The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Time Out With Old Friends

by Jennifer McDougall

This Family Day long weekend, my oldest and dearest friend Tracy invited us to join her family for skiing in southern BC. The ten of us would stay together at a friend’s cabin. It was strangely comforting driving out for a weekend in a place we didn’t know, with friends we rarely see. As kids, Tracy and I shared a birthday week and a postal code and damn near everything else, but as adults with busy families, opportunities for visiting seem to have disappeared.

We telephone, we email, we attend all the typical milestone celebrations: a husband’s 40th birthday party, a grandparent’s funeral, a sister’s baby shower, a child’s baptism, wedding anniversaries, and retirement parties. The infrequency of our visits had me mildly worried that the weekend might bring on a few bumps.

The spacious cabin was more than we needed even with six kids and two husbands between Tracy and me. It had been built decades ago by the owners and the interior wooden plank walls were decorated with memories of ski trips over the years: blown up photos of large friendly groups, including Tracy's parents, toasting après ski, and mounted jigsaw puzzles completed by those same friends.

A guilty twinge rose in me at the sight of these happy people celebrating their friendships. I worried that there’ll be nothing left of my friendship with Tracy if it continues to occupy a low priority. She is someone I love, someone very important to me and I already regret that our time together often gets shoved to one side.

Together we cared for our children this weekend, completely trusting one another: feeding them, guiding them down the ski hill, putting them to bed. We were two sides of the same mother reading each other’s minds as we used to: her, the determined, purposeful hard worker; me, the slightly calmer, carefree chatterbox.

She let me go on and on about my kids, listened with genuine interest as I described my elaborate dreams which float beyond her practically designed comfort zone. I kept her company in the kitchen where she is most at home. Her, busily chopping and stirring and tidying; me, offering to help, but only halfheartedly because both of us know she’s the better cook and that she’d really rather do it herself. The many times she’s yanked an awkwardly positioned wooden spoon from my hand make me smile today. In the kitchen she’s always been the authority, even as teenagers I‘d pop by her parents’ place when I smelled Tracy’s Saturday morning pancakes on the pan.

It wasn’t long before we fell into our comfortable routines of friendship that were built in from the beginning, long before we knew how to manipulate or control them. The ways in which we would forever relate to each other were forged at age seven.

Yesterday, our final day at the cabin, I followed Tracy out to the deck where she could smoke before driving the three hours home. Together we relaxed in surprisingly warm weather, away from the noise of the kids, just the two of us beneath treed snowy mountains next to a lovely log cabin.

She told me about the last time they came out here. “The kids set up a store with these rocks.” She gestured to a row of stones each at least the size of my fist lining the top edge of the deck railing. “They banged them against each other until they split.”

I lifted two pieces of a grey oval set beside one another as she spoke.

“There were some that broke in two and meshed back together perfectly. The kids called them friendship rocks.”

I pulled the mates apart again and saw that there was nothing visible missing, nothing lost in the time they had been separated. The two fit back together like nothing had ever come between them, like nothing could.

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13 Comments:

Blogger MelBell said...

This was beautiful, Jen. "Friendship rocks". Indeed, it does. :-)

Tue Feb 20, 10:05:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger MelBell said...

p.s. That little angel in the picture - that's yours, right?

Tue Feb 20, 10:08:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger lisa ling said...

this leaves me with the desire to rush back to Canada, visit old friends, and share a cup of hot cocoa by the fire after spending the day laughing and rubbing my cold hands on the hill...i love the feelings you've evoked in this piece.

Tue Feb 20, 10:47:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

That's the baby of our family - he'll be three in a couple of months. First time on skis for him - he enjoyed it for a while and then said, "Mommy, take these things off my feet."

Tue Feb 20, 11:24:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

A beautiful piece of writing, Jen. I love the "two sides of the same mother" and the "friendship rocks." It is true that marriage and children and busy careers can come between good friends and that hurts.

Tue Feb 20, 12:58:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger H.E.Eigler said...

Great post Jen! It sounds like you had a great weekend away and time to reflect. It shows in your writing - beautiful!

Tue Feb 20, 05:52:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

This is sweet, Jen. I love the synchronicity.

Family Day? That's an Alberta thing, isn't it? Does everyone celebrate it? I'd love to hear more about its history.

Wed Feb 21, 12:37:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Thanks Tamara. Yes it is an Alberta holiday started by Don Getty, the premier before Klein - fifteen or twenty years ago. That would have been a great topic to write about!

Wed Feb 21, 12:39:00 pm GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jen, you write like an angel.

Diane
The Maple Room

Wed Feb 21, 02:10:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

The rock is a beuatiful image. This piece will stay with me for a long time. Thanks, Jen.

Wed Feb 21, 04:10:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Lovely post, Jen. I still think about my childhood friends from time to time. You're very fortunate.

Wed Feb 21, 07:22:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Thanks eveyone for reading, commenting. I love that I was able to write about someone who has been so special in my life for over thirty years.

Thu Feb 22, 01:05:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Patricia said...

you're both very blessed. I too have a friend that I've known since high school. It's a special bond, I cherish it. You do too, love this Jen..xoxo

Fri Feb 23, 12:06:00 pm GMT-5  

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