Recently, I attended the funeral of the mother of one of my best friends, and a second mother to me. The event was supposed to have been a sad one, but I dare say, when I sat amongst my childhood friends, I was overwhelmed with the feelings of joy, comfort and belonging.
These were the friends that I’d had since I was 9 years old – the ones I’d told about my first kiss, my first period, and the ones to whom I still confided my deepest secrets. Although we are all scattered throughout the world, our friendship has remained like an elastic band, stretching us over the miles, but inherently whipping us right back into our intimate circle as life strikes its glories and blows. We have gathered for weddings, premature baby births, the untimely passing of spouses, the passing of parents, and milestone birthdays. People often marvel that we have remained friends for so long, and indeed at the same funeral, those who had known us as children exclaimed at our long-lasting friendship. I think that the glory of these friendships boils down to one simple thing ...the truth of them – these are the people who know me. There is no sense in pretending, of donning the mask of adulthood that may have mutated childish dreams into that of wife, parent or career woman. It makes no sense, for these are the friends who were there through the unfurling of my wings from the cocoon. Not only do they know the caterpillar that I once was, but they understand in every sense of the world, the very cocoon that I emerged from.
My aunt’s passing has undoubtedly left me with a gaping hole of sorrow, yet a fulfilling joy at having once again been around my dear friends. We all sat, the age of fifty looming over our heads, giggling at silly jokes we’d shared at 9 years old.
This is a message that I've always given my children. I tell them to revere their childhood friendships, to hold on to those who are tried and true. Those who have had your back, and those who have shoved you forward (from even miles away) when your steps faltered. There is no getting around that treacherous journey to adulthood, but when life whips and tosses you through the storms, it is these friendships that form the gravity to ground you back to earth. You can never be too rich, too poor, too beautiful, or too successful for those who have seen you with your teenage acne and pooled finances with you to buy a sandwich at university. You cannot escape with these friendships, to be reminded of who you truly are. If the journey has puffed up your chest, or even deflated your dreams, rest assured that a reminder of your humility and your worth is only a phone call away.
My childhood friendships have taught me to never take for granted the people who allow you to be unequivocally, truthfully, proudly …yourself.