My children are now at an age where they are beginning to forge friendships outside of the parameters of their school. Because, unlike a classroom scenario, where they are stuck together for better or worse and therefore forge alliances based upon same or for survival, these fledgling bonds are of their own choosing.
They seek out someone in an unfamiliar situation to make a connection with. Let me tell you, it is not for the faint hearted and it pulls at the heartstrings more than a box of bright-eyed, furry kittens. You will also, most likely, end up sniffing into your sleeve.
My daughter is by far the most independent of our two children. Where our son is more considered, she jumps in with both feet, arms flailing whilst pulling an assortment of faces to induce a laugh from onlookers.
She is never more ferocious when defending someone if she feels they have been slighted; particularly when it comes to her brother.
Recently, she joined a gymnastics club which she utterly adores. It is a large club but the atmosphere created by the incredible coaches and team leaders makes it feel so personal to each child and she beyond enjoys it as a result. During her first session, I noticed her sizing the other children up.
She is fiercely loyal by nature, therefore, when she gives you her friendship, you have her lock, stock and barrel. Being a sociable child, she gets stuck in right away. But I was fascinated at the apparent way she appeared to be assessing each potential candidate.
Coy glances and shy smiles were exchanged between them all in amongst tendrils of hair being twirled nervously between fingers. And then, the following week, it happened. As she lined up at the door, a whirlwind of glorious red hair rushed past and said, “Sorry, I’m late”.
She turned in the direction of my daughter, smiled and said, “Hi!”, and that’s all it took. As they turned their backs to me as they headed in the door, my heart almost burst and I audibly gasped.
For my daughter, dark hair slicked into a ponytail and fashioned into a plait which hung down her back alongside the child with amber hair, of which escaped at various intervals from the elastic that attempted to secure her glorious waves; bore a remarkable resemblance to one of the most revered female friendships to ever grace the screen…
“She made a friend!”
“You seem overly excited about this...” my husband said later.
“I am! Because she made friends with C C Bloom! She’s the C C to her Hillary!”
I was of course referring to the tear-inducing story of the enduring friendship between two women as portrayed in the film, Beaches. Of which my daughter and her friend bore more than a passing resemblance to. Try as I might not to overthink the entire situation, I had already visualised them sharing an apartment, travelling, weddings etc.
My daughter, thankfully, has not inherited my overthinking trait, being more pragmatic and logical of nature. Yet, try as I might, on seeing them admiring their new leotards and complimenting each other the following week, I could not deter myself from humming, ‘The Wind Beneath My Wings’ under my breath while simultaneously swallowing the lump in my throat.
They seem to recognise something in the other, a kindred. They bend their heads to whisper behind cupped hands and it would be impossible to get a hairs width between them such is the proximity they stand or sit alongside each other.
It is the type of friendship that we all longed for when younger and that when we found it, guarded it and protected it. The type of bond which evolves into sleepovers, den building and notepaper swapping. These types of friendships are made all the more special because they chose each other.
It is evident in how they receive each other every week if one arrives before the other; a raised hand, a beaming smile and a brisk run to take their place alongside on the bench as one budges up. Because, in the end, that’s really all it takes, just for someone to budge up on the bench for you.