My mum has two best friends – sisters. Nothing extraordinary about that – except they have been friends for the best part of sixty years. All three, are daughters of military men, veterans of WW2. Their childhood soaked in adventure from the echoed hallways of the Royal Britannia Military Barracks, and monkeying the strong, rooted limbs of the two hundred year old horse-chestnut tree, that every Autumn strewn the shiniest, hardest conkers adjacent to the grand old building. Good girls, in all sorts of gob stopper, jolly hockey sticks mischief.
School finished. The girls went their separate ways. All three married. Mum, after pushing me and my brother out, juggled her work in antenatel . One of the sisters went into the travel industry and the other dedicated her life to find a cure for AIDS.
So, in reality, for those 40 odd years in between then and now, common ground was non existent. Their lives, as far reaching as if they lived in opposing solar systems. Stuffed between, deaths, divorces, births and weddings there were natural gaps in contact, sometimes, for months on end. All living their own lives – locked up in their own worlds. But friends they stayed.
Fast forward 60 years. All three now retired, us kids at 40 something are just about looking after ourselves. So the girls are back together. Giggling like school kids, my dad informs me. Brisk dog walking, trampling over the heath together ( minus the hockey sticks I hope ), girly dress up theatre nights and regular lazy Vino induced lunches. I love it. I love that they are doing this. I am in awe of this friendship. But I defy anyone who thinks this is the norm.
Of course, I applaud their dedication, and if I was really honest, a little envious, that the root , like the old Chestnut tree outside the barracks, that grew them, still holds steadfast. There is no catching up to be done, no awkward back story moments, where, to understand the now, you have to understand the then.
At the moment, for me friendship is hard. I guess moving to a new country seven years ago wiped the slate clean. In some ways a blessing, a fresh start, new career, new me. But since becoming a mum, giving up the day job and spending my time in the ‘mummy world’ – the reality is- it’s not about you anymore. It’s just the common ground of that life changing slide from independent to parenthood. Friendships are different now. If the kids get on and have fun – so what is the mother is a pain in arse? It’s about where Lily is at and that’s an ever flowing, hold onto your nappy bag, white water ride.
So I struggle and I find myself continuously filling in the gaps, or more recently, not sharing who I am with new friends so exhausted by my need to back story and fear that if I don’t add some depth , no-one will know who I am apart from my label of ‘Lily’s mum’.
But I really want to. I intend to work at it. I finally understand, as with a good wine, it takes time to reach maturity with a friendship worth holding onto. It layers, gradually over time with shared experiences, good and bad and that in turn adds to the complexity and to the colour of the friendship.
So from now, back stories not required. If I full stop it at this moment in time, they are in the story, in the moment with me now. Yes, I might be 40 years of growth behind the three amigos – but at least now my energy is free to enjoy my friends as we find ourselves today.