It started with a Christmas card. I remember walking into the classroom and spying it sat neatly on my desk.
Even now she’s still so good at remembering to make people feel special. I’m always amazed that each time I go to her house there is a prettily wrapped gift on the side, or a card with a name. I don’t think she ever forgets a Birthday. I guess that inside my card there were words along the lines of ‘would you like to be my friend?’; we were only 8, afterall. Oh, the exciting prospect of a new friend, a real friend.
Back then life was all about dens in the bushes and dance-offs in the playground. It was all so innocent and my memories are cocooned in a yellowy late-summer haze where we ran round in peddle-pushers and lace-up pumps; I like it that way, too.
We would spend hours writing songs together in notebooks before recording our words hunched over the tiny record player in the corner of her bedroom: one piece of vinyl with a minute or so of instrumental music played over and over alongside our voices, made its mark on the small tape-deck. How I cringed when she took that tape to school and played it in music class; I have always admired her fearless confidence.
I reminisce about how I would sit outside on the brick wall kicking my heels until she finished her lunch; it seemed unfair that our playtime should be made to wait because I had sandwiches and she hot meals. And how in awe I was of her mum who, after school, could be found lounging in her bikini enjoying the late afternoon sun or designing some fantastical dance outfit. After school at my house meant sausage casserole and a muddy dog walk.
We embraced our differences; we still do.
And so our friendship weaved its way almost seamlessly through teenage angst, first love, lost love, jobs, travels, second love, careers, no love. There were letters typed when bored at my office job and posted off to her new exciting life in Blackpool. I have photos of her in my first flat when she came back to visit, she is wearing spectacles and I am reminded of how grown up and sophisticated she seemed to me. I remember how she then returned to our hometown and then cried when I promptly ran off to Japan; I remember how she cries every single time I run off. But I always come back… to be at her side when she married, to be the first to hold her newborn daughter.
Now I am here again, and for that I am glad.
We sit in her kitchen drinking tea and marvel at the life of a friendship, how one minute the most important thing between you is if your chosen fluorescent socks will complement each others at the school disco, and then suddenly you’re here going through marriage and childbirth, talking about dreams and compromises, school uniforms and no school, pasts and futures.
Suddenly I realise that our friendship is like a patchwork quilt with a million-and-one memories sewn into each square and somehow there isn’t a thought I have that doesn’t include her in some way, no matter how small.
“It’s like getting older just crept up on us, isn’t it?” she says.
And she’s right, because suddenly I am supporting her through something we could not have contemplated at eight-years-old and I realise that there is a deeper meaning to my being here. Static. It is because I am needed; to help out with the school run, to share wine, to offer a hug, and there is truly nowhere else I would rather be right now because our friendship of nearly 30 years, with all its ups and downs, assures me that this is right where I should be.