Thursday, March 24, 2016

Imaginary Friends - #Sol 16 Day 24

Imaginary Friends -#Sol 16 Day 24

Okay, growing up in a traditional Haitian household, I was not encouraged to have a favorite teddy bear or any imaginary friends. My mom would not entertain such childish desires.

When I grew up though, I developed so many imaginary friends through my readings.

I remember the summer I read Dorothy Allison's Bastard out of Carolina, an emotionally wrenching novel. Like the main character, I decided to drink lots of sweet sweet ice tea and listen to Gospel Music. In fact, I remember standing in a moving subway the moment I was about to finish the novel about a young girl nicknamed Bone who endures such horrifying abuse and rejection.  As I excitedly and reluctantly reached the last few pages, I  looked around the train station at all the strangers around me. I decided that this sacred final moment between the narrator and me should be shared alone. I thus gently closed the novel and hurried home to read the final pages and end in the privacy of my home a friendship I will never forget.

I have many more imaginary literary friends. I am divorced, so I am entitled to my imaginary literary husband, Joseph from Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory. He is gentle, kind, patient and artistically talented. I read this novel  long ago, so English teachers do not ask me for a specific example. I know that Joseph received Sophie Caco into his home. I know that he was patient with her regarding her emerging sexuality and conflict with her mother.  My goodness, I remember buying Danticat's novel and just sitting literally on a bench right on Queens Boulevard. I was so happy to find a novel that addressed the life of Haitians in the United States that I almost read the book in one sitting on that very bench in the middle of a busy boulevard. It is only when the sun set that I dragged myself home.

So even though I did not have an imaginary friend to visit my home, or to sit at my dinner table, my life has been filled with so many friends from the literary world.

Okay, I have so many literary friends who are now raising their hands to be included in this blog. My friends, I am tired. My time to sleep has come, but since you all have kept me company during lonely times and even helped me  survive sleepless night hours, I will call on one of you before I retire for the evening. Oh, this is so hard. This predicament reminds me of my first year teaching middle school. I went to sleep that night and dreamed that several dreams sat in front of me at students' desks. All the dreams were raising their hands. They wanted me to pick the dream I would have that night. I did not know which dream to pick, so I had a pretty stressful night.

To close this piece, I will call on a character I still worry about even today.  My students think I am bizarre when I tell them I think or worry about a character. I will call on__________________ tonight:

Pecola from The Bluest Eye: the last time I remember reading about her she had gone completely mad with the illusion that she had blue eyes. She was talking to herself and picking through trash. Abused, Pecola took refuge into a double-identity world ruled by the illusion and worry that her new eyes were not the bluest;  Pecola, I pray that you find the beauty that you already possess.


  1. This is a great post. Losing yourself in a book is the best feeling . I am sure your passion is very encouraging for your students to read some great books!

  2. I love getting lost so deeply in a book that you think about the characters even when you aren't reading. That's a sure sign that you connected with an amazing book!

  3. I loved reading this piece. Your voice shines from the opening, when you frame the piece with the details from your traditional Haitian childhood (no favorite teddy bear and no imaginary friends) to when you grow into a reader who can't put her book down. I so enjoyed taking this ramble into your history of literary friendships with you. You helped me remember Joseph from Breath, Eyes, Memory (and now I want to reread it!) and made me smile as I pictured you sitting on a bench on Queens Boulevard devouring Danticat's words.
    And I loved reading about your moment of prying yourself away from the final pages of Dorothy Allison while on the train so that you could finish the book properly--in an intimate moment between you and narrator only.
    This makes me so happy. I want all of our students to have moments like these in their reading.

  4. I love this post! I had imaginary friends -- the products of an overactive imagination and life in a rural community -- and I too have devoured books my entire lifetime. I never really made the connection between my imaginary and my literary friends before, though! Thanks for a great glimpse into your life. (And Pecola is a character who has stayed on my mind, too.)

  5. "I went to sleep that night and dreamed that several dreams sat in front of me at students' desks. All the dreams were raising their hands." I think that dream is raising its hand because it's bursting to become a poem!

  6. Joan is on to something about the poem about to be written. I loved Bone. Just loved her in ways that were visceral and haunting and moving. I have that book in my library and keep waiting for the right reader to find her. I, too, had lots of imaginary friends. Growing up on a farm, there was lots of time for them and not much time for actual ones, but literature was enough. I miss those friends and those days, and I totally understand about wanting to finish a book alone out of respect and reverence for the book. A wonderful post. Thank you.