When I was a small child, I had an imaginary friend named Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee. To me she was very real, and she went everywhere with me. I don’t know where the name Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee came from—that was her name, and I didn’t question it.
The spelling of Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee is phonetic. I didn’t know how to write when Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee was in my life, so her name never had letters in my mind, just sounds.
Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee was a little girl just my size. She had short, dark hair like I did. She was like me in every way, except she was naughtier. She didn’t want to eat her vegetables, and thought she should get dessert even if she didn’t eat her carrots. She talked back to my parents. She did bad things like get her clothes dirty and talk me into doing stuff I wasn’t supposed to do.
Whenever I got in trouble, I told my mother, “Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee did it.” If the toys were strewn all over the living room, “Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee did it.” If I tracked sand into the house from the sandbox, “Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee did it.”
My mother just rolled her eyes. Sometimes she let it go, and sometimes she called me on my blame-shifting. When she did, I felt terribly wronged. After all, in my mind Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee really had done the evil deeds!
I don’t remember when Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee became my friend. I think it was about the time we moved to Corvallis, Oregon. Maybe I was lonely and needed a playmate. The only kid I knew was my toddler brother. I remember playing with Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee all through the hot days of one summer, probably the summer of 1960, before I started preschool, though it might have been the year before.
And I don’t remember when Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee left me. But I’m pretty sure she didn’t go to kindergarten (and then first grade) with me in the fall of 1961.
By 1962 I spent my time role-playing with dolls, and I didn’t play with Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee anymore. I remember holding my life-size baby doll up to the window as my father drove our family to Seattle for the Worlds Fair in 1962, hoping the people we passed would think I was holding a real baby. (Babies weren’t strapped into car seats in those days.) My parents thought I was too young to go to the fair, and I was going to have to stay with my great-aunt, but I wanted people to think I was a big girl—big enough to hold a baby.
For years I forgot about Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee. Then sometime in adulthood, maybe when my own kids were young, she came back to me. Oh, the invisible girl who played with me didn’t return, but the memory of her constant companionship and comfort did.
At first all I remembered was that I’d had an imaginary friend. I didn’t remember her name. But then the name came back to me also. (You wouldn’t think I’d forget a name like Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee, but I did.)
I wish I could remember more about my days with Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee, about the time when with one accusation—“Ky-Bee-Chee-Bee did it”—I could make the world right again. Or at least try to make the world right. But grown-ups aren’t allowed to blame their mistakes on imaginary friends.
Did you have an imaginary playmate as a child?