I was recently invited by Readers Digest to submit a story about an imaginary friend from my childhood for an article about childhood imaginary friends.

Here’s what I remember about Bicky, my special imaginary doll friend.

For a birthday, my godmother, Aunty Helen, gave me a beautiful, double-jointed, porcelain doll. My mother named her Rebecca. Not old enough to pronounce her name properly, I called her Bicky. We became great friends, Bicky and I, and I loved her dearly.

One day, my younger brother, aged about 2½ years, picked her up and she slid over his back and crashed onto the floor, into hundreds of pieces. She was a very old doll and, of course, she was un-repairable! I was horrified – heart broken – as I felt I’d lost a special close friend.

On my 5th birthday, I started Primary school. It was a horribly confusing place for me and, at morning break I was sitting on my own, in the playground, feeling lost and miserable, when I heard a lovely voice.

When I turned around, I saw Bicky, my lovely doll, all together again, looking bigger than I remembered her and she was dressed, just as she used to look. She was standing over near the elm tree that covered the play area. I went over to her and we talked and she made me feel better about being at school. The time passed quickly until the bell rang for class and, reluctantly, I had to go back inside.

When I came out for lunch, I looked everywhere for Bicky, but it was noisy and she was nowhere to be seen. Next day, I hunted everywhere for her, but she had simply disappeared.

One day, I was walking home from school on my own, feeling sad and walking quite slowly, because my legs were sore and tired. A mile was a really long way for a little girl. From out of nowhere, I heard that lovely voice call my name. Looking round, I saw that Bicky was walking alongside me. She had come back! She stayed beside me, until I was nearly home, when she just disappeared.

After that, whenever I felt sad or lonely, Bicky would materialise, and we’d talk and laugh together, for a while, before she drifted away. My brothers used to tease me about talking to shadows.

One day, when Mum caught me sitting outside on the doorstep, talking to Bicky, I was asked what I was doing. I told my mother about Bicky, my doll friend, and was severely punished, for telling fibs. I soon learned not to talk about her to anyone. She became my special, secret friend. For a couple of years, Bicky was always around, when I most needed someone to talk to.

When my pregnant mother was about to have my sister, we three older kids were placed in an orphanage, while Mum was in the nursing home. It was wartime, and my father was in the army, training troops. There was no one available to look after the three of us, as many women worked, filling men’s jobs, while they were away at the Second World War.

When we arrived at the orphanage, a nun emptied our suitcases. She held up my old, worn, much-loved teddy that I slept with for comfort. Saying, “What a filthy ragged thing”, she dumped him, unceremoniously, into the rubbish bin. Without my teddy for company at night, I felt so miserable. I shouldn’t have worried, as Bicky found me crying that night, and she kept me company, whenever I felt lonely, over the next seven days.

Once I turned seven, I was sent to a violin teacher and had to practise morning and night, when I was first learning. I don’t think Bicky liked the noises I first made on the violin, as I never saw her again.

After a time, whenever I felt sad or upset, I would go to my room and take out my violin and play it. I think I may have replaced Bicky with my violin, which I would always play, if I were feeling upset. I’d start out slow and end up playing joyfully. This habit continued, until I became an adult and sometimes after that. I still have that ¾ size violin, plus the one I grew into.

© Helen McKay 2010