half a life away – finding a second self

The day I started school I made a friend.  We bonded in the playhouse, when some rough and tumble boys tried to knock our kitchen down.  Back in the 1960’s gender lines were carefully drawn, the boys had no place in the playhouse at all.  Anyway the friendship was born, and together we gently nurtured it for many years.

We left primary school for middle school, a place for girls with inspirational teachers and a wonderful sense of community.  We grew here, supported and encouraged at every step.  We even were taught environmental studies, something that our parents had never heard of, it opened our eyes to a bigger world.  It was a wonderful time, and in school and out we were best of friends.

Later, after leaving school, our friendship became tighter.  Together we had our first experiences of alcohol, of disco’s and dancing, of pubs and clubs, and eventually of romance and settling down.  Well, I settled down, my friend went off to have adventures.  Living in communes, traveling to places I had only dreamt of her life was exciting.  The last time I saw her was over thirty years ago.  She was back home between travels and she came to meet my new babies.  When she left she said they were planning to be gone for a couple of months.  That was in 1986.  We had no idea that it was to be 32 years til I saw her again.

Time went by, my life changed, we moved to new place, started a new life. My children were growing, my jobs changing, life carried on.  Always at the back of my mind I wondered where she might be.  Over the years I would ask friends, no one seemed to know, I heard she was in India, then maybe in Australia, no one was ever sure.

Social media began, and with it I started to look, typing her name into search engines, no luck at all.  Oh,well, I thought some friendships are made to last for just a while, where ever she was I hoped she was happy, that life was good.  I all but gave up hope of finding her.

Then, inspired by a TV programme, I searched for someone else,  a colleague in my first job, and to my delight I found him.  I fired off an email and waited to see if he would reply.  He did, and not only was he still living in the same place, impossibly he was in touch with my missing friend.

It seemed she had returned from her travels in China, India and New Zealand, about a year after I had moved away, the sliding doors of life and we had missed the opening.  She had also looked for me, wondered where I had gone, with no luck.  I was delighted to hear she was in the country and all was well in her world.

Weeks went by, and I almost forgot about it all.  Then last weekend an email arrived.  Within minutes we were talking on the telephone, and it was as if we had met yesterday. Half our lives we have been apart, how could that have happened?

Quickly we made plans and within the week we were sitting in a bar, in the home town of our youth, a place we had both left behind over twenty years before.  There was so much to say, it has taken me days process it all.  Our lives are so very different, we have faced challenges and found happy times but in very different ways.  Impossibly it felt fine, more than fine, it was almost like meeting a second self, here was someone who knew me at a time when I had no clue who I would be.

The hours flashed by, sadness at loss, happiness at good fortune,  we had so much to share.   Mostly I think I had a feeling of completeness.  A feeling of the circle being drawn and the world back on its axis.  We laughed at our teenage selves, at the ways in which we believed we were grown up, in the childish games of our youth, and the forever memories we had both held of each other and our families.

I am sure my drive to have a big family came from spending time in her house, which was always filled with her siblings, her Mum coming down the hall calling to us all.  I remember listening to her big brothers records,  and the feeling of beginning to grow up.  She remembers my birthday parties and the games my Mum would organise. She said that our house was always warm, and cosy, while I remember the excitement of her tall house with attics and cellars.

Our early days really do form our adult selves, of that I am sure.  The people we learned the lessons of life with are forever special in our hearts.  There is no hiding from those who knew you as a child.  There is so much that doesn’t need saying, and it is so hard to describe to others how it feels.

Sitting in that bar, endlessly laughing and remembering, we were also planning the blueprint for our future friendship.  I am in no doubt that we will meet again, and often, that we will grow older with the knowledge that we will not lose each other again.  My friend is back home now, with her husband who I don’t yet know.  I have tried explaining it to my husband and to my friends, I am not sure the words are working well.  We have messaged and texted almost daily, it won’t be long until we are together again.  Actually we already are.