I have written before about friendship and how lucky I am to still have friends from a hundred years ago when we were pig-tailed girls in school but friendship can be a delicate construct. I started thinking about this after reading a recent post by a friend about how friendships are maintained and our expectations of them which is how I ended up writing about forgiveness – or not. As I’m writing this on Good Friday, the topic is a timely one. With all the hoo-ha surrounding it, non-believers probably think Christmas is the biggest event in the Christian calendar but it isn’t. Easter is the big kahuna because without Christ’s Resurrection, there would be no reason to follow Jesus as he would have been just another dead rebel. The whole point is that God sent his Son to forgive our sins and ensure our redemption so the whole concept of forgiveness is a ‘big thing’ and not only in Christianity. Buddhists believe that forgiveness is a critical step towards achieving a peaceful state of being and the Qur’an teaches that forgiveness is a superior moral trait. “Turn the other cheek.” is the yellow brick road. “Forgive and forget.” But what if you can’t. Forgive. Or forget.
In 2010 I severed a friendship and even five years later I can still feel the disappointment and anger as though it were yesterday. We don’t do things for our friends expecting to be repaid but I think it’s OK to consider any equal relationship a two-way street. My friend’s life was always in turmoil. When she discovered her husband cheating, I consoled her by phone from America, where I was living at the time. Her next partner had a vengeful, bitter ex-wife so I was a sounding board for her frustrations and copywriter and editor for mountains of correspondence. Despite having a son together, that relationship ended and it was more commiserating and letter-writing as the miserable sod tried shirking his financial responsibilities in any way he could. I suppose the rot started setting in when, as her son’s godmother, I was asked to be his sponsor at his Confirmation. To reflect the importance of the occasion and because his mother had mentioned he was becoming interested in photography, I gave him a digital camera. And this was years ago, before you could get them out of vending machines. I certainly wasn’t expecting a gilt-edged letter of gratitude but I thought I might at least get a phone call…. Nothing, nought, nada, zip, zilch, zero. Am I belabouring the point? Not even a bloody cup of tea after the ceremony. Her choice in men was appalling and the next one was a certified narcissist. More listening, more commiserating. Then my father died. And she sent me a text message. Some of you will understand exactly why that was the straw that broke the camel’s back while others will wonder why it was such a big deal. It’s hard to put into words how totally let down I felt but there was now a trench in the sand that swallowed forgiveness whole and was never likely to throw it back up.
On the other hand, I have a girlfriend I have known since Kindergarten and I have forgiven her a myriad of transgressions, big and small. When I became engaged, many moons ago, my American husband’s lawyer recommended that we get married as quickly as possible to start all the paperwork for my move to the U.S. and application for my Green Card so my first wedding was an intimate affair of only 10 people in a divine little stone church. (We had the bigger, glitzier ceremony two months later so I have two wedding anniversaries – both of which I now manage to forget…..) S. was supposed to be my bridesmaid and witness but not only was she late, thus missing the entire thing, she had the audacity to be upset because we didn’t wait. My best gay friend ended up being my bridesman and I was as happy as a pig in mud. But my husband was furious and where I laughed it off as a memorable part of the day, he did not forgive her for years after finally accepting that I really hadn’t cared and I wasn’t just saying that because we had been friends for so long. And I think therein lies the difference. By that time, S. and I had 29 years invested in our friendship. That’s a lot of secrets and memories and laughter to lose. It would be like excising great chunks of your past with nothing to fill the holes.
People suffer the most tremendous losses due to violence and yet extend forgiveness to the perpetrators. They are obviously in some state of grace that I can’t begin to imagine. The generally accepted position is that without forgiveness, you can’t truly “move on” but in my totally unprofessional yet totally eloquent opinion, I think that’s a load of horse manure. I believe you can feel sadness, anger, disappointment and a kaleidoscope of other emotions and still lead a “whole” life. Sometimes not “letting it go” is fuel for a fire that changes everything.
It’s complicated. I’m sure everyone has a story. Wait, is that the time? Forgive me, I have to run.
I was 13 the first time I travelled internationally. It was 1971, Alitalia still flew out of Sydney and smoking was still allowed on planes. People would dress up to fly and it was still a big deal. We winged our way to Rome via Bombay, as it was called then, in a smoke-filled metal tube with no personal entertainment — and it was fabulous. It was my parents’ first visit back to the country of their birth in 14 years and my first encounter with my Italian extended family. I was hooked.
Travel has been one of the great joys of my life and if I’m not re-incarnated as a Travel Writer, I shall be bitterly disappointed. Could there be any greater bliss than being paid to visit the far-flung corners of this glorious, diverse planet? People dream about becoming wealthy so they can afford prestige cars, luxury homes, jewellery and clothes whereas I wistfully think I could live in a shack if only I could jet off to some new location whenever I wanted…. (School term permitting of course. Your daydreams have to be somewhat modified when there are other people to consider.)
This nostalgia springs from my girlfriend’s daughter having upped stakes for 12 months of travelling, as I did at 24. And for those 12 months I roamed the world like a true gypsy. For 12 months I answered to no-one but myself. No restraints, no responsibilities – just complete freedom to come, go, stay, eat, drink, take risks, learn, marvel, do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be. I wouldn’t exchange the life I have now but if a time machine were ever invented, I know where I’d be going. Plus, I was skinny.
Reflections of a face that is sometimes not your own…
I watch your eyes like twin chameleons change with shades of other lives.
The aquamarine of Grecian seas when indolence was all there was
and farmers wearing hats of straw worked the beaches selling fruit
to bodies baked to nutmeg brown.
The cloudy grey of Paris skies when baguettes and brie went hand in hand
with lazy walks along the Seine and an angry young man
whose Irish blood could not disguise the poet’s heart.
You turn your head to catch the time
and curse the need
to run your life to dull routines
when neon digits take the place
of sunlight through a shuttered door.
(C) Daniela Scalcon
“I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher
Oh—-my—-God. I’m in the process of a MASSIVE clean-out of BIBLICAL proportions and I came across one of my English books from 1972. So…. I’m 14 years old – the same age as my son is now – and have written a poem. It’s a corker. You will understand why when you read it but in its innocence, it also sadly underlines how far the world has come in these 40 years or so when sexting and oral sex by kids as young as 13 is neither uncommon nor infrequent. With your indulgence, I present:
Beware of boys with wandering hands,
give them a good slap.
Beware of a boy with a long, dirty tongue,
he’s just a great big sap.
Beware of boys who take a mile
when all you’ve offered is but a smile.
You can put them in their place –
slow and steady wins the race.
Sure, go out and have some fun.
If it’s with a boy, there’s no harm done.
The nice ones brighten up your day.
They make you happy, content and gay.
But even so – be on your guard
’cause if you fall, you’ll fall hard.
But you know what? At its core, it’s bloody good advice. Have a great weekend everyone.
Well, as one alcoholic said to the other, “It’s been a long time between drinks.” Since my last post in August, I’ve had lots of ideas and done absolutely nothing about them so I thought I had better redeem myself and get scribbling … so before I get to the point of the whole exercise, a little background information.
I was a bit of a smart chicky-babe at school and earned a scholarship to University with a view to becoming a teacher but after completing my Bachelor’s Degree, I just couldn’t do it. The thought of another year of lectures, study, research and assignments made me ill whereas the thought of travelling the world did not. Serious money needed raising because although I have always been quite happy to go camping and poop in the woods, the idea of schlepping all the way to Europe with my own bed sheet and having to share a hostel room with assorted party animals and snorers was not quite the dream trip I had in mind. So, after three years of tertiary education at one of the State’s finest universities, I put my degree to good use and went off to learn how to be a secretary – or PA (Personal Assistant) if one wants to be PC (politically correct) – which nobody was back then. A little over nine months later I could take shorthand at 120 words a minute (how useful would THAT have been during lectures…) and type…umm…very fast! And that, my dear readers, is how I ended up at Grace Bros and the reunion that sparked this post because not only was it my first job, it was where I fell truly, madly, deeply, deliriously, fiercely in love for the first time.
To protect the not-so-innocent and for the sake of this post, let’s just call him Max. If someone had asked me to describe the complete opposite of what I found physically attractive about a man, he would have been it – shortish, baldish and pretty ‘meh’ in the looks department but he would walk into my office and I would flush hot like a Bunsen burner turned too high. He was a Manager and I worked for his boss so we kept the relationship a secret until one of us left. People were dumbfounded when they found out. Hilarious really, considering we ‘worked back’ almost every night and the occasional Saturday morning so the chances of being caught not actually working, on my boss’s sofa, were reasonably high but it never happened. The secrecy drove me mad but I had to acknowledge the position he was in and his concern that telling our workmates might put our interactions under a scrutiny that neither of us would have welcomed. And my God – all the hedging and evading when people asked what you did over the weekend! “Ohh, you know, movies, seeing friends, usual stuff.” I had ‘vague’ down to an art form. Our subterfuge was so seamless, even when we both requested leave at the same time (to go to Queensland for Expo 88), no-one suspected anything. Honestly, I should have quite the secretarial scene then and there and become a spy. I would have put Mata Hari in the shade.
I’m ashamed to admit that I cannot remember the first time my husband told me he loved me (although I’m fairly certain it would have been over the phone as we were conducting a ‘geographically undesirable’ relationship between Australia and America when the ideas for Skype and FaceTime were, as my late Italian father would so colourfully explain, “ancora nelle palle di San Francesco”…. which delightfully translates to “still up in the balls of St Francis”.) but the scene of Max’s declaration is still as clear as the glorious Sydney summer day on which it was made. We had been lying by the pool at his mother’s apartment. I was earning a little extra pocket-money by waitressing at a friend’s restaurant so needed to leave late afternoon to get home to shower and change. With the car in reverse, driver’s window down, he said goodbye with the usual “Drive carefully.” followed by the not-usual, “I love you”. To my credit, I did not lose control of the car or squeal or ask him to repeat himself and I have absolutely no recollection of how I responded but I can tell you my heart just about burst and we were heart-stoppingly happy. Three years later it was over and not because the relationship faltered or we stopped loving each other – but that is a post for another time.
That was 25 years ago. Now, schedules permitting, we catch up at the annual Grace Bros reunion which is where I saw him last Friday night and it absolutely astounds me, as it has each time we have seen each other, how I can look into his eyes, listen to his voice…. and thank the gods of every nation on earth that we didn’t stay together. I believe it’s described in the vernacular as having “dodged a bullet”. And it’s not that he has changed – it’s just that now I see how incredibly unsuited we were for any long-term commitment. The things that drove me a little crazy when we were dating would have driven me completely demented over the long haul. Characteristics I glossed over when we were living apart would have turned into major obstacles when we were living together. Had we married, I seriously doubt it would have lasted. It does freak me out a little though to feel so dispassionate about this man that I loved so wholeheartedly, so intensely. How can you feel absolutely nothing but a little residual fondness for the person who was your first great, all-consuming love? Truth be told, part of me is a little sad that our encounters don’t have even the teensiest hint of the Mills and Boon about them – no catch of breath, no short, sharp pang of the heart. Not only are there no embers, the fire has been well and truly stomped on and covered over with several thousand kilos of earth.
Just goes to show that Soren Kierkegaard knew what he was talking about when he said “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
I was trying to think of an analogy for the past weekend – because, let’s be honest – who doesn’t like a good analogy when they can get one? So here it is: last Saturday and Sunday were like the pages of an open book…offering up different scenes and characters but belonging to one story.
One of my most endearing characteristics and the one which probably drives my organized and regimented husband most demented is that I leave everything until the last minute – paying bills, booking holidays, grocery shopping for guests…. I have been the same way since….ummm…. forever. “Thriving under pressure” I think they call it. 3,000 word essays at university were started three days before they were due with pages and pages and pages of photocopying highlighted and annotated and extended library stays fuelled only by pumpkin seeds and water. I remember one particularly splendid effort of writing final footnotes whilst on the train to deliver an English essay by its deadline. Good times, good times.
Anyway, the point is, my girlfriend and her two kids (Well, I use the term loosely. Her son is 16 and her daughter, 20) were coming for lunch on Saturday to celebrate her birthday and I did the shopping that morning, getting home just in time to unload the groceries and wipe down the toilet – as any good hostess would! When they arrived, both the dog and I showered them with kisses, I shoved a glass of champagne into her hand, saw her son off with a soft drink to another room to play video games with my boy and told her daughter to help herself to whatever she wanted from the fridge while I made the salad.
I think she managed a few sips of bubbly and a chat with my husband before she and her daughter were up at the bench peeling prawns. That’s right – she got to celebrate her birthday by cleaning the poop chutes from a kilo and a half of prawns. Kinda makes you wanna come over, doesn’t it?
But that’s just what happens with family. We may not be related but I have known her for 42 years – exactly three quarters of my life. And as wonderful as that is, I don’t like to dwell on it too much as that would mean acknowledging how much and how quickly time has passed since we met that first year of High School! Our trail then winds its way through 21sts, jobs, boyfriends, weddings, holidays, disappointments, dramas and every conceivable kind of celebration. I was at the party where she met her husband. Truth be told, I quite fancied him myself but he fancied her so that was that. I held her children as babies, listened as her marriage ended.
Any friendship is a gift but a friendship that spans close to a lifetime is a blessing. It’s a shared connection with your youth, your past; a history that is never far from the surface. To the outside world, the numbers and experience tell a different story but we still see in each other the teenage school girls that we were and sometimes still behave accordingly! It’s not about living in the past but about having someone that lived that past with you – the smoking, the all-nighters, the adventures, the bad relationships, the good relationships, the parties, the risks …. all the stuff you do when you’re young and think you’re invincible. So when our kids roll their eyes because they think we are the most boring and clueless people in the universe – EVER – we just look at each other, roll our eyes and think, “If only they knew…”.
“The best mirror is an old friend” – George Herbert
PS: Are you asking, “What happened to Sunday?” It’s like a soap opera – coming in the next episode!