Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Friends, Part one

Today I had lunch and a long catch up with my friend, Bev who is visiting her two children who live not far from me. Driving home I've been reflecting on the power of our friendship - and upon friends generally.

Then I remembered that I had something I'd written a few years ago. I had a collection of short stories I called "Letter to Michael". Michael is my only grandson and when he was about twelve I put these stories together for him. This one is "Friends". It's probably a bit long so I will break it into two parts.

Part one
Sometimes people come into your life and you never know if they are going to be someone you remember in years to come or someone who will simply disappear again, make no impression, be forgotten in a few months or years.

But sometimes looking back it is like everyone was meant to be there, to serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson, or to help you figure out who you are or who you want to become.

You never know who these people may be and when you first lock eyes with them, you do not know at that very moment how they will affect your life.

The people you meet affect your life, and the success and downfalls you experience, help to create who you are and who you become. And we must never forget that we affect others’ lives too.

If a friend loves you, they are teaching you to love and how to open your heart and eyes to things.

Now, Michael, all that is easy to say. But life is not always that simple. As you go through life people come and go. Sometimes they walk along the same path as you for a while, they leave footprints beside yours, and then your paths differ and your footprints are left along different paths. Others you may never lose touch with, their footprints may be in a different place, but their impression stays with you.

Let me tell you about some of my special friends. Firstly there are the three girls who I first met in First Grade at school - Denise, Marie and Tricia. Marie and Tricia lived close to me so we walked the mile home from school together every day for eight years. We knew and loved each others Mums and Dads and brothers and sisters (except Marie didn't have a sister). Goodness knows what we always found to talk about but often when we got to the place where Tricia went down her street we would sit on the footpath and chat some more and then Marie and I would do the same when we got to the place where Marie took a short cut through to her home. Then I would be in trouble when I got home late because my mother was worried (although I always thought she was mad at me because there were jobs to be done).

I can still remember the day when we were about 10 when Marie and I had an argument although I can't remember what it was about. We walked all the way home on different sides of the road and Tricia walked behind me on the side we usually walked, obviously knowing it wasn't her argument but not wanting to take sides. I guess Marie got mad at me and not vice versa as she was the one who crossed the road to walk on the other side. But when we got to the spot where we parted each day we sat down together and sorted it out. A few years ago when I had visited Marie on one of my trips home to Brisbane, her youngest daughter came home crying because she had had an argument with her friend, and was vowing never to speak to her again. As we were saying goodbye we hugged and Marie said, "My, dear, dear friend. In all those years only once have we had cross words. What did we argue about that day? We could never fall out for more than 10 minutes, could we?"

How blessed I have been to have been sent a friend such as Marie. We were very different children and grew into very different adults but we formed an accepting friendship, we accepted each others differences but loved each other all the same and that has been a very important lesson in life to me. Friends such as this are the ones I say "leave footprints in your heart".

When it came time for us to go off to high school, Marie and Tricia went to the same private school as Denise, another girl who had been in our class at school, and I went to another which wasn't as expensive, as my family had more children and did not have as much money as the others. Denise was a girl I was friends with at school but lived so far from us we rarely saw each other outside school. Once we started high school I rarely saw her at all except at church occasionally. But Marie and Tricia and I stayed firm friends.

In those days most kids left school at what is now Year 11. We had sat State exams at the finish of primary school (every child in Queensland sat these exams) and your marks here determined whether you would do academic subjects at high school (only about 10% got a high enough mark to do those) or be educated to earn a living. Like most girls my age I learnt English, Maths I and II (Maths II was algebra and stuff), Geography, Latin, shorthand and typing. Much to my surprise and I think everyone else's shock, I earned five As and two Bs in the state exams we sat at the end of Year 11.

With marks like that I quickly found a job in a government department in the city and became a working girl, or, as the snobbish lady who lived next door said (and fell out with my mother forever), a two-a-penny typist. Dear Mum who was so placid and easy going - I had never seen her so upset and indignant.

Marie also worked for a government department in the city as a typist, whereas Tricia who wasn't very good at school but was artistic, beautiful and had a lovely nature, was employed as a receptionist by the local doctor. But Tricia not working in the city didn't mean we lost track of her, she caught the same train to work as Marie and I did although she only rode from our railway station to the next one at Banyo, and could have caught a later train but came on our train so we could have that time together each morning. We hadn't been in the working world for long when Denise started getting on the train at Banyo and taking the seat Tricia had just vacated and in this way Denise came back into my circle of friends. I can't remember how quickly it happened but Denise and I enjoyed doing the same things whereas Marie's interests differed, and it wasn't long before Denise and I were inseparable, and she became my closest friend throughout our late teen years.

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