When I was young, I really battled to make friends. People were scary - kids even scarier - and most of the time, I'd only manage to overcome my social anxiety if the situation was particularly appealing. I had many embarrassments, though, because even when I was brave enough to join in with kids who were doing something awesome, I'd inevitably back out halfway through and go for a convenient walk. Or hide in the school library, pretending to choose a new Nancy Drew book. I felt too small (I was) and I was quite certain that everyone would think I was weird if I spoke. I was as zen as a lotus pose on the outside, but on the inside, I felt underwater, completely disconnected, one hundred percent alien. When high school loomed, I did not know how I was going to make it through that first year.
And then along came Shelley. She was half my weight, two inches shorter and in the first week of high school, managed to get herself hung from a locker room hook by her blazer collar. I'm not even saying she didn't deserve it. My heart has immediately jumped to the words 'That's my best friend'.
They say opposites attract and whoever said it first was thinking about romantic relationships, but this is a story that applies to my lifelong friendship with Shelley. From now on, I'm going to call her Pixie Girl - that's my name for her. In truth, I was far too shy to present nicknames to the few friends I cared for, but I needn't have worried with Shelley, as she provided the name herself (shew!). She was Pixie Girl and I was Fairy Girl. These names represented wild and fearless creatures who, although petite, had wolf hearts and could face any mountain together. We needn't speak about how old we were when we came to this conclusion; what matters is that I found the most enduring and profound friendship of my life in this tiny scrap of a girl who had a big mouth and a devil-may-care attitude. Also, she was sweet, had a beautiful smile and thought I was cool. Because of my Pixie, I didn't have to be the only girl who did not fit in.
We discovered similarities between us that were sufficient to base a friendship on: despite our awkwardness and completely different personalities, we were both cute blondes who the other kids actually liked; our moms shared the same pretty name and the same 'outrageous' rules; our dads both played the guitar. We came from the same faith and in the nearby primary school, our younger sisters had met and were planning sleepovers.
As the quintessential 'little angel' in school, myself, I could not fathom why this pixie-sized girl could not control her mischievous cheek that resulted in all sorts of punishments - such as being stuffed in a locker by Zak - but it fascinated and thrilled me. I came to realise that Pixie embodied my secret yearning to be a rebel. Because of my morbid fear of teachers, I didn't dare behave with her good-natured recklessness at school, but she gave me the courage to start thinking of ways to challenge my own restrictions. This is the first thing I want to thank her for: making me braver.
Pixie Girl and I balanced each other and it was very sad for us when life separated us for a while. She came to my wedding when I was just 18, but then I took off into the wilds to be adventurous with my new husband. I lost touch and wasn't at her wedding. Seven years later, we were both single mothers and found our way back together again. To our amazement, we had led parallel lives during those missing years. I would say that this post-divorce stage was the most painful and difficult time of my youth and I really battled depression, but once again, Pixie was there to give me strength. The years had completely transformed her physically - she now towered over me and looked like a ramp model - but her sass, positivity and confidence remained.
My entire adult life had been about my kids and I was very awkward with suddenly meeting new people, but she was the one who took my hand, dragged me out and made me look normal in public! Anything I needed to talk about, Pixie was the one who sat without judgement and gave counsel that actually made practical sense. When I'd been hurt and sat at work feeling depleted, Pixie was a comforting voice on the phone - not the sympathetic voice of my mom, but a voice that suggested outrageous solutions, making me burst into happy laughter. When that didn't work, she e-mailed me pictures of firemen. She was my superhero.
Many years have passed and we've both seen our share of tragedy. When I met the love of my life and he passed away less than two years after our wedding, there was only one person I trusted to identify the frozen body. I knew it was him - he had died in my arms - but I was as destroyed as a person can be and needed to be told that I wasn't imagining it all. I loved my mom dearly and she was there, but I needed Pixie to perform this sacred deed for me. Pixie loved my husband and she was distraught, too, but she loved me more. I made a request of her that few would have been able to go through with: cut a lock of his hair and bring it to me. She did it. She endured the subsequent nightmares and never once told me it was my fault.
Pixie and I do not live in the same city now, but we are still as close as we ever were after more than two decades. She has saved me countless times when my social awkwardness has landed me in hot water, or when I've had my heart broken, or when I was falling apart over something my child was going through. I'm still waiting to be brave enough to sing at a karaoke bar, but I know she's going to be at my side when I do it. After all, she overcame her own fear of singing completely alone: she just drove herself to a karaoke bar, chose a song, faced the blood-draining terror of an audience and started singing. She's like that: she just does it. I guess I'm still trying to figure out why she needs me, but I know that she does. I'm the one she calls when something amazing happens and I'm the one she calls when things are rough. That this woman trusts me enough to actually believe I have any answers at all, makes her wonderful to me!
Today is her birthday and this tribute is to say thank you. Thank you for a lifetime of being there, whether we lived close-by or in different states. Pixie is the most faithful friend I have ever had; the most fun, the least judgmental, the bravest, the most thoughtful, and if I ever have to run a race of atonement, she is the one I will trust to pull me over the finish line with dignity. I love you, friend. Happy birthday!
Tagged under# EGreetings # Tributes
I love you my fairy princess. Thank you for over 40 years of friendship!