I didn’t go anywhere without Max. I’d go out to the few acres of uncultivated farmland my parents leased for a short time in rural Indiana, and sure enough Max would follow. I’d visit the stray kittens and hope to sneak them a treat or two, and Max would be glued to my side.
Max was my best friend.
He’d always encourage me when my older siblings ridiculed and chased me with a broomstick. Max would even dry my tears when I came running in from school after being teased. Max would lend me his ear as I rambled on about my flaws, misgivings, and ineptitudes.
Max was my imaginary best friend.
It seemed like Max was always around until my older brother ‘killed’ him. If you’re knowledable in the workings of imaginary friends, once he/she is ‘killed’ it’s as if your complete innocence manifests into reality.
I mourned Max, albeit briefly, like a family member, yet I was grieving the loss of the truest form of myself.
Max was kind in all our years together.
Max loved me unconditionally.
Max empathized with me, especially when I fell through the jagged cracks of a gargantuan family, society, and a system that reminded me I had minimal value.
Max was unselfish as he played Barbie with me.
Max exhibited humility as he took the smallest cookie crumbs at Tea Party Time.
Max respected me.
Max didn’t desire to change me, but he challenged me.
Max was the daisys; Max was the beauty in an Indiana sunrise. Max was the soft emerald green grass that cushioned my robust feet. Max was the laughter that escaped from my mouth when my dad tickled my sides. Max was the comfort of my bed.
If I’m being honest Max, my childhood imaginary ffriend my brother ‘murdered’, was God.
Max was God.
Max is God.
By God, I don’t mean this old man with a long beard in the night sky hovering and shaking his finger when I’ve done something he’s disproved of. No, by God I mean all the love we can imagine.
God in the beauty; God in the mess; God in my goodness; God in my poverty. God is the spare change in a pan handler’s cup. God is the care in a community garden that feeds the poor. God is the homeless man on Ralston and Webster that gives me a smile that alters my day.
God in nature. God in water. God in my children. God in the wind as it strokes me against my thighs. God in the strumming of a beaten guitar.
By God I mean the light that emanates from humanity.
Max was, is, and will always be God.
Max, my childhood imaginary friend, was gentle, yet had unbridled strength. He was a soft-spoken warrior, yet he ruminated with victims. Max had unrelenting fearlessness, yet was vulnerable to me – a token of humanity.
Looking back as an adult stuck on this pendulum of evolving spirituality, Max is reminiscent of the Divine in its greatest form.
It’s upon this revelation I know how to answer Zach when he inquiries with, “Mom, did you ever have an imaginary friend?”
I square my shoulders, grab his soft hand, and say proudly, ” Yes, his name was Max.”
“REALLY?!?”, he replies with enthusiasm.
” F’real. He was my best friend.”
“What happened to him?”
If it wasn’t for my previous reflection, I couldn’t have answered him. Thankfully, I had the perfect reframing of Max.
“Well, I decided to share him with the world.”