I can’t remember when we first became friends. But Shani can; she holds the memory card of our decades-old friendship. She tells me we played together in the sandbox in kindergarten. I trust her, I always have.
Friendship is a funny thing ‒ precious, to be treasured, not measured.
I don’t have a good memory for details or past everyday events and yet I recall some special moments highlighted in my mind, perhaps reinforced by decades-old photographs.
We shared many milestones in the formative years including first day of Grade 1, first day of high-school, high-school prom, Sweet 16s, high-school graduation, first time at overnight summer camp and our launch to university away from home. I guess some firsts aren’t fit for social media.
As keen young adults, together we drove west on the 401, she dropped me off at my residence at York University and continued to the University of Western Ontario. After undergraduate studies we travelled together in Europe with backpacks, Eurail Passes, and roll-up beach mats, and making plans to meet-up without iPhones – imagine that!
We attended graduate school in different countries and enjoyed reunions in our much-loved hometown: walks on Mount Royal, OJs and French onion soup at Laurier BBQ. With diplomas, smiles and boyfriends in hand another milestone soon arrived: bridesmaids, with a twist – we wore the same bustled ballroom wedding gown.
Of course we shared other things too.
- The musical landscape of our teenage-hood: Elton John, Billy Joel, Simon and Garfunkel, Bruce Springsteen‒played again and again on turntables and Sony Walkmans.
- Secrets, silly coded words and made-up acronyms. I can’t remember most of them, but she can.
And the years passed. Decades. Life happened: babies, toddlers, work-life balance and off- balance tweens, teens and poof!
More recently we celebrated new milestones: launching our Millennial kids to universities away from home and attending our 35th high-school reunion in our hometown ‒ Montreal. A fun-filled weekend complete with nostalgia and lots of catching up. There is no question about it, time is speeding up.
Friendship transcends time zones:
For almost 30 years we have not lived in the same city, country or continent for that matter. Most days we are separated by at least 12 hours. The time zone seems to be less of a concern now that our communication includes a variety of social media apps. I send messages or Snapchat pics on a whim 24/7 without taking notice of the time difference.
What makes for durable bonds?
- History and shared memories are like Krazy Glue that holds long-lasting friendship together. We knew each other’s grandparents and extended families. We recall each other’s childhood family homes.
- We recall each other’s former classmates and boyfriends. Yes, sometimes we reminisce, and sometimes we gossip. That’s what girlfriends do.
- Shared values, interests and passions. We talk about books, films, food, travel, parenting and marriage. We have heated debates or we can talk about nonsense.
- We celebrate each other’s personal victories and commiserate or complain together.
We recognize that life is bittersweet, filled with ups and downs; we laugh and we cry together. In fact, I recall wiping a tear shed for her father from her eye a moment before she walked down the wedding aisle. And most recently, like silly school girls we cracked-up laughing in a designated “Quiet Please” salon and were reprimanded and told to settle down.
Recently, I visited Shani in Hong Kong, where she has lived for 25 years. She enthusiastically toured me through the layout of her life: her home, community centre, synagogue, former offices, foot massage parlour, incredible walking trails and her kids’ former schools. Seeing is believing. Now I have a clear vision of her life on the other side of the world; it’s certainly a case of East meets West. Our daily lives are so different and yet so much the same; and that is precisely how our everlasting friendship endures.
True, Shani speaks some basic Cantonese and enjoys the delicacies of Dim Sum. I prefer Tim Horton’s and toasted bagels. These details, although defining are the wrapping on our lives. Deep within, we care about all of the same things: the love of family, meaningful friendships, community and a healthy lifestyle. We navigate through each new life stage by sharing and listening. Currently, we are each struggling with adjusting to the empty nest and reinventing ourselves. We understand that life is precious and we are all on a journey of some sort. We hope our paths continue to intersect.
Hong Kong was a feast for the senses: neon flashing skyscrapers, traditional Buddhist temples, Local Street markets, a delicious mix of Eastern and Western flavoured meals, and breathtaking landscapes. Before parting ways, we discovered a treasure buried deep in her storage closet ‒ a memory box packed many decades ago – filled with faded photos, letters, diaries and keepsakes from our shared youth, and that was certainly a feast for our sentiments.