On Thursday afternoon the girls and I piled into the car to visit a friend. This friend happens to be someone I know from my own school days. We met in elementary school, shared secrets and sleepovers, gossip and glimpses of cauliflower ears. In high school, our paths diverged when she gave up Catholic school kilts for a school that specialized in the performing arts. Sadly, we lost touch. We moved on to new friends, boys, university, more new friends, jobs, men. She met and married the love of her life; I moved to new continents and found mine.
Then, I moved back home. Heartsick at the thought of leaving the friends we had come to know and love in England, I joined Facebook. And reconnected with my old friend. Excited that we were once again living in the same city, we decided to meet up. I remember driving with my husband to their house, both nervous that we would no longer have anything in common and curious to hear about what she had been doing for the past fifteen years. I shouldn’t have worried. She was every bit as engaging and welcoming as she had been all those years ago, and we laughed when we discovered our husbands had even gone to the same high school. We reminisced about our own school days, caught up on news about all our shared friends. Our husbands discussed house renovations and manly toys – I mean tools. We talked about how all our friends seemed to already have babies and how we felt left out and unsure about whether or not we wanted that for ourselves.
We left that cold winter’s night full of smiles and warmth (and not just from the hot chocolate and Baileys). Having lived overseas for years, we had been finding it difficult to find our places again. In London, people our age were still living with flatmates and backpacking across Europe; at home everyone seemed to be married, with kids and cars and a mortgage. Most had figured out what they wanted to do years ago and had already settled into some kind of career. And though they were happy to have us home, we felt a bit like Peter Pan’s lost boys who had never grown up. I really don’t know what it was, since in reality my friend should have been a Wendy: all grown up with a husband and a mortgage. But somehow she managed to make us feel like we were understood; that our lives, though different, were on the same level.
A few weeks later, we both found out we were pregnant, due within days of each other. Since then we have shared the journey of pregnancy, childbirth, sleepless nights and puke-soaked days. We spent our maternity leave introducing our girls to music classes, picnics at the park, the swimming pool, and girly chats over tea. We fussed over how much they ate, wondered whether we would ever sleep through the night again, and fantasized about the sleepovers and mischief to come.
Fast forward a few years. My second child came along; she had twins. Play dates now mean less time spent chatting and drinking tea, more time spent juggling children and diapers and messes and food. Our parenting experiences have been very different: vaginal birth vs C-section; breastfeeding vs bottle; singleton birth vs multiples, but when we talk I still feel like we are on the same level. We share stories, advice, laughter, and frustrations. I can tell her how things really are without worrying that she will pass judgement. When we get together, I feel like I can really be myself, neuroses and all (she once told me that, just once, she would like to see my daughter in a bib that said ‘Monday’ when it was Friday. I don’t think it ever happened). And every time we visit, I still leave smiling.