Wednesday, September 10, 2008


It doesn’t always work out this way but, for me, growing up as an only child was a lovely experience, and one which warmly nurtured my inchoate, but burgeoning, creativity. I never had one imaginary friend. I had lots of them. My imagination was populated with all sorts of characters, some from storybooks, some from movies, some legendary figures known to frequent childhood imaginations for centuries, but most totally original. Gleaming elves and glaring ogres, brave knights, wise wizards, recalcitrant fairies, exuberant dwarves, leafy tree people and sparkly water sprites, scores upon scores of talkative animals. Angels? Possibly. Some peeked in my window in the mornings, some accompanied me to school, a few of the less gregarious types resided in my clothes closet, but most waited for me outside under the trees. In all seasons of the year, my dog and I could be found roaming the woods around our house, me bundled up to the eyeballs in winter, often barefoot in summer, and that’s where the more fascinating individuals of my imagination usually made their appearances. These friends taught me to trust that imagination, helped me to see it as a priceless resource unique to me alone, a storeroom of ideas only I could unlatch, anytime I desired, and for the rest of my life. Perhaps if I had not had a treasured dog to confide in, I would have acquired one single, special imaginary friend instead of many. But I loved the ones I had.
And if I’m quick, I can still sometimes catch them grinning in at my window on an early morning, just as the curtain opens.

Aunt Leaf
by Mary Oliver

Needing one, I invented her - - -
the great-great-aunt dark as hickory
called Shining-Leaf, or Drifting-Cloud
or The-Beauty-of-the-Night.

Dear aunt, I'd call into the leaves,
and she'd rise up, like an old log in a pool,
and whisper in a language only the two of us knew
the word that meant follow,

and we'd travel
cheerful as birds
out of the dusty town and into the trees
where she would change us both into something quicker - - -
two foxes with black feet,
two snakes green as ribbons,
two shimmering fish - - - and all day we'd travel.

At day's end she'd leave me back at my own door
with the rest of my family,
who were kind, but solid as wood
and rarely wandered. While she,
old twist of feathers and birch bark,
would walk in circles wide as rain and then
float back

scattering the rags of twilight
on fluttering moth wings;

or she'd slouch from the barn like a gray opossum;

or she'd hang in the milky moonlight
burning like a medallion,

this bone dream, this friend I had to have,
this old woman made out of leaves.

Painting above by Edmond Aman-Jean


  1. oh hello-your blog world is divine......

  2. How dreamy. I never imagined you as an only child. How happy you were! Clearly, your childhood did wonders for your adulthood. :)

  3. *grins* I was an only child too :) It can do wonders for the imagination :)

    I always puzzle at people who ask if I was lonely, as if a sibling is an instant best friend. Some lucky folks are like that but it isn't always the case.

    Beautiful entry (as always) I had many imaginary friends as well, some that stayed in my pockets and others to large to fit inside the house :)

  4. I had much older brothers, which works much the same way as being an only child.

  5. I love this Mary Oliver poem! My sister and I used to spend hours outside making fairy houses out of twigs, leaves and moss. This poem reminded me of what fun we had.

  6. Your childhood friends of the imagination were very special indeed. I had a host of them too. In some ways they were more real to me than real people I knew!

  7. What a beautiful insight into a creative young person's imaginative world. Your childhood sounds rich with the treasures of imagination! I have a sister. As girls we created a make-believe world complete with imaginary people to play with. We could occupy ourselves in this world for hours!

    Thank you for reminding me of these precious girlhood memories!


  8. Just found your wonderfully quirky site through your comment: very rare gift to still have ALL the magic of childhood still in your head.......this is begging for the kind of children's story adults love to read........

  9. A wonderful post, I was transported! The poem complements your prose so beautifully.

  10. Beautiful painting. Have you read Charles De Lint? I had squirrels in the bathroom, elves behind invisible doors amongst the Elm tree roots, and a set of animal friends when I was little. There are photos of me when I was less than 1 where I am copying what the dog does. Perhaps I imprinted on the dog instead of humans? LOL Isn't childhood amazing!

  11. How your imaginary friends enriched your world.
    I have one real life bother but used to enjoy the 4 "BoysNextDoor" much more as companions looking for mystery and adventure in the woods.
    A beautiful choice of poem.

  12. I have a brother but I always had a host of invisible friends that I talked to when I was small. Oh and your blog made me think of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem, The unseen playmate. I will post it for you over the weekend. Happy days! Eleanor

  13. Beautiful..Imagination is a treasure..Like you I had an "Invisible" friend! A little angel,i was always telling my mother this little angel was sleeping next to me,and in the morning she disappeard? Poef..
    I would always make room for here in my bed and sing her songs to fall in sleep..I was i believe 4 or 5.I still believe in Angels..

  14. Great post Pamela. You are lucky that you can remember your imaginary friends! That you didn't experience sibling rivalry. Also, that you appreciate what you had. My imagination took off when playing dolls. There was dialog, but my mom was not allowed to listen. ;-)


    Give my regards to Edward.

  15. Wow what a poem! Wonderful!
    I am glad to hear you have so many imaginary friends. I think they are best...
    Love your autumnal background too :)

  16. Oh what a stunning poem, and a poet I have never heard of. Such visuals, such atmosphere! Thank you - I will have to go and hunt her down on Amazon now.

  17. I so loved your blog today! and the poem is beautiful.

  18. You have a lovely imagination, way with words and view of the world...being an only child was a trasur for you!

  19. The poem is lovely. I always had lots of imaginary friends too! (and I like to think I'm fairly well adjusted! It makes me laugh when child psychologists say it's troublesome for kids to have imaginary friends!).

  20. I do so enjoy your blog and visit rather often. It has become one of my favorite places.

    I have noticed that we have a few things in common. I too, am an only child and was never without my dog. Actually, I have never been without my beloved dogs. I am also living in the American South and I have the Scot-Irish bloodline. We are of the Cameron clan.

    Just thought I would share that lil' tidbit and tell you how pleasant it is to visit your lovely blog.

    Yaya at

  21. I was an only child for ten years and I too had imaginary friends but I never,ever felt lonely. I loved my childhood.

  22. My niece is an only child and her imagination is incredible. This was such a great post and I intend to share it with my sister. My niece has been an artistic treasure since she was a tiny toddler and much of it I credit to her amazing imagination and the many "friends" she has had during her short life.

    One of my favorite stories about my Melanie is her gift when my dad died. She was the joy of my dad's every day and not a day passed that he didn't go and visit his baby granddaughter. It was minutes before my dad's funeral and my dear niece, who was 7 at the time, came with a folded piece of paper and wanted to put it in my Dad's jacket pocket. My sister (my niece's mom) asked little Melanie what she was putting in Pap's pocket. Melanie said "love stones." Melanie put the gift in my Dad's pocket and when she walked away, my sister pulled the artwork out. It was unbelievable. It literally was a page of gorgeous stones in many colors and each had words of love written on them. This imaginative gift of love was buried with my Dad but it remains in my heart forever. As an only child you have special gifts as you view the world. I will be sharing your post.

  23. How beautiful! I never had an imaginary friend, but my nephew David has one named Gus. (Or sometimes it is Gust.) It fascinates me. Sometimes Gus(t) is good and sometimes bad. I always have to watch where I sit, so I don't smush him!
    I enjoyed the post!

  24. My mother says I had an imaginary friend when I was very young. I don't remember. But there was a fairy house under the apple tree in the back yard. I was their decorator.

  25. I don't think I've met an only child who seemed sad about it...

    I like the poem very much, I don't really know much Mary Oliver, I'll have to redress that.

    Lovely autumn colour to be found here, and all free, unlike Etro!

  26. Your words - and those of Mary Oliver, took my breath away. As I sit at work and long to be free - thanks for transporting me there on my lunch hour!

  27. Aaah, that poem is just so beautiful, it reminds me of so many things. I had a little white horse that lived in my pocket and when I wanted to ride him, I'd pull him out and he'd be hooooge!

    Kim x

  28. There were times that I wished I was an only child. I am the oldest of five; designated test-child, example-setter and sibling-watcher.
    My childhood was on where tiny fairies flew over my shoulders, miniature people lived in our house (a la The Borrowers) and animals all had the ability to speak. So the poem you posted spoke right to my heart. It is lovely and something that every little boy or girl should be able to experience.
    Thank you for such a lovely post.

  29. Agatha Christie said, "One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood."

  30. I always wanted to be an only. I had 2 myself! People gave us so much slack about having only 1. I thought it was perfect. After 10 years my husband talked me into having #2. We have enjoyed them both, but I always felt like I had to defend myself. It sounds like you had a lovely childhood.

  31. Your blog is beautiful and the poem is just so lovely.

    Although i am one of 7 i am the youngest by a long shot. My sister who's the next up in age from me is 14 years older, who left home when i was very small. So i practically grew up as an only child.

    We lived in a very large guest house by the sea and i had many imaginary friends. My mother said i had a wonderful imagination but i knew that i could see many things she couldn't.

    I still remember disappearing into my own little world within the house for hours on end. It would take my mother ages to find me.

    Thank you for re-awakening my imagination. I'm going to add you to my reading list so i can come and visit you again.

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and giving me such a warm welcome into the world of blogging.


    Ps. Edward is gorgeous i just want to give him a big cuddle!x

  32. I haven't come across this poem before but I love it and am going to copy it to keep. It's a fascinating subject how our early childhood seems to shape us forever. Like you, woodlands have been my favourite places to be since childhood, now I get a sense of peace there. I cannot imagine not having a dog by my side to share it either!
    Thank you for the lovely comment on my blog, I had to go away and come back to fully appreciate the beauty of where I live but now I see it as two way thing, I love it and drink it in and it gives me strength back in times of need!

  33. Isn't imagination the best friend of all? Edward looks so imperial in the post below. You seem to have a rich life, both past and present.

  34. If only we could keep the imagination of our childhood - feed and nurture it, instead of hiding it away...

    lovely post!


  35. Once again, you weave a wonderful tapestry with your warm and colourful words. What a lovely post. I too remember having an imaginary friend when I was very small:)

  36. Friends are like treasures, imaginary and real!
    Send me your address as "Edward" is ready, he has been beautifully matted and is ready to send to you.
    Have you thought of writing a book? You have a way with words.

  37. What a marvellous poem. I am going to go and find out a bit more about Mary Oliver right now!

  38. A wonderful post.Everybody deserves an enchanting childhood, and the chance as adults, to reflect on it.How beautiful!

  39. Pamela, did you ever read any books by Edward Eager? They were some of my favourites as a youth - full of fantastic worlds, but based in a real one of children who had the wildest adventures. Your post recalled them to mind and I wish so much that I could find some old editions of those books.



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