When the theme “Girlfriends” was introduced, I began thinking about all the friendships I’ve had with girls throughout my life in an attempt to discern my own personal checklist of what it means to be a good girlfriend. In doing this I realised that my own friendships didn’t come to mind, but my mum’s friendship with her childhood girlfriends did. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that I don’t have an indescribable appreciation for my own girlfriends and the way they affected my life. But this made me recognise how my mum and her girlfriends showed me that female friendships are reliable and cherished in a way that no other relationships are.
Growing up we wouldn’t see each other often because my family was living in Greece and my mum’s girlfriends stayed in Chicago. My family tried to visit once a year, and when we did the first thing we’d do was have all my mum’s girlfriends come round to our house. All her girlfriends brought their partners, kids, grandparents, dogs, everyone who was a part of their family. These gatherings felt more like family gatherings, and in a sense they actually were because my mum and her girlfriends are godparents to each other’s kids. They all took turns baptising each other’s kids in the Greek Orthodox church where they all met as children.
Reminiscing about our visits to Chicago and thinking about my own experience with my school friends at university made me wonder if my mum found it difficult to maintain her friendships with these girls throughout university. She told me that despite actually going to the same university with one of her friends and not being very far from the other one, she found that they grew apart during this time. Not for any particular reason, they hadn’t fallen out or taken a dislike to each other, they simply took university as a time to explore their interests independently and make their own set of friends. However, as soon as university finished they connected again, and their relationship from friends to family. This led me to ask my mum if she ever thought that her friendship with these girls would have lasted well into her sixties when she was younger, and she replied that without consciously thinking about it, she never thought of them not being a part of her life.
The fact that their friendship withstood temporarily growing apart in university and my mum moving to an entirely different continent more than three decades ago, shows me that the friendships with the girls you grow up with remain unaffected by the distance you are way from each other and the amount of haven’t seen or spoken to each other. Thinking about this gives me great comfort, especially now as I’m getting used to being separated from my own girlfriends from school. We’re all sprawled across the UK in Bath, Bristol, London and Edinburgh for university. After years of being in the same classes and playing cards every lunch, now we only see each other once a month, if that. Even though I am confident that my friendships with these girls will last, in moments of insecurity and stress I catch myself worrying that our friendship won’t be like it was before university. But my mum’s friendship with her girlfriends reminds me that time and distance won’t diminish your connection with the girls you grew up with, because these kinds of friendships are unconditional and don’t need constant communication to grow.
by Eleni Papanyotou