every waking moment interacting with a peer–either her twin brother or a friend–be lonely?

I’m really not sure if she knows what the word means or if she has been reading Josh’s clever New Yorkers.

We’re not sure how long Bronner is staying.  If she’ll still be here in an hour, tomorrow, next week.  If she’ll stay through Pesach and disappear back into the ether.  If the ChickieNob will forget about her or if she’ll be sad to see her go.  And if she does leave, will she return again, monkey meat in hand.


1 Pam { 03.20.10 at 9:47 pm }

I have no words of wisdom for you or the ChickieNob. I hope that if there’s something that is bothering her that you’re able to find out what it is.

But I have to say, I burst out laughing, twice. Once with the Wolvog’s comment to your mother and then your comment following.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking, but my friends have all brought weapons.”
Wait, scratch that, we don’t have imaginary friends. We have imaginary Orcs.


2 Sunny { 03.20.10 at 10:25 pm }

I love this post — what a fascinating (and very sweet) slice of life.

3 Mrs. Gamgee { 03.20.10 at 10:25 pm }

My younger step-sister had an imaginary friend named Cuddles. Cuddles was present through my step-sis’s first day of kindergarten, but then didn’t reappear until the day after Christmas that year. We never figured out what the stressor was, but by the time school started up again, Cuddles was gone. I think it’s the nature of imaginary friends to come and go. I am intrigued tho, about what it is that causes them to show up in the first place.

4 Rach { 03.20.10 at 10:50 pm }

I never had an imaginary friend as a child and I always thought I’d missed out LOL!!


5 jesspond { 03.20.10 at 10:54 pm }

I had imaginary friends, but not for stress, probably more for loneliness. Only child and all. I actually was more like Wolvog, though not AS numerous. I had three, and then a bird.


6 Carrie { 03.20.10 at 10:57 pm }

This makes me sad for your daughter. Children should be happy and carefree. I hope her friend can help her through her loneliness.

I think I would prefer the friends bringing tampons vs. weapons. Tough choice – I had to really think about it 😉

7 Kristin { 03.21.10 at 12:17 am }

Gabe has had the characters fro Mario Kart visiting. Baby Mario is a real trouble maker and makes a convenient target for blame when Gabe isn’t behaving. Toadette came to visit too. I think she spent the night.

8 Eve { 03.21.10 at 12:24 am }

I adore your posts about your twins. Your love is so present in your words.

But I have to disagree, I think that children are often DESPERATELY lonely. Not from trauma or lack of friends or any slight in parenting (though of course these make it worse), but because our world is so incredibly complex and hard to understand. Self-esteem is so potentialy brittle, fears of war and spiders and earthquakes loom large, and there is so little control that a chid has in this world. The work of childhood is hard…it is mired in should do’s and shouldn’t do’s and unspoken rules and gossip and figuring out how the heck to make friends and keep them. I don’t think I would ever, for one minute, want to be a kid again.

Imaginary friends are simple, controllable, and wonderfully delicious to concoct. It seems to me a healthy and assertive effort to create comfort from within, a task that many adults do not even know how to perform.

9 B { 03.21.10 at 12:42 am }

I think it’s cute that she says “when WE’RE lonely instead of when I’m lonely”……

10 Annacyclopedia { 03.21.10 at 12:47 am }

Weapons. I’m going to be laughing at that for weeks.

As usual, I adore your stories about the twins. Do they know that they have all these fans all over the earth?

11 Manapan { 03.21.10 at 1:33 am }

Awwww! So cute. I want to hug your kids and all their weapon-brandishing imaginary pals!

12 queenie { 03.21.10 at 3:28 am }

It makes me feel better to know that someone else washes their face twice because they can’t remember if they’ve doneit already.

I never had imaginary friends, but I imagined that inanimate objects had personalitities and were interacting with me. When I was 5, my horsey often did naughty things. My magnetic refrigerator letters all had genders. It was definitely that I was lonely, but I lived in a rural area with only a much ypounger sibling to play with.

13 Mina { 03.21.10 at 4:26 am }

Your kids are priceless, really. 😉
You may be tired, but I bet you never get bored.

Speaking of tampons (thanks for making me spill my tea) – I remembered a very cute story with that (bear with me, it IS cute).

A couple of very cool friends have a daughter, M, a very curious and outspoken child. One time she finds a tampon, an OB. She shows it to her father and asks him what it is and how one uses it. The parents always tried to explain her things as they were, using proper names and no euphemisms and all, but the father suddenly has a flash of his explanation (it is a tampon used by women when they are old enough) backfiring (he saw his 4yo M considering herself old enough in a week’s time and shoving the tampon in various body cavities). So, being responsible, he coolly answers: ‘I don’t know, that’s women stuff, go ask your mother’.
The mother comes in holding a tray of glasses and drinks and snacks. M hardly waits a second and, still holding the tampons, repeats the question. Mom amazingly does not drop the tray and answers:
‘That is a tampon’.
Undeterred, M pursues the line of questioning:
‘And how do women use it? Where do they put it?’
In a moment of great inspiration, mom says:
‘In their purse.’
You guessed it, one week later M considered herself old enough to go put a tampon in her ‘purse’ and carry it for a while to the kindergarten.

I was so impressed by this story that whenever I hear ‘tampon’ and ‘kid’ in the same context, it surely pops up in my mind. This is why I decided to share it with you all. 🙂

14 Caro { 03.21.10 at 4:50 am }

Lovely story

15 Angie { 03.21.10 at 6:15 am }

Laughing so hard over here . You have the most quotable children.

I have to say that as an identical twin, my sister and I were often lonely. We would talk about how much we wanted a friend, or imaginary sibling. It isn’t the kind of loneliness of isolation, but simply that we played together so much, spent our days and nights talking and knowing each other, that the other person’s presence was kind of, well, oppressive. We took each other for granted, because we were everpresent. We even had school classes together. We wanted our own individually seen friend. One we didn’t have to share, that didn’t talk to or interact with the other sister. It used to drive me batty that my sister would pretend to see my imaginary friend and/or brother too, because it was MY friend. And there she was saying my imaginary friend liked her better. *sigh*

16 Bea { 03.21.10 at 6:33 am }

So I am a little chuffed that this imaginary friend is called by one of my former nicknames. Otherwise, I can’t help you with the “lonely” thing. That’s quite a poser. I hope you can get to the bottom of it… or at least that it resolves itself without too much drama.


17 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 03.21.10 at 7:43 am }

Maybe she means “bored” when she says lonely.

Though I wouldn’t put it past a daughter of yours to feel adult-only emotions.

18 tash { 03.21.10 at 8:00 am }

Bella has imaginary pets and has for at least two years. They change, and the games change, but the pets are still here. Currently it’s a husky named Bloogy. (I always want to say Booger.) And seeing as how we practically run a farm here, I’m not sure what the significance is for desiring yet MORE pets, but there it is. Sometimes I think they like being in control of situations: here, she knows the pets are hers too, but I think she knows overall control belongs to us. Ditto friends, where I’m constantly yammering “Parents make playdates, not kids!” and I think they like having their own world that’s outside our control.

My mother was mortified when I announced as a child that my imaginary friend was named “William F. Buckley” (they watched his tv program). But I turned out ok (much to her relief).

19 Heather { 03.21.10 at 8:58 am }

I so want to come visit! Imaginary friends are signs of high intelligence, you know! They’re brilliant!

When I was little, I had imaginary TRIPLETS: Lyndia, Cindia, and Mindia. I drove my mother batty. “No! That’s not LYndia, that’s CINdia!”

LOVE it! Love it! ADORE it!

20 Rebecca { 03.21.10 at 11:06 am }

Hilarious, I was laughing so hard at the weapons part…you have such fantastically creative children! Hope that Bronner doesn’t bring problems & is a nice supportive friend while he’s around this time!
Happy ICLW week:)

21 NotTheMama { 03.21.10 at 11:29 am }

My older sister had an imaginary friend named Packles. She left Packles in a department store one day, but didn’t realize it until she and my mom returned home. 30 minute drive back to town. But it wasn’t enough to drive 30 minutes back to the store, no, my mom had to park, get out, go back into the back of the store, into the restroom, take Packles by the hand, and bring her back to the car. True story.
My younger sister had 2, named teetee and doodoo. Between rescuing Packles and trying to keep little sis from talking about her friends in public, I had no time for one of my own! 😉

22 TasIVFer { 03.21.10 at 6:24 pm }

I never had an imaginary friend, but my brother had Charlie. Sometimes it made me feel a bit left out that he was hanging out with Charlie and I’d lost my play mate. I think Charlie was just as real to me as he was to my brother!

23 Catrisha T { 03.21.10 at 8:39 pm }

Oh my! I now know what I have to look forward to. My little Monster has just found an imaginary friend in the last week. He’s been having play dates, snack time, and bath time with him daily. Thanks for sharing the trails and tribulations of the twins.

Happy ICLW! #33

24 Mama Zen { 03.21.10 at 8:56 pm }

If my daughter had imaginary friends, I’m sure that they would have weapons!

25 Kim { 03.21.10 at 10:40 pm }

That is really funny!

My son’s Elmo stuffed animal took on a life of its own when his brother was born. It really is exhausting preparing two lunches (one minus the food of course) and keeping track of Elmo’s whereabouts at all times. And frankly it’s a little awkward when my son unzips his sleeper only to sit down and affectionatly breastfeed a wide-eyed Elmo.

26 Amy { 03.22.10 at 12:54 am }

Very interesting. My 3 year old has started with the imaginary friends yet.

27 Terry Elisabeth { 03.22.10 at 5:34 am }

Lonely. Well, perhaps they are aware of their individuality, of their differences and maybe they are already thinking existentialist thoughts. They know they are twins but they are two, not one. Maybe they are thinking who are we together and who are we apart ?
Anyhoo, they have lots of imagination and it’s great ! I had to strain to imagine myself an imaginary friend whan I was a kid.

28 Fingers Crossed { 03.22.10 at 7:48 am }

It’s interesting what kids pick up on and make “real” in their own world. Sometimes you forget that they are small adults.


29 Carla { 03.22.10 at 10:03 am }

A new keyboard over here, please! The coffee didn’t come out of my nose, but I did spit it out everywhere. Weapons! That is priceless. Where do they come up with this stuff? I was driving my 6 year old nephew somewhere last week and a small plane flew over us. He looked at it, then looked at me and said, quite seriously, “the mysteries of space and flight have only begun to conquer my mind.” What the ?!?!?! I had to pull over, the tears of hysterical laughter made driving impossible.

30 Lucy { 03.22.10 at 1:29 pm }

The weapons part is hilarious!

31 IF Crossroads { 03.22.10 at 6:50 pm }

Wow, so I’m no shrink, but I think your little ChickieNob is a very smart little girl. I once recently read that Imaginary Friends are the sign of a highly intelligent child.

32 Bionic Baby Mama { 03.23.10 at 11:12 am }

i wish i agreed that small children aren’t ever lonely in company, but i remember different. although i was often alone as a child — only child, no kids in the neighborhood — i was often the most lonely when in a group.

the chickienob and wolvog seem like good eggs. negotiating misunderstandings and social gaffes with imaginary friend(s)! what sensitivity!

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