Many people will walk in and out of your life but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart. Eleanor Roosevelt
We all need friends and there has seldom been a time when we’ve needed them more than we do right now. The pandemic has really shown us the value of true friends – mine have definitely kept me sane throughout the lockdown and without them it would have been easy to sink into lethargy and depression. With the days blurring into one another (my husband has taken to calling every day “Blursday”!), having a weekly FaceTime chat or Zoom meeting to focus on has helped me to stay motivated. After all, when your friends ask you what you’ve been doing, you don’t want to just say ‘vegging out’! And emails from lovely friends lift the spirits no end, not least when you hear that they are safe and well and you can breathe a sigh of relief.
I’m thinking about this today especially because it happens to be the birthday of my very oldest friend – happy birthday G! – not in the sense of her age but the length of time we have known each other. And it’s made me reflect on the huge importance of the kind of friends you can really be yourself with and who probably know you better than you know yourself. Those are truly special.
Friendship is when people know all about you but like you anyway. Unknown
My BFF and I met when we were five years old. I lived in a small town in Sweden, and during the winter the council used to pour water onto the local football pitch in order to make an impromptu ice rink. All the neighbourhood kids went there and as it was only one block from my home, so did I. At first, I think my mother took me, but later I was allowed to go by myself. I would just put protectors on my skates and slither along the snowy sidewalk until I got there.
One day we noticed a little girl standing by the side of the ice, hanging onto her mother’s hand and virtually hiding behind her. She had dark hair and the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen – she was adorable, although of course things like that didn’t register much with me at the time. I’m not sure how it happened, but my mother must have talked to hers and they encouraged us to start skating together. It probably took quite a lot of prompting from her mother as she was so shy, but it was the beginning of a beautiful and life-long friendship and I will never forget that day.
Later that year, we ended up in the same kindergarten and again, she was very shy, but I wasn’t and I took no prisoners. I was an incredibly bossy little girl (typical Leo!) and she was too nice so she let me get away with it. When we started primary school (which was withing walking distance), we walked together up the street every day – she picked me up as she lived furthest away, and we collected another friend a bit further on. That became the pattern for the next six years.
My BFF tells me that she had to put up with a lot from me as, apparently, I always decided what we were going to play and how, but we laugh about it now and I don’t think she really minded. She was an only child and probably loved having someone to spend time with. At one point I tried to give her my little brother in exchange for her best doll, as I figured she needed him more than I did, but funnily enough my mother put a stop to that scheme. (Aren’t little brothers just so annoying? Well, I thought so at the time, but my friend liked him). I also drove her crazy by singing along – badly and loudly – to all the records we played. She is very grateful I’ve stopped doing that at least, as these days I recognise my limitations in that department!
Now my friend is a very determined and capable woman and no one bosses her around – in fact out of the two of us, I would say I’m probably more reticent. We spent many years apart when I moved abroad but we kept in touch throughout. Whenever we talk or meet up, it feels as though time has stood still – we are exactly the same people we’ve always been and just pick up where we left off. There is never any need for pretence or false politeness. We can be ourselves and we know all each others’ secrets so don’t hide anything. It is incredibly relaxing and I am so grateful I met her all those years ago!
Good friends are like stars – you don’t always see them but you know they’re always there. Unknown
True friends don’t have to be of long standing, like my BFF, and I am extremely thankful for more recent ones who I have met through being part of the publishing world. The fact that we all share a passion for books and writing is incredibly bonding and make other authors and readers so easy to talk to and relate to. Some of them have become extremely important to me – like the lovely Wenches – and I am so glad I met them! Genealogy is another area where I’ve made some incredible friends (and found distant relations I never knew existed) – when I started the project of mapping out my family tree I thought I would just end up with a lot of names and dates on a family tree, but it has turned out so much better.
Perhaps the pandemic will have a silver lining by creating lots of new friendships? I keep hearing about lovely neighbours helping each other out, people starting walking groups just to get out of the house, online groups to combat the loneliness, and others chatting across hallways or balconies to someone they must have seen frequently, but never really had time to stop and talk to. Adversity definitely creates a bond and it would be great if something good came out of this situation.
I don’t know what I would have done without friends this past year (and more) – I hope there is someone very special in your life too, with whom you can really be yourself!
Do you have a best friend? When and where did you meet and what makes them special? Or have you made any great new friends because of the pandemic?