Slightly shady characters

Confession: My children have some unusual playmates.

We’ve tried hard to provide each of them with smart, scrupulous, well-meaning kids of their own age with whom to play, but these other characters keep popping up: slightly shady characters without credentials or background checks or – indeed, any background at all.

Aarick started it.

Shortly after his father read him Charlotte’s Web at age three, Aarick produced a friend named Wilbur. Wilbur was five years old, and had a wife named Steering Wheel and two bright children, Robunga and Kiwi.

Other friends popped in briefly. There was Justin. There was the unnamed friend with a mother called Always-Tired. There was the lovely lady Christmas, whose name changed to Snow after a while, and then to Spring. There was Tom, and Mr. Lock.


Regan had no unorthodox friends until Aarick went to school. Then suddenly Dan showed up.

Dan was one of those unforgettable characters, so vivid that “dumber than Dan” became a family byword. Dan liked losing games. If you were playing Monopoly with him and you gave him a choice of say, going to jail or getting $500, he would choose jail every time. He thought jail was a place where they gave you flowers and stuff.

Eventually Regan had to find an alternate playmate since Dan cheated so much, so he brought Susie on board. Susie was a nice level-headed playmate, a sort of inoffensive team player who was there on call, and never there when you didn’t want her. She was good for leverage, so Regan could threaten Dan into good behavior.

Later still, Ivan the Terrible joined the party. Regan’s parents frowned on Ivan the Terrible, but there it was—they couldn’t just ignore the guy.


Meanwhile, all of Kelly’s friends were squeaky-clean and kosher. And then Regan went to school…

Suddenly Kelly was playing with Dan while Regan was gone. Uh-oh. This was not okay because Dan hates girls.

Regan decided to just give Susie to Kelly so she would stop playing with Dan.

Sure! Both girls were quite happy with this arrangement. And Jonni started coming around too and made it a happy threesome. Her real name is Jonathan, but she goes by Jonni and she is a Girl! Kelly gets quite upset if this fact is not understood.


I am thinking of finding some friends too.

Mrs. Sunny-Side-Up, who takes me out for breakfast on Saturday mornings. And pays. She likes to pay; if I try to talk her out of it she gets quite cross and threatens not to bring me along next time.

Miss 409, who does my cleaning when I’m not looking. At least she says she does, and I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings by poking too carefully into corners. What are a few cobwebs between friends?

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10 years ago

This reminds me of all my children’s pretend friends of the past, and my sister Luci’s characters, Dodi and Didi, who got into all SORTS of interesting escapades!!

10 years ago

I had 2 imaginary friends….their names were Alisha & Shasherdin. (I made the last name up) We played in the playhouse a lot & I also remember taking care of my sister when she was sick. :-/
We never fought….life was good.

10 years ago

Only one of my boys had imaginary friends, but getting some of my own sounds like a good idea. Could always blame the dirty corners on her.

10 years ago

Laughing. Loved this post and really loved your ideas for friends of your own.
And remembering: Darmunk, Island, and Trommin Cuter. Lester who lived in the mirror. Jason Oatmeal. Libba, Mobba, Sally, and Gick. I hope they are all happy wherever it is that imaginary friends go when children grow up.

10 years ago

I still have an imaginary friend named Helga. Although her and I get along beautifully, she has taught my kids how to fight like wild Indians. Somehow I didn’t pick up on her bad language, but my kids……..

10 years ago

I am a little speechless that there are so many imaginary “friends” out there. Does anybody wonder where they come from? Who tells you their names? And if they are not really real, how do they each have a real personality? I have a lot of red flags waving ….

10 years ago
Reply to  Lou

Wow. I’m sorry, Lou dear.

Do you read works of fiction? I think these friends come from the same place as Anne of Green Gables and David Copperfield—from a vivid imagination, gift of God. They are not an entity out there, someone who comes already formed to my children. Horrors! My children give them names and personality, a fluid make-believe that constantly changes as the children’s interests change. (Ivan the Terrible was a name on a book cover.) They don’t prefer them to real friends, they aren’t influenced by them into evil, and they clearly know the line between true and pretend.

Read in your context, the post would be a terrible thing. In mine, I guess I am very comfortable with the innocent and joyful pretending of children—just as they pretend bears and Indians and mommies in kitchens.

10 years ago
Reply to  Shari

I do see your point. =) I guess I have met so many families whose children have these special “friends”, who literally guide and influence the child in every way. Example: “Fred told me I don’t have to take a bath, mom, so I don’t have to.” or becoming angry because mom refuses to buy the special movie that Fred says he may have. Or knowing information that no child would ever know on their own, because of what Fred told them. It makes my blood run cold. I am truly sorry if I read too much into your post. My kids pretend all the time. =)

10 years ago

Hilarious! How could I ever forget the Johnsons? Hmmm…there was another family, right?

10 years ago

Oh, yes, this brings to mind a few childhood friends of my own. Growing up with brothers around me necessitated a few wonderful imaginary friends and sisters that were ALWAYS on my side! I love this post– I really laughed out loud! I do love your imaginary friends, Shari. I wonder if they could be persuaded to visit me!

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