Yesterday, The Boy, The Baby and I got together with my three best friends from school. One of these lovely girls has a son, Luke, who is the same age as The Boy, and despite the fact that it’s a year since they saw each other, they had an absolute ball playing together. It’s one of those friendships where it doesn’t matter that they don’t often get to spend time together; when they do, it’s like they’ve never been apart.
And it’s much like that for me and my friends. We’ve all known each other since the age of 11, when we were thrown together in the same tutor group at secondary school, all shiny shoes and sparkling new uniform. Jill and Ali had been to primary school together, and I vaguely knew Lou through orchestra, but I don’t remember how or why we ended up becoming a unit of four. Were we all seated together at the same table, or did we seek each other out as like-minded people? I honestly have no idea, but the friendship that we formed during those first weeks of high school has endured.
During our teenage years, we shared all the usual rites of passage. We were each other’s first drinking buddies, went on church camp together, whispered about boys and sobbed on each other’s shoulders when those oh-so-important first flings didn’t work out. We had wild parties when our parents were on holiday, glammed up for the sixth form ball, plastered ourselves in black make-up during our goth phase and toasted each other with perry when we passed our GCSEs.
Then our lives went different ways. We all went off to university, but in four different directions. And we’ve never really gone back. Jill and Lou qualified as teachers, Ali as a nurse, and me as a journalist. Lou spent a year in Cambodia. Jill and I coincidentally spent a year living within a few miles of each other – 100 miles from where we grew up – but then she moved back nearer home. Christmas Eve, when we’d all ‘go home’ and gather in the local Wetherspoons before heading off to The Pig – the indie club we’d been going to since we were rather younger than we should have been – became the glue that held us together.
It’s now 21 years since Jill, Ali, Lou and I first met. Twenty-one years. Between us, we’ve shared three weddings and one incredibly sad funeral, and have produced two five-year-olds, two toddlers, two babies and one bump. It’s hard to think back to a time when we were brand new Year Sevens with our neatly pressed uniforms and neatly sharpened pencils. Our lives have all taken very different courses, and we routinely go 12 months without seeing each other, but whenever we do, it’s like no time at all has elapsed. We all have newer friends who we see more often and, no doubt, confide in more regularly, but the four of us have shared so many experiences – happy, sad, downright heartbreaking – that we’ll always have a special bond.
So when I saw Luke and The Boy playing happily together with no regard for the year that has elapsed since they last played, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Because a true friendship doesn’t depend on daily phone calls or weekly get-togethers; it’s something that can spring back to life despite 12 months of neglect, and be just as good as it ever was. Wherever our lives take us, we’ll always have those shared experiences, and we’ll always – I hope – be able to turn to each other in both happy and sad times.
Here’s to you, my lovelies, and to another 21 years of friendship – at least.