I have friends who are older, but I don’t have a friend I have held so close to my heart for so long. Crackly home movie footage shows me, six months older, trying to give Janet a good swat from my carriage, parked next to hers.
Our mothers were sisters, but we would have found each other anyway. I would have skipped up to her at recess, and said, “You look like someone who might enjoy fake swimming in your furnace room.” And she would have said “Yes. Absolutely. Let’s do that.”
We always knew we were lucky to be cousins who were friends, the same family dinners in dining rooms either blue or orange, depending on which sister was hosting, the same loud reunions, the same weddings in awful peach dresses and yes, the same funerals.
To laugh at the same absurdities in them and in us, and oh, those crazy mothers of ours.
It hasn’t all been enough giggling to have an entire Via-Rail train car turn on us, of course. There were the days of cautious measuring out of red kool-aid in her kitchen, crouched down at eye level to make sure not one of us got a single drop more, its own kind of oppression when you are young and thirsty. There were my bully days when I made her be Ken to my bossy Barbie, no matter what. Clearly, Mrs. Harriet liked her better. I became a teenage hooligan long before she did, and she’s always been nicer. And she has given me grace upon grace.
We have lived in different cities for years, but we wander the same inner streets often, tripping over the curbs and walking into telephone poles. We share a landscape, and that map of where we have come from. We overanalyze and overlaugh, and that last one not really enough.
So now I know what it is like to have a friendship that is 50 years old, thick trunked and strong as anything. It grows in the yard of that nutty family farm we share, but it is its own sturdy tree. I hang a swing from it, and find shelter and shade, always, beneath its leaves.