It’s Monday morning and some Monday mornings I don’t feel all that grateful. My to-do list seems daunting and my aches and pains seem louder than other mornings. But this Monday is different. I have a friend coming to see me this week. She will sleep across the hall from me and I will waken and pinch myself because it will feel too good to be true.
Linda and I started being friends when we were six, the kind of friendship that is immediate, without hesitation. We sang in her mother’s United Church Junior Choir, and I call it her mother’s choir not just by name, but because it truly was Mrs. Zaback’s choir; she put her enormous talent out for all of us to benefit from.
The whole thirty-five voices gathered on Saturday mornings at ten and after we were done dragging our bodies along the polished hardwood floor under the pews and hiding in the cloakroom, we began to sing and no nonsense was allowed. Linda and I met because my mother had tried to perm my hair that was determined to be straight and the result of my mother saturating my hair with a very stinky liquid left me wearing a winter hat tied tight under my chin despite the summer temperature. Linda didn’t laugh or point, she merely took my hand and said, “Let’s play.” I loved her in that moment, and in that very second she became my first life-long friend.
I admired everything about Linda: her music ability and commitment to practising piano an hour minimum every day, the way she ran on her toes leaning slightly forward, her “Twiggy” haircut and blue mascara, her tallness, her laugh, her willingness to play even through the transition from childhood to adolescence, to build forts and pretend and imagine, her favourite colour green, the dress we sewed with the accidental snip in the bodice, her cat Katie, sliding down bannisters and collapsing in fatigue from laughing.
Linda moved away when we were twelve years old, after she lost her mother to cancer, after her father remarried, after life just kept changing and reshaping into something she could no longer recognize as her own. We were lost from one another, but for forty-five years I kept the candle burning in the window, kept my memories of Linda up front where I could see them, where I could write to her every March 16th and wish her a joyful birthday and dish out a healthy serving of remembering. The letters had no where to go but into my treasure box, until now.
She is coming to visit, to stay, to let me heap forty-five years worth of best friend love on to her. I am grateful that Linda came into my life and I am grateful I never let go, because when we said our tearful good-byes in 1968, complete with sobbing and thinking our lives were surely ending, I made a promise: I will never forget you. And I didn’t.