One day, when I was a very little girl, I decided to have an imaginary friend. I'd heard about them from other people, and saw them on TV shows and cartoons. The trouble was I didn't know where to get an imaginary friend. Did I have to go to an imaginary playground and befriend an imaginary girl sitting on an imaginary swing? If I wished for one bad enough, would an imaginary friend magically show up at my side?
Being about 5 or 6 at the time, I thought that kids were sort of supposed to have imaginary friends. At least it seemed like a cool idea. I lived on the outskirts of town and there were very few kids in my neighborhood. An imaginary friend would be good company. She would probably share a lot of my interests and she was sure to be an interesting friend to have around.
And so, I set out to create my own imaginary friend.
Since I wanted her to be my age and share many of my interests, I decided that my imaginary friend should come from my mirror. She would look like my mirror reflection and her name would be Nasus. Of course, having a friend who only hung out in my mirror would be pretty boring, so I had to imagine that she had come to live on my side of the mirror.
Being from the other side of the mirror also explained why Nasus was invisible, because Mirror People could only be seen in Mirror World. If I visited her there, I would be the invisible one. And she had to be invisible because I knew I couldn't actually see her. Plus, it would be fun to torment my older brother by insisting that Nasus was invisibly there.
There was one problem with Nasus: she wasn't real. I knew I had made her up and I knew I was making her up as I went along. If I wanted to have a conversation with Nasus, I had to think of her lines and my own. If I wanted to play checkers with her, I had to move both of our pieces--which wasn't that much fun.
Nasus didn't last long. And that worried me.
I was afraid that I didn't have as much imagination as the kids who seemed to really believe in their imaginary friends. I worried that I wasn't creative enough. I also sort of wondered if imaginary friends might actually be real and I just wasn't special enough to meet one.
By this time, I had already figured out that Santa and the Easter Bunny were games, but my 5- or 6-year-old brain was still pretty sure that there were ghosts, especially invisible saints who followed people around and sometimes appeared in visions. Which left imaginary friends in a gray area.
I wanted to ask my parents, but I wasn't sure they would tell me the truth. After all, they were the ones who had told me about Santa. I thought about asking God, because he knew everything. The trouble was, God never answered my questions.
My mom always said that if I was very quiet and listened very closely, I would hear God's answers to my prayers. But when I tried, I didn't hear a thing. And if I did feel like the answer "came to me," it felt exactly the same as when I closed my eyes and imagined what Nasus wanted to say.
When I finally decided to talk to my mom about Nasus, her answer surprised me. She asked me if it really mattered whether Nasus was real or not. She said that if Nasus made me happy, then I should go on imagining her around. She also said that kids sometimes need imaginary friends to help them through problems, but that not having one was okay, too.
By the end of our conversation, I felt better about Nasus and about knowing that she wasn't real. But what I didn't tell my mom was that her answers had also begun to clear up some of my questions about god.