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Tucked up by 10

April 4, 2015

Some friendships endure, you meet as children and know each other for ever, slipping in and out of each other’s company with ease no matter the circumstance and duration of the time you’ve spent apart. Other friendships come and go with phases of your life. Some people you know for years but never really feel as if you know each other properly, and others you meet later in life and all of a sudden they’re deeply ingrained in you, in your world and in what feels like your very being all a matter of moments.

My mother has lost many friends over recent years, it’s accelerated this last year, so many wonderful women, so many people that have been a part of the background of my growing up and life at home. Last year one of her oldest friends, and just last week one of her most recent. When I say most recent I mean she’d only known her for  20 years as opposed to 70 or 80 … she’s mourning the loss of someone she chatted to most days, someone with whom she sighed over the scrapes their troublesome daughters got themselves, someone who she shared endless proud stories of grandchildren, and someone who was only in their early 70s (as opposed to mid 90s), a spring chicken in the scheme of things, a late addition to the rich tapestry of her life… but she’s bereft. We saw her just before she died, quite literally. Mummy sat quietly, I stood in the kitchen with her two daughters, and mine, the latter was a little bemused by the silence and the tears, she took it into her head to sing, something she often does when she’s bemused, she went in and stood by her Granby, her rock, my mother, and watched the sleeping sick friend, “One more step along the world I go, One more step along the world I go, From the old things to the new, I’ll go travelling along with you” … she came back into the kitchen and asked for a biscuit. A few hours later we had the phone call to say Mum’s friend had died, surrounded by her family and having spent the morning with her friend beside her. Sad times, and the funeral still to come.

Two weeks on and I spent the day with friends, two of them, both new in the scheme of things.

One I got to know through work, she lives locally and we’d shared the odd drunken post conference chat, then I became pregnant, and a few months later so did she. Her son is my daughter’s ‘boyfriend’, they’ve known each other all his life and all but 2 months of hers. We now drink tea together, go to playgroup and share photographs on facebook of our small folk. They were Mary and Jesus, they play well, the are calm and happy together. She makes me happy, she grounds me, she’s 11 years younger than me, beautiful, elegant, poised and articulate, we’re different, but we’re friends, good friends.

I had to drag my small person away when we left, she wanted to stay with her boyfriend and his big sister, to play on, to paint spots not just on her finger nails but her toe nails too, to play with trains and to laugh. She was fractious as we ran to the car.

Half an hour later we arrived at a little cottage up a pretty lane. It was raining, but she ran from the car clutching an Easter egg in shiny paper to give to her friend. I had a bottle of Prosecco and a box of incredible vine tomatoes for mine. I got to know this second friend as she has a shop, a wonderful shop with the most remarkable ecclectic mix of vintage stuff, amazing cards and buttons. Not in town but in a diversified farm court yard … easy to drive in, park, rush in, grab a present and belt out again in under 10 minutes. Perfect for someone that hates shopping as much as I do. Over the years we got to know each other, she laughed when I ran in, and somehow passing the time of day became friendly chats. We both of wild hair, both wear some of the same clothes, though she is petite and I’m not, she has a mischevious wicked sense of humour and talks alot of sense. We became friends. She found she was pregnant, I wished I was. Her pregnancy progressed as I prepared for IVF, her daughter was born a few weeks after mine was conceived. They’ve become friends because their mothers are friends, chalk and cheese, but good friends. They phone each other up, they pretend to phone each other up, they nag us to spend time together then squabble over plastic bunnies and bits of ribbon or toy tractors but cry when they have to leave each other. My friend and I haven’t ever had a night out together, but tonight we had a night in.

Pizza and garlic bread with the girls, and then we sat by, we laughed and we cajoled as they played, danced, ate and then bathed together. Games spilled over into tears as bath water flooded onto the floorboards, then they continued, talking, giggling, watching each other and playing separately content in each other’s company. We sat on the sofa and supped warm fizz in wine glasses and shared musical moments. The songs playing loudly on my mobile phone, Nothing Ever Happens by Del Amitri, 500 Miles from the Proclaimers, a bit of Bruce, a couple from the Cure, the Waltz of the Flowers and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker. The girls danced and they played, we listened to Elvis laughing his way through a Lonesome night and then swapped stories of early boyfriends, college discos and cheesy love songs. We heard the Power of Love, and Thank you for the Days, and then realised it was about 2 hours past bedtime for the girls … neither of them was showing any sign of tiredness, one in a dinosaur towel, the other a pink tutu. We moved the party to the kitchen, I put on Gloria by Laura Branigan, we talked of holiday romance 30 years ago and our girls held hands and galloped around the kitchen. I had to drag my small person away, she cried, she wanted us to stay there, to bring her friend with us, not to leave. I didn’t want to leave either, but when we did, the feeling of warmth and happiness came with us.

She fell asleep minutes after we set off, I carried her in to the house and into bed, a while later she had a little dream and called out. It was 11pm … we’d had the best afternoon and evening, the best night out for ages and had been home and tucked up by 10!

I got up when she called out, I settled her, and I looked at her. I wonder if in 20 years time she’ll still know her two little friends, I hope so… and I’m so happy she’s growing up surrounded by loving strong women, just as I did. My mother’s friends were an amazing example to me and were people I’ve turned to for support time and time again, and I know that my friends (quite aside from her aunts, uncles and godparents) will offer that to her whenever she needs it.

We’ve a funeral to go to this week, and I’ve got my mother to support.  Losing your friends, the people who in no small part make you feel you, is one of the desperately sad problems with growing older … and the realisation of that makes me cherish mine ever more closely.

Back to bed now with a smile on my face and a song on my mind that I first heard when I was a love struck teenage au pair on a Greek island a million years ago, but a song that now makes me think of a new friend laughing and two little girls giggling and twirling hand in hand.

friends

                            friends

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 6, 2015 9:28 am

    A beautiful post. It’s so lovely to see the little ones making friends and I do wonder which of them she will still be friends with when she is older.

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