I consider myself to be very fortunate to have five ‘best friends’ from different stages of my life, starting with my first best friend from my primary school days in Scotland, when we were neighbours and I virtually lived round her house. Despite her living in the USA now with her American husband, we are still in regular contact now by hand-written letter and email and I even visited her a few years ago, when she was unwell. I was with her on the day of her last treatment, when my job was to distract her and also to take care of her daughter . I was delighted to meet her friends and to spend time with her family. We are both early birds and so we would sit up drinking strong Yorkshire Tea, putting the world to rights before the rest of the household woke, and somehow the intervening 40 years since I moved away from Scotland, just fell away.
She has always been very supportive of my blogging and suggests that these individual blogs could one day form a book. I have had almost daily emails since I recently began to blog again,after a break of over a year, commenting on what I have written and how proud she is to consider me her friend. Yesterday I was just making a pot of tea when there was a knock at the door . It was an Amazon delivery and I brought a big box inside, confused as I knew that I had not done any home shopping – for once! I battled my way through the packaging and revealed a pretty cup, which I immediately rinsed out and filled with Yorkshire Tea and I toasted my generous friend, sending her a photo and a thank you message.
I love to buy my friends gifts, even silly little things, just to show them that I was thinking of them and that I know them. She knows me well enough to know that a teacup will go down very well and that I will give her a thought and a smile each time I use it.
My husband teased me last week, saying that it was no wonder that I had 5 best friends, as I buy them presents to buy their friendship: I know that I make the friends first and then I treat them, not the other way around. I know that my friends are an important part of my support system and so I protect my friendships and invest in maintaining and developing them.
For the last two years, I have been organising a monthly coffee morning at school for parents to get together and we had the last one of the academic year yesterday. I have to say that I enjoyed this one more than any other this year, as it was well attended but rather than breaking up into lots of small chats, we sat around the meeting room table and all talked as a group. There were never any awkward silences and nobody was ranting, but there was plenty of give and take in the conversation, with everyone contributing. It maybe takes two years for people to build up the confidence to speak up or come on their own, without the back up of friends or family, but I really felt as though we had developed something special yesterday.
I do not really have a sweet tooth, but I recognise how happy a slice of coffee cake or a piece of gingerbread makes people and I use it straegically too. I use cake to thank people that are important to me at school : I always treat the school nurses as Joshua is so relaint on them to keep him safe at school. I always save something for the two ladies on reception too and it never fails to plaease them. The lady who makes JOshua very happy with musical input said that my shortbread was the best she had ever tasted! I have started to make cheese straws too, as I love them and find them moreish and they also went down very well. The Head enjoyed two cheese straws then begged me to take the tin away!
For me, baking, then giving cake, is a process that I enjoy : I love to make people happy with such a simple thing, so I think I can certainly be described as a ‘feeder’. That is why, when Joshua was not eating at the end of last year, I found it so distressing – not just because I could see him getting skinnier before my eyes, but because providing food is clearly part of who I am, so when he rejected my cooking, it impacted on my perception of myself too. Often when someone is sad and I cannot solve their problem, I bake them a sweet treat, as an expression of how I care for them. While some spontaneous shortbread , chocolate brownies or flapjack do not solve their problems, they certainly help to make a bitter pill more palatable.
Thankfully on night three, Joshua slept and is still asleep now. He continued to be ‘in and out’ all day and gradually he was with s more than he was not, such is the pwer of spilepsy, its residual effects rumble on for days. Gradually the loud shrieks for ‘Mummy’, ‘daddy’ and ‘bed’ subsided and by the evening Joshua was fianlly able to close his staring eyes.
We took the boys to the cinema to see ‘Petes Dragon’ and it was a success. we sat on the second row under the screen, so had there not been a row of chartering girls behind us, it would have felt as though the film was being played only for us. The noise behind us menat that I did not feel any embarrassment over the range of noises that emanated from our row of seats. Joshua would shout out occasionally and his friend would get louder and rock in his seat when the action became exciting. It was an entertaining filma and Joshua made no attempt to leave or to sleep so that is a success in my book.
After the film we went shopping, which JOshua tolerated but his friend adores. He loved to rummage for DVDs in charity shops and he came away with a new stash of films and books to enjoy, pleased with his newly acquired treasure. Whereas the highlight for Joshua was when we stopped for afternoon tea, we shared a toasted teacake and Joshua tried to catch the eye, or sometimes the arms, of the young waiters and waitresses. He produced his best smiles of the day for them and was rewarded with his chased response. Joshua gets a thrill from a smile or a greeting from a stranger.
There was a special shared moment between the two teenagers last night, as we were all relaxing after tea, watching one of the new films. Joshua’s friend signed hello to him and asked if he was happy. I helped Joshua to sign hello back, which made them both giggle and then Joshua purposely sat up and waved across at his friend, expressing himself clearly. Then they both went back to watching the television. Joshua does not have many friends with peers and so it was great to witness this brief interaction.. It is a friendhip that I would love to see develop and continue to grow.
22 July is a significant date on my calendar for three main reasons : it is the last day of Joshua’s term at school and so after today, Joshua will enjoy six whole weeks on holiday. We have a variety of activities and adventures laid on for him, as well as some chilling-out time that he will need and demand. We made it to the school disco last night and despite the heat, it was well attended. Joshua did his share of dancing and dozing too, his power naps seemed to restore his energy bursts. But by the time we got home at 9.30 last night, he was wide awake and he threatened to stay up all night. I was grateful for the 4 hours sleep that we did get, as he called out ‘monkey!’ to me at 4am! But it was a handy alarm call as I still had some baking to complete ready for today’s parent coffee morning.
It is the birthday of a friend and we are all going out for a meal to celebrate tomorrow night, after taking part in a 1940s weekend event, so I still have my fancy-dress costume to finalise later. I am hoping that Joshua will tolerate a flat cap as his nod towards the 1940s. We went to the event last year and observed, rather than joining in, so this year we plan to dressup in the period too. It is also carnival weekend in the town where we live, so that promises to be fun too.
But 22 July is, most significantly, the surgery date for my first best friend’s masectomy and reconstruction over in Texas. The time difference means that it is not taking place until 6pm tonight, but she has been in my thoughts all week to be honest. I sent her a card, some pyjamas and Yorkshire teabags to cheer her up and thankfully they arrived at the start of the week and did the trick! I am hoping and praying, for her and her family, that it all goes well and that after this full year of treatment, that she will be cancer free. If positive thought can fight cancer, then she will be cured for sure. So long as men can breathe and eyes can see, she has hoardes of friends and family backing her, so by rights, she will be fine and well again very soon.
So all in all, it is a big day, so bring it on!
I missed an opportunity yesterday as I did not find out until later in the day, after I had published my blog, that it was National Best Friends Day. I had never heard of such a day but I support it fully and I contacted three of my five best friends to wish them a Happy Best Friends day and I will get in touch with the other two a day late.
I cannot stress enough how important friends are in my life and these are relationships that I treasure throughout my life. When they are down, then I like to think that I am there to cheer them up or simply distract them if their demon is too immense to just laugh off, like cancer. What I love about having good friends is the ease with which we can lose hours just talking and giggling, even when we have not physically met for years. That is the mark of a true friend for me, when you can just pick up where you left off and carry on.
A best friend , for me, is someone that you can go nuts with, either being silly or also, ranting and letting off steam, using them as a sounding board and knowing that what you have said will go no further. There is a loyalty in friendship that means that you can have shared secrets that you know are safe, things that you might not dare to voice to anyone else.
I think that I have written before that I am sad that Joshua does not experience friendship in the same way that I do; he does not have the capacity to share secrets and to chatter, but he does have the capacity to choose who he likes to relate to and he makes his preferences very clear. His winning smile would tell anyone who benefits from it that he likes them and he is liable to hug his favourites too. In his class Joshua is working on naming his classmates and this may well be an important step in forging friendships, as there are certainly some young people that he warms to more than others.Previously he has been passive in his friendships and has responded to some ‘motherly’ attention, but now I see that he is starting to be selective and more active in fostering friendships. I know myself, it takes two parties to be trying equally hard to make a successful friendship and I really hope that it is a skill that he can develop, so that he can go on to reap the rich rewards, like I have been able to do in my life.
I have woken up this morning to an email from my friend in the USA who has cancer and was giving all of her friends an update on how she is feeling and how her treatment is going. She sounds so brave at taking it all in her stride and so grateful for all the love and support that she is receiving from her family, friends and the medical staff. This email made me cry and made me glad that I am going to visit, to support her face to face, in just ten days time. Today is her 50th birthday and so she was going to be on my mind today very much already.
She sounds delighted that she is surrounded by helpful, supportive, caring people during this difficult time, but isn’t that the very least that she should expect. I have often experienced real kindness when we have needed it, mainly when Joshua has been unwell and in hospital .Human kindness can make the unbearable, bearable and often you have an opportunity to repay the debt as we each take a turn of needing support, then giving it in return.
I used to think that were some lucky people that had perfect lives, who had no worries at all and they just glided through life while the rest of us struggled on. But now I am older and wiser, I realise that nobody goes through life unscathed. We all have demons to face, difficult challenges to master and obstacles to overcome.Nobody’s life is an eternal picnic, with endless supplies of cake and cheese and pickle sandwiches. Our lives since Joshua have been like a rollerocaster ride : he has good spells, then just as we are getting comfortable with that status quo, something will go wrong and we slide downhill rapidly, then it is a matter of crawling back up out of the dip. That recovery is so much easier and faster to make if you do not feel alone, rather that we have encouraging cheerleaders shouting from the sidelines.
Most children progress in a linear fashion: they achieve a skill or learn something and then it can be ticked off the list as it has been mastered. Joshua’s development is more hit and miss than that. He has good days when he is focussed and vocal, he uses lots of words and he is mobile too, wandering around independently. Then on other days he is just so sleepy that he hardly wants to move or eat, let alone talk – it is as though everything is too much trouble. I think of him as Jekyll and Hyde as he has such different personalities on those days, but he knows that he is much loved whatever kind of day he is having.
So on 15 May, I send my first best friend birthday wishes and a promise that I will see her soon.
It is important to have friends who understand you, friends who can make you smile when you are feeling low, because they know how to reach you, and friends who will support you when you need them, as well as when everything is going smoothly. We all need friends to have a giggle and a gossip with and I feel blessed to have five best friends, each from a different phase of my life. I am still close to them all and I hope that they all know that I will be there whenever they need me. There is a saying that goes ‘ you will always be my friend, as you know too much’ but I really don’t have any black sheep in my cupboards, I just enjoy their company, or emails for those who are further afield.
I feel that Joshua has missed out in his life because he has not got any ‘best friends’ but perhaps boys do not tend to have those same close friendships anyway.My husband tended to have a gang of friends at school and college. Through primary school Joshua had just two petite girls who he related to more than anyone else. He made eye contact with them, he allowed them to mother him and he spoke his first spontaneous words to one of them at nursery, when he rushed in and asked her to ‘look at my face!’, as he still had a ‘spaghetti smile’ on it, as we had rushed out of the house after his lunch.
But he has had no special friends at special school, or since becoming a senior. He is now much more aware of the other teenagers in his class and he certainly has his favourites, those he would gravitate towards and would high 5 and seek them out. He has a vulnerability about him that means that he attracts caring young people who want to take care of him. He is starting to name a few of his classmates and can throw a ball to named people – although it is much more fun to choose to target the opposite person to the named one, then to giggle at his own joke! I know that a lot of young people of fond of Joshua, but I am looking for him to have a reciprocal friendship, where he is kind to someone back, rather that it being a one-sided relationship. Once he can achieve friendship, he will have, in my experience, something very special in his life.