Monday, August 5, 2013

Friendship...and Girlfriends, Sisters and Daughters....

Class of 1973, CCGGS, Canberra, Australia



An invitation to attend the 40th Reunion of the Class of '73 at the Canberra Church of England Girls' Grammar School has recently arrived, in a very modern manner, via a closed group on Facebook.
For the "girls"with whom I have already spoken, it had been a surreal moment in time...is it really 40 years since we left school.? We all know we have changed, have had major life experiences along the way, and so why is it that we all feel so much the same?

I have been thinking about the concepts and realities of friendship.

I met my first girlfriend on my first day at school in 1961 at Loreto Convent Kirribilli, in Sydney.  We were seated next to each other and when we emerged from our very first day at "big school" we found our anxious mothers standing beside their cars speaking with each other.  For both of them it was the first day at school for their first born...many years later I was to empathise with their fears, and feelings of pride, when my daughter ran to me after her first day, outside her school, Loreto Convent, Nedlands, in 1988..

My friend from Kirribilli, and her family have remained my friends throughout my life.  When I went back to Kirribilli as a boarder at 11 years of age, her family supported me, and my parents, by having me as their "other family member" every Sunday for 4 years.  I attended the funeral of her father last year, and it was as if time had stood still, if not the ravages of age on our faces, as her siblings, all 5 of them, and her mother and I reminisced about those early days of barbecues and fishing on Sydney Harbour...and her brothers teaching me to be a "tomboy".

While I was a boarder at Kirribilli  I also met another lifelong friend with whom I remain very close, although we live on different sides of my vast continent.  Our various life experiences around the globe have meant that we have had years without contact at times, but when the connection has been reestablished, the friendship has immediately overwhelmed all else and our telephone conversations have been between friends who need to "catch up" on each other's news, as if the intervening years have been, as if in a moment of time, standing still.

We were together in Sydney recently.  I travelled from Western Australia and she from Queensland to spend time with my daughter.  We never leave each other without promising to either Skype or make another rendez-vous.  As we have discussed, a friendship which can endure 45 years deserves nurturing.

When I left Kirribilli in 1970 to rejoin my family in Canberra I went to CCGS and met a friend who perhaps knows me even better than I know myself.  Changing schools in the mid-teen years is a very difficult experience;  and through our teenage years we shared the laughter and tears of first time loves, won and lost, pimples  and parents...memories were made which time will never erode, although sometimes even now we have to remind each other about the details! We have shared many of  our live's  ups and downs, we have travelled across the country to support each other, and our children are friends.  

A precis of the teachers at CCGGS in 1973...thanks to the Reunion Facebook page

She and I are travelling back to Canberra together in November, with perhaps another friend whom I met in 1970 and whose parents nurtured me in my last year of school when I again boarded.  We had a great reunion in 1993...the memories of the "after party" remain vivid!

The 1993 reunion...CCGGS girls "all grown up" 

The progression through  life with marriage and having children naturally ensured  another group of friends...some of whom remained my friends after divorce.  It is a challenging time for friendship when a marriage ruptures.  But respect for the respective choices means that wonderful memories about shared times can remain precious...and a mutual understanding about the change of friendship can be nurtured.

And when life takes a path unplanned, the opportunity for new friendships blossoms.  One of my other dearest friends came into my life through her own difficult circumstance of having to leave a country during a period of internal upheaval.  Our paths crossed through a mutual acqaintance of mine, and longtime friend of hers, and we subsequently not only developed a life lasting friendship, but shared a business...and I introduced her to her husband, and proudly stood beside her when they were married.

Along the way there have been other girlfriends, and regrettably, as life proceeds, some friendships fall by the wayside, for many reasons - misunderstandings, the tyranny of distance, changing life circumstances...but new friendships in turn take their place.  I now Skype weekly, speaking French, with a girlfriend who lives outside of San Francisco, whom I met during my time recently at the Institut de Francais in Villefranche-sur-Mer. 

Friendships, I think, are often  the true pointers of our life's journey.

The most precious lifelong friendship I have is with my sister.  We argued as young children, we taunted each other as young girls, we lived together, unsuccessfully, as young adults, and we have shared moments of sheer joy with our marriages and the births of our children.  When the demise of my marriage crossed over into her life, she supported me, not only as a sister but as a friend.  She has nurtured her older sister many times. she has loved me unconditionally, she has admonished me about my life choices when she felt it necessary and she has cried with me through heartbreak. My only wish is that she is able to say the same about me.

So many stories to tell...lifelong friends...

But the most sublime life friendship I have is with my daughter. She and I know each other well.  We have laughed, we have cried,  and we have made each other immensely proud. To have this friendship is a joy I could never have expected or anticipated when I gave birth.

We all know that our lives are a journey which takes twists and turns and which allows for moments of sheer happiness and absolute heartbreak. 

And so, as my 40th school reunion nudges closer, we classmates of 1973 will also be remembering those of our year group who have died, young, midlife...all unexpectedly.  The stories we share are going. I know, to be heartening, full of memories of times past when we were young and wonderfully foolish; but in our fifties there are also going to be tales of poignancy, which we will all also respect as a component of the rich tapestry of life. 


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