I am not good at making friends – I never have been. Right from the time I was a small child, I was so immersed in books that I never took the time to develop my friendship “gene” !! When I did have a friend, it was only one at a time and I was very possessive of my friends and unforgiving if we argued or they hurt my feelings or let me down. I haven’t changed much in fifty years!!!
I have a friend from high school – Leeanne – and she is the kindest, friendliest and most loyal person in the world. We don’t see one another very often or ring one another more than two or three times a year but when we do meet, the years fall away and everything is the same as it was when we were sixteen!! The different paths our lives have taken don’t seem to matter – she was married before she was twenty and I didn’t marry until I was 32 …. she has two children whom she adores and I had none ….. she is still living in the first house she and her husband bought and we’ve bought and renovated twelve houses, lived in seven of those houses across the eastern side of the state …. and if we’re talking about how many times our address has changed in someone’s address book in the past 30 years, I’ve lost count after 18 ….. so Leeanne is very stable and unchanging. So different from me!!
Terry is my cousin – she is 30 months older than me and I have known her all my life. Our parents were sharing the same house when I was born. (Although that changed fairly quickly, I think, as the following year both Mum and Auntie June were pregnant at the same time with their second child!!) Anyway, Terry has been a constant in my life even though at times we had the length of the continent between us. Like Leeanne, Terry is different from me in the fact of marrying young, having two sons, divorcing, raising her boys single-handedly whilst following her career in the Public Service. She is the strongest person I know – she lost her Dad suddenly early in her marriage, her Mum to cancer a few years later and then only a year or so later, had a very nasty marriage breakdown and divorce. She had heartache and delight from raising her boys and living through the nightmares of them being involved in car accidents,the joys of her grandchildren and the ultimate tragedy of losing one of her boys to suicide. His death led to a total career re-think which has led her to caring for the elderly in a dementia ward (I obviously don’t have a caring, compassionate bone in my body because, quite frankly, I could not think of a worse way to spend my working day!!!) and now some quite serious wear and tear on her body!! Still ….. she has refused to admit defeat …. time after time, she soldiers on and refuses to buckle under the weight …. she’s working hard to recover her health and refuses to kowtow to Workcare or her work when they try to impose restrictions on her ….. visits Owen and her grandchildren every couple of months in Adelaide and talks to him several times a day on the phone …… is always there when any of her many friends are having a rough patch or needs help ….. remains vitally interested and passionate about her beloved Magpies (footy team!!), politics, current affairs, history, everything really!! She’s big on rights and knows how to debate and argue her point ….. she’s loud and has an opinion on everything. She loves an occasional drink, her cigarettes and her garden ….. she’s organized and methodical and her house is immaculate!! We talk almost weekly and get together (usually at her place) every couple of months for a girls’ sleepover, drinks and food and maybe watch a movie or two. We can talk about anything and everything and I don’t think that there are any real secrets between us – I love her and respect her immensely!!
My third best friend is really two friends who are almost inseparable in my mind!! I met Sue on an internet site almost thirteen years ago – we “clicked” in our emails and when we finally took the plunge and spoke on the phone, it felt as though we were identical twins who’d been separated at birth and lived on the other side of the world from each other. We both had an irreverent outlook on life and a strong work ethic …… we both had husbands who drove us insane with the things they said and did and which we turned into things to joke and laugh about ….. we both loved animals (particularly dogs!!) and hated animal cruelty with a passion. Of course, there are fundamental differences between us too ….. Sue makes friends easily, puts up with long, inhumane hours and unreasonable supervisors at work and is very soft-hearted and easy-going. Anyway, after a few international phone-calls, Sue came to Australia for a holiday – we had such a great time that she came back again but this time she returned with Margaret. She went to school with Margaret, lost touch and then caught up again and they regularly made road trips together in America. Together, Sue and I planned the holiday of a life-time (we thought at the time!!!) the girls came to Australia, we flew up to Queensland and had a great time touring around with my cousin, Sue (Terry’s sister). When our Queensland leg was finished, we returned to Victoria and drove across Victoria to the middle of South Australia and back. It was a real eye-opener for me ….. I loved spending three weeks with Sue and Margaret. Three women sharing a car, long hours’ driving, conversation, laughs, shenanigans and a motel room 24/7 with never a disagreement, cross word, mood or nastiness between us. I would never have believed it but it wasn’t unique because since then, I have made two trips to America to repeat our road-trip holidays and we also met up in Ireland as well. Margaret is a lovely person – she is in a stable relationship and has a great job with the County which she loves. She is mad keen about dogs and horses and has a very irreverent sense of humour and quite a wide circle of friends. I think that maybe the key ingredients in this odd trio is a shared love of travel, adventure and the ridiculous. Together, we are willing to experience the out-of-the-ordinary travel and tourist opportunity (like camping at Arkaroola, SA or in a tepee on a cattle ranch near the Grand Canyon or visiting the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin or a jetboat ride on the Niagara or a bear show in New Hampshire or a helicopter ride ….. the list goes on and on!!) We crack up at a throw-away line, love kitschy tourist attractions, Elmo photographs in unusual places, souvenirs, roadtrips and photo ops. I don’t know why it works but it does and now I can’t envision a girls’ holiday without both of them.