Nine years ago, I became a new mother shortly after I moved to the North Shore. The early days of breastfeeding, endless diapers and sleepless nights left me confined to the house, exhausted and — lonely. I was in love with my newborn son, but a piece of me missed part of my previous world, adult companionship.
A few months later, I discovered a local StrongStartBC centre, a free early learning drop-in program in my neighbourhood. (“It takes a village to raise a child”) It was in that bright, welcoming activity-filled room that I formed lifetime friendships with a group of strong, independent, super women and mothers (and a few super dads) over daily cups of hot tea, coffee and freshly baked cheese biscuits. When StrongStart closed each summer, we invited new and familiar families who lived both on and off the Shore to join us for play activities we organized throughout summertime and expanded our village over the years.
We shared tales of wisdom, headache and heartache about the chaos and the joys of raising little ones while our children formed their own playful friendships. Together we hosted play dates, exchanged free babysitting, confided, cried, offered advice, spoke of dreams and fears about parenting. We shared pieces of our inner selves (the humans we were before parenthood) which revolved around fragments of time sketched in between crying babies, toddler tantrums and defiant five-year olds.
It is because we became parents that we became friends the day we all met in that bright sunlit room in Norgate, or were introduced on that first day of kindergarten, or when old friendships revived upon parenthood. That community connection transformed into a foundational piece of our friendship and parenting history.
Over the past five years, a handful of the families moved away from our community to distances as short as a two-hour ferry sailing to as far away as a plane trip to see kangaroos. It’s not often I visit the friends who still live nearby because of our busy lives. Now, it will be much longer before we see each other again or be granted permission to hop on a ferry or book a plane trip to see the others.
We’ve all been faced with the rules of isolation and the notorious “C word.” We can’t visit in person – even if we stand two metres away and may only interact through phone calls and social media. We inevitably pass through time lapses where we don’t attempt to reach out to anyone at all – because we’re overwhelmed with anxiety, fatigue, homeschooling or struggling to remember what day of the week it is.
Here I am nine years later feeling – lonely again, for adult friendship. But today, we hold hands together in spirit because I know we’re all thinking of each other and all of our children.
Some of our kids still play together and I see them grow, while others are “mind’s eye Polaroids” captured at the ages, stages and varying degrees of cuteness of when they last played together or before they moved away – as if they haven’t grown over the years although I’ve seen countless new images of them on FaceBook.
The “C word” affects lives worldwide and it’s clear that during these unsettling times we’re in the midst of making history. Today we’re reclaiming our village that we built nine years ago and reconnecting ourselves through the words of our children across the globe. When our children grow up, it is my hope that they develop similar meaningful friendships that will provide them with the support they’ll need when they become parents, or maybe their playful friendships of today will blossom into adulthood.
I asked the children to write six word stories about how the “C word” has impacted their lives in order to document their emotions, expressions, thoughts, feelings, discoveries and observations during the pandemic and to enable them to share these “six word story time capsules” with their own children someday.
This is what the children of our village wrote:
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
– Winnie the Pooh
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”
– Woodrow T. Wilson
“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.”
Featured photograph: “Ready to fight Corona!” (girl in orange jumpsuit) Isla, Age 9. Photo by Jennifer Morgan.
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