Memories are elusive things. According to my friend, it was me who sat under a maple tree eating chocolate pudding when she, this little blond-haired girl wandered up to me and bravely introduced herself. According to me, it was she who was sitting under that maple tree eating chocolate pudding when I, a little frizzy-haired girl, wandered up to her and awkwardly introduced myself. Either of these stories could be true. We have never entirely agreed upon the finer details of that particular moment when we first met so many years ago. It is one of the few things of which we disagree. But it doesn't matter who made the first introduction (although just in case she is reading this, it was most certainly me). What is important is that, after over 35 years, we remain the best of friends.
From the moment we first met, we just got each other. We believed in fairies and unicorns and would climb the tree in my friend's backyard and see if we could spot them in the flowers below. Other days we would catch frogs at the pond near my home. It was there I once demonstrated how to pee outdoors successfully, a surprisingly useful skill for a child when there are no toilets around. I think she found me rather odd at the time. Yet our friendship remained.
In the summer our families would send us to camp. They told us it was because we needed to spend time outdoors, although I suspect the truth was they wanted time away from us and our constant questions. Parents and step-parents now ourselves, we are on to those tricks. My friend did not enjoy the camp. She would have preferred to sit quietly and read Narnia books. Yet, she did enjoy listening to our ruggedly handsome camp counsellor strum his guitar in the hours when the sky turned crimson. We also enjoyed sneaking out of our cabin late at night. We would stifle fits of giggles as we tried to catch fireflies in plastic cups still stained by the orange soda that had also stained our tongues. However, my friend did not enjoy the leaches that clung to our feet and drained our blood every time we swam in the camp pond. She routinely gave me the eyeball every time I dove in, despite her silent protests, reaffirming once again that I was a bit odd. Still, we continued to hang out, and we laugh when we think of those days now.
As young adults, we had different adventures. We'd go to parties and hang out with friends sipping cheap red wine that also stained our tongues like the orange soda of our youth. We stayed out too late and laughed too loud. Sometimes we got lost in strange cities and would giggle as we fumbled and stumbled our way back to our hotel. Such memories now make my dear friend cringe as she shudders in anticipation of her pre-teen daughter's impending adventures to come.
Many years have passed, and with each, we have encountered tremendous highs and devastating lows. And while we live in different countries and only see each other once or twice a year, when we do meet up, it is like no time has passed. We laugh and tease like we did when we were young, but at least our taste in wine has improved with age. I love to watch my friend with her daughter, a beautiful young woman who is growing up to be just like her.
My friend was recently diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) which is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves). Like my friend, many people find out they have MS between the ages of twenty and forty. Three out of four people of those diagnosed are women. While my friend acknowledges that she occasionally gets tired, she continues to persevere. Her main concern, as always, is that her beautiful daughter receives all the love and support she needs. She remains hilariously cheeky and delightfully kind. Charming, sarcastic, compassionate, and fun. And oh, so remarkably strong. None of this will ever change. But boy, do I wish I could find her a cure.
Red Paper Cranes is a painting that, for me, illustrates the passing of time, of loving and loss, and of supporting each other through trying times. Throughout our friendship, my friend has encouraged and uplifted me. She had faith in my abilities when I did not. She cheers me on when things are going well and lifts me when I have fallen. I hope she finds I do the same. We don't know where the wind will take us, but my wish to all who are reading is that you find someone to join you on your journey who is willing to hold your hand along the way. I am lucky enough to have found that someone in her.