I am blessed with many friends, some of whom have been with me for almost 40 years.
Like most Moms, mine kept a baby album which I treasure above all others. In it are photos of my very first friends.
I vividly remember Isabelinha. Her parents were neighbours of my Great-Grandparents and she was a few years older than me. She had a younger sister and we were all friends until I left to live in another country.
About the time I turned 6 another little girl came to live next door. Her name was Mercedes. Very soon we became friends, and the trio because a quartet. It was not a happy quartet. Mercerdes was closer in age to Isabelinha and they became quite close. I felt the tendrils of jealousy enclose my heart as I was left behind on adventures, skipping and hopscotch on the pavement.
Strangely Mercedes and I also became good friends. Such are the ways of children. The day I left was the last time I saw them.
In my adopted country my first friend was again a neighbour. We went to the same school and in the afternoons one of us used to holler the other’s name over the wall – the daily call to play. When my family moved to another town we exchanged letters and birthday gifts. We started seeing less of each other, the letters becoming less frequent until we completely lost touch.
We grew up and moved on with our lives, the young girls we were became young women. We didn’t accompany each other’s maturing. When we met, as adults, we found that we had little in common. The strands of family and childhood memories got frailer as ethereal time became physical space. We again lost touch until recently, with the wonder of Facebook, we found each other again.
Friends for a season have come and gone. On close examination I know they were in my life for a reason. There was never a definite ending to these friendships, no acrimony or harsh words. Just an ebbing of contact, of not needing to be together anymore. They came for a season and the season moved on. Their friendship is part of who I have become and in my heart they will always be my friends, never strangers.
Then there are the evergreen friends. You know the ones I mean. Those that are with us all the time. Distance and time are of no consequence because each time we meet after being apart for a few years, we pick up where we left off. There is no strangeness or a need to re-establish rapport because it is always there. There is a familiarity, a recognition that goes beyond the present.
Many live in other countries and we meet every few years.
During the first day of high school I noticed a girl in the same class as me not wearing the official dark green school jersey. Her jersey was light green and as our eyes met across the classroom I knew that we were going to be friends.
Our friendship was strengthened with movies and burgers at the Wimpy, our parents taking turns driving us to the mall. Initially we were 2, then 3, and by the time we got to grade 10 we were a group of 5. This quintet became quite close.
We stayed close during our student years, got married within 2 years of each other, celebrated the birth of children and showed off our first homes.
These are friendships with the unforgettable bonds of firsts – first boyfriends, first kisses, first break-up heartaches, first successes and first failures.
And then there are those friendships forged with the insight of adulthood have the established deep roots of shared values and beliefs. These are the friends I share with openly, my fears, dreams and secrets, those who know me better than I know myself, those who encourage me and also tell me when I’m being silly or unrealistic. There’s a saying that friends are the family we choose for ourselves – these are they.
Friends have come into my life for a season of growth and then left. Others have come and have stayed in my life, season after season, my evergreen friends. I am grateful for them all.