Monday, November 15, 2004

My Oldest Friend

Tonight I was thinking about what exactly people mean when they say 'oldest friend' because strictly speaking, Trevor, age 36, is my oldest friend. And that's a bit weird when I think about it because my mother is only in her early 40s. But I think that by and large, age is not really the main determinant that people use when they say 'oldest friend'. It seems to refer to the friend they've had the longest, which is odd, because the 2 friends that I've had the longest are both younger than I am.

My absolute oldest friend is Glen, who I have known since I was just 85 days old. I was her best friend the minute she came out of the womb (lucky girl, right?) and from day one, she and I were constantly paired together because we were only 3 months apart in age, and cousins to boot. Lots of people are friendly with their cousins, but she and I were honest to goodness friends aside from that, even though when I think about it, we're not very much alike. She is blonde (naturally), petite, quiet, demure, all the things that I am not. Maybe we are complimentary, or maybe we're just another odd pair, we certainly wouldn't be the first odd couple around. When we were little, our favourite thing to do was to play Barbies of course, and make bridal gowns out of toilet paper for them. And I would write plays, and we would perform them for the family (once, we did a dance, and we wore matching Vuarnet t-shirts and tye-dyed pushed-down tube socks). And we would play boardgames at Grandma's (Payday in particular) or else we'd play princess. Over the years, we have been to Chuck E. Cheese together, been stuck in an elevator together (thank goodness for Tiger Beat!), we've been on the Maid of the Mist together, seen Donny Osmond together, we bought the same skort (definition: part skirt and part shorts) sundress for our grade 8 graduations, sat in a heart-shaped jaccuzzi together, we've appeared in a calendar clinking glasses together, and once, when we were quite small, we "ran away from home" together, by which I mean we ran away from her home, and got almost to the end of her street before aunt Carol picked us up. And the funny thing is, we weren't so much running away, as going on a trip, because Carol had just given us brand new matching book bags, and we felt these bags were just so glamourous that they deserved some sort of destination.

When her sister got married, we were 12, and it inspired us to look through bridal magazines and dream about what our weddings would be like...of course we would be each other's maid of honour when the time came (note: when the time came for me, I didn't have any bridal party at all, since I married in another country). We also dreamed of going off to high school together, and sharing a locker (totally unrealistic, since I am a self-confessed locker slob), none of which ever happened, because we didn't even go to the same school as it turned out! When we went away to University, it was harder and harder to see each other while living in different cities, and last winter we briefly lived in the same city, but I spent most of my time unconscious or in the hospital, so except for a few daiquiris, we didn't see much of each other. But Glen is always in my heart, and always will be.

Lisa is my oldest non-relative friend. I first met her when we were in kindergarten, at the age of 5. That means we've been friends for 18 years, so we've seen each other through a lot of things. And when I stop to think about it, I realize that I've known Lisa longer than I've known Jana, my youngest sister! Isn't that crazy? I have memories of her from waaaayyyy back, and though we've had our ups and downs, she's always been there. When we were 9, I showed up to school one day with a new haircut, and Lisa was devastated. I had previously had hair down to my ass and Lisa had often entertained herself with my ponytail when we stood in line at the end of recess. I was there when she threw up on her desk during O Canada (and suspiciously, perhaps not coincidentally, she had tried her first sip of sambuca the night before....yes, this is still during elementary school).

She and I shared the common bond of being the most cultured 10-year olds in the school, and having both seen Les Miserables, we enlisted a couple of boys and put on a reenactment of it, filmed it, and had it shown at rassemblement, which was our school's version of a Friday afternoon assembly. I'm sure this must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but looking back, it was probably quite embarrassing. When we were 11, I spent a whole afternoon trying to show Lisa how to draw a diamond (many of you are incredulous at this, because my art skills are quite dubious...however, Lisa's are simply atrocious!!). At the end of the afternoon, the best we could do was to have her draw a square, and then tilt the paper. On one of our sleepovers, we discovered that we had the same bedding...unicorns! and we spent lots of time playing Family Feud on her computer (the "graphics", if you can even call them that back in 1991, are something I would just love to revisit now!). At 13 we started showing signs of multiple personalities, manifested as Liza and Everfresh (perhaps this is one of the reasons we both ended up pursuing psychology), which was a good excuse to be giddy and goofy, which we both are.

And she and I did end up going to high school together, though no, she was wise enough not to share a locker with me. And so I was there when the coupledom of Lisa and Doug began. In fact, and I hope to share this memory with her on her wedding day, just to embarrass her because I know how much she teased me for mine, I remember sitting in the library with her one day and Chris coming in and asking if she was going out with Doug. Lisa was very vehement in her denial --- NOOO!!, but rumours were swirling because of their cutesy behaviour at badminton practice. Of course, by the very next day, the NO had turned into a YES, and the rest, as the say, is history. I could not have known then that they would still be going strong today, but I'm glad my stupid brain bothered to make that memory, because with time, it has become precious. And Lisa was there for the various stages of my relationship too...the engagement party, the bridal shower, the reception. Gosh, it's been a wild ride, hasn't it? And things are really only getting started, we're both in our early 20s with lots more excitement to come, I'm sure.

So I think it's pretty safe to say that the position of my oldest friend is pretty unavailable, because there's just no getting rid of Glen :). We've shared secrets and dreams, but we also share common blood, and the half of my last name that comes before the hyphen. Over the years, I have had so many good friends and great experiences, many of them still in my life, some of them not, but leaving behind memories and valuable lessons so that I won't ever forget them. And the great thing is, I'm still making friends, still meeting new people. I can't say that I've recently written or produced any plays, and the last time I dressed something up in a wedding dress, it was T, and it was in my actual gown. I don't have any unicorns in the house anymore, I can't even say skort with a straight face. I don't want to be a New Kids on the Block groupie anymore, and I haven't been in a ball pit in Chuck E. Cheese or any other fine eatery since that episode of 20/20 that told us all the things you could accidentally touch when inside one of those things (believe me, you don't want to know). But as much as things have changed, for some reason, some friends are able to stay in your life and change right along with the times. One day I will hold Lisa's baby in my arms, and cry copiously at Glen's wedding. One day I will invite them both to my 40th birthday party and we'll all get drunk. One day we'll dance the funky chicken at a 50th wedding anniversary. What makes some friends go while others stay? Maybe I won't ever know for sure, and I certainly can't put it into words, so for now, I'll let someone else say it better:

The best mirror is an old friend - George Herbert

Age appears to be best in four things: old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read - Alonso of Aragon

It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The best antiques are old friends -unknown

Cherish friendship in your breast,
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold. -Joseph Parry

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