What my imaginary friends taught me about love

By Jessica Brodie

Don’t laugh (okay, you can laugh… most people do), but when I was seven, I had two amazing imaginary friends named Making Butter and Teresa.

Teresa had long, straight dark hair with bangs and olive skin, and she was a bit more sensible, and Making Butter was her hardworking but slightly mischievous younger brother. They were inseparable, and they lived in my closet next to the scary crack that ran up the wall behind my clothes.

Now, I have lots of theories on imaginary friends, and none of them are necessarily wrong—they’re playmates kids make up to keep them company. They’re alter-ego versions of themselves that kids playact with as they develop their true identities. They’re protective angels that kids can actually see, as little kids are inherently more open to God and the spiritual world. Who knows?

But for me, Making Butter and Teresa were my friends. They were a unit, but they loved me, and they were “charged” to protect me and also hang out with me when I was lonely, bored, or needing a little creative time. I was extremely shy as a kid, and I lived in an imaginary world sometimes, and my little sister was too young at that point to be my pal yet, so Making Butter and Teresa were my tribe.

Also, that crack in my closet was terrifying. I was convinced the devil or some evil being lived beyond that crack, but Making Butter and Teresa were pretty fierce, so they slept in the closet and kept the bad stuff at bay so I could live my happy kid life. In the day, when all bad stuff drifted away, they’d slink along with me doing whatever I’d do.

One day, when I was about eight, I realized I didn’t need them anymore, or at least not in the same way. They hugged me and understood—it was time—so they moved across the street to the house beyond the wooden fence.

It was great having them as my first friends, for I haven’t always had friends that good—nor have I always been such a good friend myself. Looking back, most of my friendships in my youth were the fair-weather kind. We’d talk about the important stuff, but when things got really hard or bad, or even just too inconvenient, we’d drift apart, sometimes out of self-preservation, sometimes because we didn’t like who we were becoming with that friend, sometimes just because we were tired of them.

But Making Butter and Teresa were real friends—the way Jesus said friends should be. In the Gospel of John, our savior told his disciples, who were his closest friends on earth, “This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-John 15:13 CEB).

Love is sacrifice! Love is thinking of others before self—just like Jesus did.

Love is what Making Butter and Teresa did for me: sleeping in my scary closet to protect me from evil, whether real or perceived. They put themselves on the front lines for me. And when I was ready to do life, they made another sacrifice and did what they knew was best for me: they stepped away so I could learn to be independent and face my troubles in a new way.

I like to tell my kids now about Making Butter and Teresa. They always giggle and want to know where in the world they got their names, and why “Making Butter” instead of, say, Timothy or Mike. For them, the stories are fun insights into “What Mom Was Really Like as a Kid,” which is always fascinating, I think.

But for me, those stories are a nice reminder of what real friendship and real love is like: Sacrifice. Selflessness.

Praise Jesus for the model of how things should be.

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