When I was a little girl I had an imaginary friend. She was middle-aged with long brown hair and very caring. Sort of like a teacher type person. Her name was Mandy. She knew a lot of things, and was very creative in playing games. I remember her well, but I never expected to see her when I became an adult.
I thought I had forgotten about her because she stopped coming to play with me in the playhouse in our backyard. I was getting older, too old for an imaginary friend. I moved on.
Sadly, my parents decided to sell their house one year and we had to go back to sort out what we wanted to keep and have a big garage sale. The house was way too big for them to care for, and all of us children had moved away to start families of our own. We weren’t in the same towns, so our family gatherings were less frequent and that big space was too much for them.
When we arrived, it was surreal. There were boxes everywhere, and though we slept in our childhood bedrooms, everything was so different. Almost empty. They had been busy packing and marking things for the big sale. It was so different. They kept the biggest project for us, cleaning out the attic in the barn where everything was stored.
The morning after our arrival we had a big breakfast. It was just us kids with Mom and Dad, we left our families at home because there was just too much to do for young children to be running around. My father and brother headed out to the barn after breakfast while Mom, my sister and I stayed in to clean up. Then we headed out to join them.
The barn had so many boxes in it. We began sorting things out, pulling out old drawing and having laughs. Sharing old memories and picking out photos. It was fun and oddly numbing at the same time, the way that a big change can be. It took hours to sort through and re-pack boxes, to choose between what was worth keeping, what was worth selling and what needed to be tossed.
Finally it was lunch time and we were famished. I hovered behind because I had found one of my old journals and it had mentioned my imaginary friend. Everyone went inside and I said I would be along in a few minutes.
I picked up my journal and headed out to the playhouse to have a browse through the pages in one of my favourite childhood spots. I was quite into it when I heard a noise, and then a familiar voice.
“Mind if I sit down here?” she said.
I looked up to see Mandy, I could not believe my eyes. “Are you real?” I stammered.
“As real as you need me to be,” she replied.
“How is this happening?” I asked.
“It’s simple. I was always here for you when you needed me. As you got older I faded away, although I was still close by. I have been there for you in tough times, but as an adult you didn’t need to see that, you just needed to feel it. Right now is a tough time, and I am here to help you let go,” she told me. “It’s hard to believe, but I am your angel.”
I blinked as I absorbed this knowledge. Can angels be real? Am I losing my mind?
“You’re not going crazy,” she said.
“I don’t know what to do,” I confided in her. “Everything is changing again, but this time it is so different. I had always imagined bringing my kids home to my parents house and making memories with them where I made mine, but the house is too big for Mom and Dad.”
“I know,” she said. “It will be okay though, you can make memories anywhere. The people are still the same.”
“It’s just not like I pictured it to be,” I sighed.
“That is true,” she told me. “But life seldom is. We have to accept the changes that come our way, and with them come new memories. They are different than we may have expected, but they are often better than we expected too.”
“Where will I go then, if I feel like I need to be home?” I asked.
“Why not the playhouse?” she suggested.
“That’s a great idea!” I exclaimed. I had not thought about what we were going to do with the playhouse.
“Now, you must go back to your family and help them finish up this tough job. Everyone is feeling strange about the change, but it will be a good one. I am always here if you need me,” she told me. With that she got up and exited through the playhouse door.
I sat there for a moment, feeling astonished and slightly silly with myself. I swear I must have imagined the whole thing. I did feel better though, having realized I can take the playhouse with me and start new memories with my children.
I got up and went to join my family for lunch. It did not take us long to finish sorting things out, and we made a fortune at the garage sale passing our treasures on for other people to make new memories. Then I headed home to my family, and a couple weeks later we made the journey down to pick up the playhouse together.
It has been a long time since I thought about Mandy, but tonight as I am sitting in the playhouse having a cup of tea and writing in my journal, she just came into my thoughts. I wonder if she is here. If she was, I would tell her thank you.