Due to madness, other illnesses and just plain laxity on my part, I hadn’t caught up with my schoolfriends, Noeleen and Tamara, for 27 years. After reconnecting via our high school’s alumni website, we got together at Tamara’s home in a leafy, riverside suburb.
A few weeks ago, I had met up with some of my cousins after a break of several years and we just laughed and laughed for hours. This meeting was to be the same.
It was a gorgeous, late winter morning in the subtropics. I had recently returned to my daily 6km walk, so took the opportunity to walk the 3km or so to Tamara’s place. And I hoped that maybe I wouldn’t look quite so fat by the time I arrived. For me, such occasions are always fraught with concern over my appearance. I was at least 20kg heavier than the last time I saw them and had quite a few more wrinkles. But these fears just all melted away when I saw Tamara’s smiling face and we hugged.
Noeleen arrived a few minutes after me and we settled in for a wonderful few hours. If laughter makes the world go round, then we must have kept it spinning for quite a while. Tamara’s memory is phenomenal. She recalled shared events which, to me, sounded like somebody else’s life. “Remember the time you ...?” “No. Did I really do that?” I found out that I had even jumped onto the railway line in order to retrieve a 10/- note. What kind of a lunatic would do something like that? Me, apparently.
Life had probably brought deep changes, but on the surface, they both seemed the same. Tamara is very sentimental. But she still says exactly what is on her mind with no space between thought and utterance. What you see is what you get. Noeleen is a more laid back soul, gentle and thoughtful.
Growing up, it seems, we weren’t really aware of the problems in each other’s families, thinking that ours was the only dysfunctional one. Noeleen’s father was a real joker. I remember him once serving me up a plate of live garden snails for Sunday lunch. Tamara’s family were originally from Russia and going to her home was like a trip to exotica for an Anglo-Aussie child from inner suburbia.
In the 1950s the three of us had attended a small primary school close to the city centre. South Brisbane State School. We talked about how grateful we were to have been to such a multicultural school. Our school photos look like the United Nations. I was sent to another school for my final primary years and it was so boringly monocultural. The one Greek boy in my class really stood out in the sea of Anglo-Saxons.
They were both widows now. Noeleen’s husband had died after a long illness, but Tamara’s had died suddenly after an operation. They had both gone through difficult times adjusting to being without their life partners, but seem to be OK now. I never married so cannot imagine the pain they have been through.
Five hours later and promising to keep in touch, we said our goodbyes. I won’t wait for another 27 years next time.