Saturday, 28 February 2015

Old Friends Are The Best Friends

If you live to be 100, I hope to live to be 100 minus one day, so I never have to live without you.
~ Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

To my bestie, on the occasion of your birthday (not a big one but on the downhill slide).

I remember the moment I met you, on the stairwell outside our Year 7 classroom the first day of high school. It was the end of January 1981 and I was just about to start my first year of high school in a big town 40 minutes drive from my home. I was from a small country village and the whole high-school thing was daunting to a socially awkward 11 year old only starting to find her place in the world. I was never one to makes friends easily, most of the time I simply preferred my own company or hung out with others who didn't fit in. I never ran with the in-crowd.

My mother's best friend, a woman of immense wisdom, told me to look out for a girl who would also be coming a long way from another small school and would know no-one. She was your school librarian, and said the same thing to you about me. She knew a perfect match when she saw one. From that moment on the stairwell we were woven together in the fabric of one universe. We were two outliers, and this would be the start of our unbreakable bond that has so far stretched 34 years. We joke about how long we have been besties, that it is the longest relationship of our lives. It's funny but it's true, if you take out family there is no one I've been closer to for longer.

From that first day at school we developed a friendship that lapped over into our out-of-school lives; spending many weekends together and going on each other's family holidays. We became extended family, and our parents just accepted as we got into our later teens that if we were nowhere to be found we must therefore be together and mostly out of harm's way. When I say mostly out of harm's way I'm including the time we drove down Sexton's Hill and the bonnet flew up on the jeep and you had to drive with your head out the window. I'm including the trip to Stradbroke Island in the campervan by ourselves when we seriously could have been axe-murdered by those guys and no one would have known. This was the first time I drank too much, and I remembered thinking how heavy my feet were as I wobbled across the caravan park.

I'm including all the times we found something (anything!) better to do than go to school sport and had to hear our names bellowed across the school assembly by Mrs. O'Brien the next day. I'm including the time camping when the spider came into my tent; the less said about that the better. I'm including the time we rode Melanie and another horse across the big paddock mostly out of control and you ended up on your backside and I thought I'd killed you. I'm including the time we climbed Mt. Warning and got soaked to the skin then went back into Murwillumbah wearing not a stitch of clothing but our long yellow raincoats. And I can't possibly leave out how we painted the top floor of your house apricot while your parents were away. They might have been less mad if you had moved the piano instead of painting around it.

Our friendship survived you leaving to another school. I loved how you wrote to me, telling me often how crap being a boarder was and what evil bitches the nuns were. I still have some of your postcards and letters from this time in our lives. I was lost at my school without you too, even if I did make friends with the nuns. After school we swirled in different directions for a few years, going to uni in different states, keeping in touch by letter and phone while spending time getting on with the business of finding out who we were. You were always my touchstone, the one against whom I measured all friendships. There were none to be had like you.

We both married in the same year in the mid-nineties; yours would last the distance, mine would become a car-crash after a few short years. We did the bridesmaid thing for each other with fluffy dresses and much fussing, most of it by long distance as you lived in the far north of Queensland and we both married on the Gold Coast. I remember losing my contact lens at your wedding and that it was so hot (January) sweat beads dripped from the end of my nose during the ceremony staining my taffeta bosom. I remember you fussing around me at my wedding, straightening my veil and attending to me when my matron of honour was lacking. I think you knew my first marriage was a mistake, but what I loved about you then and still do, is that you stand by me and my decisions even if you think I'm making the wrong one. And you are always there to pick up the pieces with me.

After that it's history, we've been back living close at hand to each other for more than 15 years. There are so many stories I could tell about our life together and so many photos I could blog for years. There is so much I could thank you for I don't even know where to start. So I'll just pick a few that come to mind. Thank you for coming to Hawaii with me by yourself leaving your whole family at home so we could have the girl's week we had booked, even though you were by then 4 months pregnant and already the size of the Hindenburg. Me - I had no excuse. We ate our way around Waikiki Beach like pros.

Thank you for always being there, knowing what needs to be done and just doing it. For the times you brought me casseroles when I was living and studying in Brisbane. For feeding me more than once or twice a week when we lived on Tamborine Mountain and I was batching it in the Rainforest House. For not only feeding my mum and Stan when mum was sick but the Brashness and I as well; I'll always think of my mum when I look at your lasagna.

Thank you for holding my hair while I threw up in the toilet at our hen's night for two. Thank you for being someone I can call when a tree falls on my car and you just find another car for me the same night (true). Thank you for helping me move more than a few times and being able to clear my head when I was just running in circles. I've never met anyone who can pack and unpack a house like you can.

Thank you for being a constant when I've had the rug pulled out from under me, for being a friend who loves me unconditionally and unvaryingly regardless of where I'm at in the universe. Thank you for sharing my disappointments, sadness, losses and grief, and not projecting your own expectations onto my situation. Thank you for always telling me when you thought I was making a mistake but you'd still love me and support my decision regardless. Thank you for never once judging me or saying I told you so, even when I really, sorely deserved it.

When I doubt myself even in my sometimes spectacular victories you are ready with your oft-repeated phrase that you never once doubted me for a second. Thank you for being there to share my successes because I know without you none of it would have been possible. It is your solid belief in me that has kept and still keeps me striving to achieve to my potential, even when I have had to change boats midstream more than once in my life.

Thank you for being my rudder when I was lost at sea.

Someday I expect we'll act out our long-held old-age fantasy of eating our way around Europe together before going into the same retirement village to eat ice cream, fried food and soft cheese all day (with our husbands of course). Until then, I'll raise a glass again with you to the last 34 years together and I look forward to the next 34, because old friends really are the best friends.

1 comment:

Kylie Tayler said...

What a beautiful tribute to friendship, Anna. We often forget to celebrate it like we do romantic attachments, which is sad because it's often a stronger and longer-lasting bond.