So most people had the time-honoured imaginary friend or friends growing up right, or at least knew the weird kid who was vocal enough to sit there chatting away happily to theirs without a care in the world. Having been that weird kid for most of my life I am of course a big advocate of the buddies no one else can see and have wiled away many happy hours on adventures real and imagined with them. But what happens if when the teddies and the blankets get put away they’re still there. When the school uniforms come and go, they’re still there. What happens if they just never go away? Well…It’s awesome.
To illustrate my point better I will share with you my personal example. My very first imaginary friend was a monkey. I remember it quite distinctly, being sat in my garden I guess at around 4 years old, sun shining, utterly bored. Until I noticed a little pair of twinkly eyes staring at me out the apple tree. Staying very still so as not to frighten him off, I stared back. It was a tense moment, and he was gone before I knew it. Over the next few days he came back, each time coming a little closer, until a hand and a little monkey paw finally connected. I learnt that he had had it rough on his previous travels before me, and he had a nasty bruise on his head to show for it. We hung out for a few days, and it wasn’t long before he had taken up permanent residence on my shoulder.
Although sometimes he would go off and do his own thing for a while, sometimes a few days, I’d always catch him out the corner of my eye tripping the fielder up when I was batting in rounders, sitting contentedly with me doing some painting, baring his teeth at that brat with the curly hair in school, or snoozing on top of the wardrobe when I went to bed. He had that knack of being around just when I needed him to be.
Many adventures and perils we faced together, until one day quite suddenly out the blue another monkey landed on my head alarming me greatly. This monkey was different to my first friend Shabs, much more outgoing, social, into the arts, and being able to fit into the palm of my hand was just a little guy really. This was Sylvester and he had heard word from Shabs that I had a pretty big paint and paper supply, was completely relaxed about trying extravagant hairstyles and was generally pretty cool to chill with. Monkey number 2 was here to stay.
As time went on, things changed but every few years or so another little primate would stroll out of my mind and into my life. As boys, parties, and drinking became the scene rather then barbies and crayons, I couldn’t help a snort of laughter escaping as, completely unbidden, the image of monkey Dave (a stout sombre little chap with strict morals) falling drunk off the arm of a chair at a house party I was at came into my head.
I’m 28 now and over the years have collected 11 monkeys, the most recent of which is 3 years old. Each one I know like the back of my hand, their names, how old they are, what they look like, what they’re into, what they’re not, how they react in different situations. Rather then fading away with the years they’ve grown stronger and more vibrant. I don’t view them as little balls of childhood fluff, for example I often take great pleasure in the image of my boyfriend being drop kicked in the face by a monkey when he’s pissing me off 🐵 but more as friends that have been alive with me since I was able to give them that life. I don’t think about them all the time but one thing I can’t imagine is them ever not being there.
As a child they represent, amongst too much free time and a touch of ADHD, little friends that are always on your side and there to back up you when your sad, angry, bored, or lonely. The problems one faces as a child are difficult enough and as you get older they stay fundamentally the same but morph into adult clothes. That doesn’t mean I’m yet at the stage of sitting alone at a bar cackling away to myself surrounded by imaginary friends but as an adult struggling with adult problems, I don’t see that it’s too far into the path of lunacy to hang on to the characters that brightened the sometimes dark and troubling trials of being a child.
I feel like they’ve been here long enough now that they will never be forgotten, and I don’t think any age is too old to be enchanted by uninvited images of monkeys doing crazy things at really inappropriate times, just as I don’t think you can be too old to keep the madness of a rampant imagination up. And maybe one day I’ll have another little person who would like to take them on some new adventures, when me and Shabs have retired and are old and tired, snoozing on the porch somewhere.