When you meet her you’ll first notice the accent. European certainly, English – not quite, German, a hint. A mix of continental European and then you find out later that her accent is a mix of German until she was eleven and then from eleven on a mixture of British and Irish English. Raised by others in a faraway land. Though we never dwell too much on that. Only in the early days of our friendship did we sometimes talk about the train that took her and her sister away to safety by the people who had, she says, ‘Treated us so poorly’.
I gravitated towards her because I had left my family when I picked up and moved across the country leaving me constantly in search of a made-up family. Because I am made up of air and not earth, I gravitate upwards, flighty, and people like her give me weight, keep me rooted, still allowing me to fly but not too far away. I loved her accent first. Then I loved how we would sit in her living room, the large rubber plant that she had rescued dividing the living room and us, until we talked until dark, sharing stories and secrets and silent tears at things lost and never found again. The age difference between us never matters – I have never met a more contemporary contemporary, a more agile mind, someone interested deeply in everything, with a formidable memory, an excellent sense of humour and a great love of books and art.
Before I settled into married life, I used to host open dinners, dinners where everyone who had nowhere to go on a Sunday night was welcome to join in a family dinner. It started small and then upwards of 25 people would arrive with dogs and friends of friends. Everyone cooked and everyone cleaned. When I invited my friend she said “But won’t I be too old?” and I said “Not at all – these dinners are like salons, you’ll fit in perfectly and so she came bringing samples of her artwork. And I remember sitting next to her in my living room where we had dragged tables together so we could sit family style – and she sat next to me – I pushed my fork into the brussel sprout and met with nothing but resistance. It seemed I had forgotten to cook them. She chuckled in that way she chuckles, that makes me chuckle, and then we both chuckled and continued on. And once when she couldn’t make it everyone asked, “Where is she?” because she was missed. But friendships were made at these dinners and she became fast and good friends with my good friend Joanne and the three of us have become our own little family of sorts.
My mother and my friend danced around each other a bit. My mother sad that I had up and left her and planted myself across the country where I grew another family of sorts, my friend being a centrepiece of that arrangement – it hurt her but she never said anything. They were as different as night and day. My mother, the fun-loving woman, silly, given to circular arguments and occasional prejudices, weighed by the disappointments of her own life, but reaching always reaching for the stars anyways, and my friend, an intellectual, leftwing proponent of human rights and leftwing politics, weighed down by the disappearances of important people in her life and yet somehow they bonded over soap operas – something I am thankful to soap operas for to this day.
So this is just a little story of friendship. As most people who know me are aware, I am telephone adverse. My friend has her ‘quirks’ as well but not talking on the phone isn’t one of them. My phone ‘quirk’ creates problems, or at least I realize now that it does. A year ago my friend said to me on the phone after we had mixed up a date, that there was no point in her overcoming her quirks, and indicated that somehow it was all too late. But there was time for me and I needed to get over my quirk now. “Fix yourself.”she said. So I did. Or I am. I’m trying anyways. It has taken some effort (but really, not really, I just had to do it) and now I phone my friend quite regularly. And proudly, very proudly she says, “You used to phone your mother every day, didn’t you.?” And I say, ” Yes, yes I did.” And now I phone her every week. Because I love her and because I can overcome these things.