Recently I received a gift.
The kind of gift that keeps on giving. And a gift I was able to share with five other people.
For recently I received the gift of friendships remembered and renewed, and agreed with that old saying “your friends tell the story of who you are”.
I spent the weekend in the company of five of my oldest friends. By ‘old’ I mean the shortest friendship in the group is a quarter of a century, and some are pushing towards the 40-year mark.
Despite the length of our friendships, and all we had been through over the years, we had never holidayed together.
As the self appointed chief organizer, for weeks I was plagued by doubts.
Would it work? Would we all get along? Would the princesses we had apparently all become be able to put aside their foibles and phobias and have a good time?
Thankfully the answer was a resounding ‘Yes’.
It might have helped that the owner of our accommodation did not appear to understand the meaning of ‘self-hosted’.
As the joker of our group proclaimed after our three hour ‘check-in’ – “I’ve had shorter job handovers than that!”
At least she gave us something to bond over, as we loudly, vehemently and often had cause to complain over her grumpiness (think Basil in Faulty Towers), rules (again, think Basil) and her inability to leave us alone.
Even when to all intents and purposes it appeared she had actually vacated the building – her car was no longer there – we still remained paranoid, convinced she was either hiding in the basement listening to us, or video-recording our every word and deed. Or both.
But despite our host, the house we stayed in was beautiful. And gradually as we unwound and drank more, our old selves began to re-emerge.
Our shy and inverted friend slowly returned to her self-proclaimed “potty mouth self”.
Our keeper of decorum was once again embarrassed by our loud conversations in pubs and cafes, where we amongst other things we reminisced about boys we had known who always, um, came a little early to the party.
And our hyper friend was true to form with her wicked cackle being heard throughout the house – although thankfully not during the wee hours of the morning when she walked the house when her insomnia was in full flight.
Over the weekend I began to remember how we have a shared history that is irreplaceable.
They were there, and knew me, during the time in my life when I was in love with a bastard. When I was belittled, put down and degraded. When I was warned by my ‘lover’ to be careful Greenpeace didn’t throw me in the water, having mistaken me for a whale.
These are the same friends who stood by me when I was at my lowest point; when my destroyed self esteem saw me go from one drunken fling and escapade to another.
As we talked about ex-boyfriends and exploits from our early twenties, sometimes we laughed so hard my stomach hurt.
But it felt good to be able to relive the sometimes-painful memories with the people who were there when the memories were created– and to be able to laugh at them from our vantage point of ‘early middle age’.
Over the years there have been times when my friendships with these girls have been tested.
Times even when I thought maybe the friendships had passed there used by dates.
As our lives moved in different directions – literally, in different states – sometimes it seemed as if we had little in common except a shared history.
What I learned over the weekend is that this shared history is like gold.
I remembered how I can truly be myself with these girls. After all, they know me warts and all, and know when I am trying to be someone other than who I am. And will tell me so.
I am proud of the women my friends have become, and I feel honoured they still count me as worthy of spending four days of their precious time with.
Now all that is left to do is to start planning next year’s trip.
Byron Bay anyone?
Cheers and Merry Xmas,