Imaginary Friends

a true story

Trish Clark

My grandfather, when he was a little boy, had a camel. One day my grandfather was traveling from Chicago by train with his mother. The conductor accidentally shut the train door before the camel had had a chance to board. My grandfather made the conductor open the door again and hold it open until the camel was able to get all of his large, ungainly self aboard. Shortly after this incident, another passenger, for some reason imagining that the seat next to my grandfather was empty, sat on the camel. My grandfather yelled out, “Stop! You’re sitting on my camel!” So the family story goes.

Today on Medium I came across a perfectly lovely blog, Why Imaginary Friends May be the Best Friends, by Paula Dotson Frew. After you finish reading my story, maybe you should check it out. Paula writes:

Sometimes it’s difficult to make friends. You worry that another person will judge you or that you will open up to someone just to have them hurt you. Imaginary friends never do those things.

That certainly corroborates my own experience with Bob. My only quibble is with the connotation of the term “imaginary,” which is usually taken to mean “not real.” Now it’s my turn to yell. “Hey! You’re talking about my best friend!”

The actual definition of “imaginary” is much more interesting:

Something that is imaginary is created by and exists only in the mind.

Are the creations of the mind real or unreal? That’s a rhetorical question which I will let you ponder in your spare time. Another article I read today, Carl Sagan’s Boloney Detection Kit, made me YOL (yell out loud) once again:

[R]ather than preaching from the ivory tower of self-righteousness, Sagan approaches the subject from the most vulnerable of places — having just lost both of his parents, he reflects on the all too human allure of promises of supernatural reunions in the afterlife, reminding us that falling for such fictions doesn’t make us stupid or bad people, but simply means that we need to equip ourselves with the right tools against them.

Fictions? Tools against them? Is Sagan crazy? Maybe he’s the tool! My grandfather grew up to become a physicist. He grew up and became a very serious person. Here he is (on the right) with his maybe even more serious younger brother.

My grandfather earned his PhD in physics from Johns Hopkins. My sister heard him walking around upstairs in her townhouse for years after he had supposedly died. Even the contractor who came to fix her alarm system could hear him. That guy left the house on the run and never came back.

End of story.


For more on my imaginary friend Bob, click on the “My Bob” tag below