I grew up with 3 older sisters, two, by birth and one by proximity. I met Barb when I was about 3 years old. Her parents were my parents closest friends in Sydney, Nova Scotia where we both grew up. Not being a true Cape Bretoner, unlike my good friend, I didn’t have any family in the Steel City, and Barb and her family, became that. Even our beloved grandmothers knew each other and had tea together every time they were in town for a visit. My first memory of Barb is a day that my big sisters took us to see Blackie and Brownie – the friendly, neighbourhood dogs. That started Barb’s love of animals – especially her gentle giant of a German Shepherd – Kyla. Ok – maybe just a giant – that dog’s bite was worse than her bark – sorry Babs, but Rascal was the best! I digress, but even though that was the first time I met Barb – we ended up spending a lot of time together over the years. From Mrs. Simson’s plays at Hebrew School to Susan Ross’s Dancing School (best show I’ve ever seen in CB), we both got to wear some flashy costumes.
Barb was the one who prepared me for the departure of my sisters when they had to leave me to go to school. She understood what it was like to be the abandoned, youngest child. With my sister’s being one year apart, and each being six and five years older, I just got used to one being gone when the next one left. It was pretty devastating for this baby of the family, but Barb was still going to be there for two years. She was the one who drove me to school and home again, because my mother just wasn’t a morning person. She was the one who introduced me to two songs (they were the only songs I heard in her car) – “I’m Your Man” (Wham!) and “How Will I Know” (Whitney Houston). Sometimes, we did get to hear “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” but it sounds almost identical to “How Will I Know”. She drove me to GA’s Dairy to get magazines, and she generally just helped me get through a couple of tough years. Eventually, Barb had to move too, but that didn’t mean that would be the last that I would see of her. I still got to see Barb during the holidays, but it was a couple of tough years for me without my other sister.
When I moved to Toronto, Barb once again took me under her wing. She spent a lot of time with me at school and became a fixture in my residence. She gave me the tough advice that no one ever really wants to hear, but you need to listen to. She moved me in and out of residence 5 times. She was the one who checked in on me my first summer living on my own. She was the one who walked the long halls of Yorkdale from Roots where she worked, to Wishful Thinking where I worked, to make sure that I was doing my job.
Eventually everyone grows up, and sometimes, things change, but Barb and I were tied together because of the deep friendship between her Mom and Dad, and my own Mother. They all eventually moved here, and once again, the holidays were spent together. I had the privilege of holding Barb’s twins when they were born. I loved them from the first time I held them – they were as light as Tom Brady’s footballs. I’ve watched them grow from adorable, funny little girls to gorgeous, funny young ladies. They are still, like my own little nieces even though they too are ready to move on to university. As time has moved on, Barb and I have drifted here and there, but somehow, like family, we always manage to find our way back to the comfort that you have when you know someone almost as well as you know yourself. In fact, I think that we are better friends because of it. I trust Barb to keep my confidence, and I know that she feels the same way. You can’t put a price on a friendship like that.
We have each had some difficult times over the last few years, but have been there for each other. It’s brought me so much comfort. It’s knowing that there is someone in the world who knows your whole history. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, you’ll always have an extra older sister, but knowing that I may be able to step in and be the same help to Barb that she was to me. It’s knowing that someone can keep a secret and never hold a grudge. It’s laughing at the stupid in-jokes that we find so hilarious and that no one else would get (Second Noah). It’s the interesting way that Barb has of reading and observing people, pointing out things that I would never even notice. It’s knowing that wherever life may take us, we’ll never be far from each other’s thoughts.
Dr. Oz would approve of this message of gratitude – today, I’m grateful for you, Barb – Happy Birthday to You. I wish you a lifetime of health and happiness. I leave you with this reminder – no matter how old I am, you will always be older than me : )
Gratefully yours and with much love,