A. is my oldest friend, or at least the oldest that I still have contact with. We have known each other since we were 11 years old and starting high school, that big new world full of strangers and unprecedented social negotiations. Our friendship then was one of those horrifying teenage hybrids- passionate letter writing in the night one day, the cold shoulder the next, that potent, disturbing mix of envy and admiration. Many years later I would find out that her father had a violent temper- our mutual confidences clearly didn’t stretch that far.
When I moved away, we lost contact. One day, many many years later, I was living in Sydney and studying. I was riding my bike to the beach, slowly and without expectation, when who should I see but her. It turned out she lived just down the road from me, with a chicken run in the backyard and a long-distance lover in Canberra.
And some more years later, after meeting the long-distance lover, many dinners and films and discussions about life together, they moved to Berlin, just as we were about to leave on our roundabout way to Poland. Another 2 years passed before we actually arrived in Poland and began a tradition of yearly visits. Not long afterwards, it turned out that she was expecting her second child, due on the same day as my kids.
We have just been to visit. We have now known each other for over 25 years. The teenage competition has slowly faded- since she is clearly richer and more ethical , with excellent teeth and a 2 year old who can already be trusted to cross the road without a lassoo, there is really no pleasure to be gained (for me) from making comparisons. So instead I just contented myself with enjoying her graciousness and warmth and eating excellent meals and trying to stop my big mean children from killing her small gentle one.