January 15, 2014

The Spotter.

This is a story I wrote and read this weekend at my dearest and oldest friend's 50th birthday party.

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Do you know what a spotter is? It's someone who stands across the room on the gymnastics mat, knees bent, arms outstretched and ready.

You run towards them as fast as you can, skip once and round-off back handspring. They're there to guide you, and support you in the more difficult and dangerous acrobatics. Having a spotter gives you confidence until you can do it on your own.

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Dear QQ,

It was 1977. I was fifteen and you were thirteen... but you acted sixteen and I acted fourteen. It somehow seemed to even out.

You went to a private school for girls high on the hill and I went to public high-school down near the train tracks. By rights we never should have met....but meet we did!

We tumbled our way through weekly gymnastics classes at the YMCA where the high walls of school-only friendships didn't exist. Somewhere in those Saturday cartwheels, walkovers and handstands, between the balance beam and the vault, a friendship sprouted that would last a lifetime.

We spotted each other in those days; I wanted to do a back handspring - you would spot me.

You wanted to do an aerial ....wait, no... actually you never needed spotting for that. You could do that and so much more all on your own.

One night we had a sleepover at one of our houses:

"We need to find some boys!" one of us said.

"Boys? I know where there's some boys," said the other. "There's a home for juvenile delinquent boys just behind my house!"

"No way! Let's go sneak in there!"

Off we went and we managed to find our way into the very quiet and dark building. We giggled in the halls, creeping around for a whole ten minutes but found no boys and retreated back to the house for a mid-night snack.

I'm sure the parenting jury is still out on who is a better influence on who! It matters not. One is always there to spot the other.

As high school concluded, gymnastics petered out and I didn't see you for a few years until one night I caught a glimpse of a vivacious blonde in a downtown bar. I was seventeen and you were fifteen.*

*Please never ever tell my own teenage daughters this story.

I called your name and when you saw me you ran right over and hugged me. It was like we'd never been apart.

This phenomenon of timelessness was to endure through the years. You moved to Toronto, I moved to England. For a few months we intersected in Vancouver before you moved back to Toronto and I returned to Montreal. No matter how long we miss each other, nothing changes between us.

There were broken hearts, terrible losses, risks and leaps in our professional lives and also great successes in love and work. Betrayal and weariness wounded other friendships, but never ours.

We lived in different cities, traveled around the world, bought homes and cars, changed jobs and hemlines. Through all this the spotting continued. When I faltered, you reminded me of who I was. When I doubted my abilities you reminded me what I could do.

You were at my side for our wedding, witnessed the birth of our daughter and taught our ten year old son to snorkel while I trembled in the shallows, afraid of sharks. I wonder how you will spot me next?

How can I describe the depth of our friendship? Are there any words that can go there? Loyalty comes close...understanding, care, and love, all evident in abundance. But none of those words is exactly right.

My husband, our children, my mother and brothers, aunts and uncles and even my grandmother before she died, consider you to be part of the family. The meaningfulness, purpose and love that you bring to our lives is unwavering and true. Because you are my spotter, my friend, and my family. You're the closest thing to a sister that I'll ever have. Sister is the word I'm looking for.

So Happy 50th Birthday!

May we have many, many, many more years of spotting each other!

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I've known QQ for 37 years. How long have you known your spotter?