Yesterday my doorbell rang and I had a lovely surprise. My neighbour Stephany recently went to Portugal with her friends, to celebrate turning 40, and she brought me home a gift. Three actually; a tote bag, a bookmark and a hardcover pocket notebook.
We are very friendly neighbours, but it’s not usual for us to give each other presents. Stephany knows how much I love books, and these gifts were from the oldest bookstore in the world, Livraria Bertrand in Chiado, Portugal. It has been open since 1732.
I don’t think I can express how much I love them. I appreciate them all the more because they were such a surprise. I was so touched that she had thought of me, when she was far from home with friends celebrating an exciting milestone in her own life.
I have been blessed to know so many wonderful women in my life. Way back in 2007 while my husband was serving in Afghanistan, and it was my women friends who made it easier, I wrote a short piece for WednesdayWomen (an online magazine I had created). I decided that since today is International Women’s Day, and in thanks to Stephany, I would republish that piece here. I have added some updates in orange text.
Let’s Hear It for the Girls (2007)
Monday morning I was trying to make school lunches, but I had to first pry apart frozen slices of bread because I forgot to take the loaf out of the freezer the night before. The doorbell rang, it was my neighbour Pam in a ski jacket and flannel pajama bottoms. She handed me a cup of Tim’s coffee made just the way I like it. She brought it just because.
The frozen bread didn’t bother me as much when I went back to the kitchen sipping my coffee. I started thinking about the incredible invisible support structure that women provide for each other. Sometimes they pass through our lives briefly and sometimes they are one of the solid pillars that we lean against.
When I was eight years old, Andrea, also eight, moved onto my street in Pierrefonds, Que. We became best friends and shared secrets, diaries, crushes, laughter, music… everything. I knew her family and she knew mine. She moved to a suburb of Vancouver when we were 16. But we have remained close friends for 38 years. (It’s been 49 years now, she came to Ottawa in 2011 when we both turned 50 and she will be back this summer to attend my son’s wedding).
My last year of University, 1983, I met Elaine. She lives in Milton, Ontario now. We get together for a weekend without husbands and kids every summer. We shop, eat, laugh, get pedicures, see an art exhibit, go to a comedy club, eat, drink wine and laugh some more. (We still continue this tradition).
When I moved to Ottawa 10 years ago I met Marion. We’ve logged so many phone hours we’ve ensured the financial future of Bell shareholders. My husband asks what we can possibly be talking about for that long. And I never know, but I laugh a lot. (That friendship and laughter has enriched my life for 21 years now).
Then there’s Pam and Lana across the street, we stand outside talking after the school bus picks up the kids. And when we can, we get to a movie. For the last eight years we have been sounding boards for each other through tragedies, illnesses, joys, and successes. (We have since moved from that street, but thanks to Facebook I have been able to stay connected).
With all my women friends there is a sense of stolen time, a break away from all we do as women, all the juggling. We understand when someone can’t come to the movie at the last minute because of a school project that has a child in tears. I think we all have friends that we are always planning to get together with, but life gets busy. When we do finally squeeze in that lunch, movie, or quick chat outside an arena or schoolyard, it’s as if we saw each other yesterday.
I have a new friendship with Sharon who I met because our sons are best friends. (We are very good friends 11 years later, and her son will be best man at my son’s wedding in July). The more we talk the more we find we have in common. We both grew up outside Montreal and recently we were remembering a Christmas radio show that aired each year on CJAD, she mentioned that she had it on CD. The next time I saw her she had a copy of it for me.
These little gestures are like threads, wispy as spider silk, and equally strong. They make our friendships remarkable, and give us the strength to do all that we do.
If I were writing that piece today I would need to include so many more women, including: Sandra, Julie, Joan, Irene, Debbie, Peggy, Jen, Nicole, Mary, Marie, Ginette, Bridget, Heather, Sylvie, Valerie, Janet, and Lara. I would need to mention the wonderful new friendships that are growing out of the book club Jen invited me to join: Rakhi, Heather Anne, Amy P., Amy M., Edi, Lisa, and Nadine.
I couldn’t begin to list all the warm and wonderful women I know or have known. So I will instead dedicate this Martina McBride song to all of you, and especially to Stephany who made me feel very special yesterday.
Click the image to listen.