Rites of passage--those transitions from one stage to another in our lives can be fraught. I am a 1950 model and in June this year, I turn 60. Logic tells me this is just a number and nothing will change over night when it happens, but I have to get my head around the fact that this number will have an application to ME. Peter turns 40 a week before my birthday. How can this be? Surely it isn't 40 years since we came home from the hospital together!
I had been so self absorbed that it didn't occur to me until very recently that two of my best friends will share the trauma and triumph of 60 years lived, this year. Eileen and Ingrid, both lifelong friends, turn 60 in April. Eileen is in England and Ingrid is in British Columbia, but knowing that we can commiserate on this transition, as we have in all of life's transitions so far, is comforting.
Ingrid and I share a second generation friendship. Her aunt, who was "tante Mies" to both of us, and my mum (whom she knows as tante Nell) were best friends for 60 years.We met at the age of 4 in Holland. I can't remember that meeting,but over the next 12 years, as we grew through childhood into young womanhood, and during other happy holidays in Holland, we grew into friends.
Ingrid is beautiful, with dark hair and blue eyes that sparkle with humour and curiosity as they gaze at the world. She is elegant and stylish and I always felt so unsophisticated and plain in comparison (before I learned how silly it is to compare!)
During our teenage years we corresponded regularly, and Ingrid wrote in English, which she was studying at school. How mortifying it was, at age 15, when she showed me a letter of mine that she had saved, and I noticed that she had corrected my misspelling of the word "receive!"
That year, in my little green five year diary, I briefly noted, in part, that on August 19th, "Ingrid came and we went to the park. Two boys came and asked if they could come with us into town..."
That summer day was warm, and the sun streamed down on we two laughing girls as we left Oma's flat for the park. Tante Mies, and oom Bart were having coffee with Mum and Oma and Ingrid and I decided to go for a walk together. At 15 I was showing the mildest of hints that I might eventually emerge from my puppy fat, but boys were not exactly flocking to my door! I was shy and awkward; blushed at the drop of a hat, and I didn't have the luxury of many clothes besides my school uniform.
We walked along the gravel paths of the park; along green slopes shaded by graceful weeping willow trees whose branches swept the canal banks. When Harry and Leo made their play, it was a completely new experience for me. To be approached by boys was not on my radar to that point.
We consented to them accompanying us back into town, where we stopped at a cafe. They lit up cigarettes and offered us one. My decline of their offer just made me feel even more of a whimpy provincial so when they asked what I would like to drink, I said, flippantly, "Coffee--BLACK!" You would have thought that I had just ordered, "Whisky--NEAT!" Well, if you have ever tasted the strength of Dutch coffee, there is probably not much difference.
I don't remember our conversation that day but I do remember choking down the very strong coffee, determined to look as though I was enjoying it and as if I drank it that way every day.
We never saw Harry and Leo again, but Ingrid and I can retrieve August 19th, 1965 from the hard drive of our memories for a replay, at the drop of a hat. One of the joys of friendship is shared rites of passage!
Do you have a rite of passage story to tell? If you do, please share it in the comments or send the link to your story.