When I was 8 years old, I felt very different to how I do now.
I didn’t understand how to fit in. Everyone else seemed to make friends easily, know the dance moves to songs I’d never heard of, knew how to wear a scrunchie without looking like a member of Fraggle Rock… and I just wanted to read books, build dens and sit in a treehouse.
School was confusing, the lunch hall was a zoo of lions that would growl if you sat in the wrong place and I had a flask of squash, while everyone else had a carton of Ribena or Um Bongo. To make matters worse, my socks didn’t have the frilly bits that everyone else’s socks did.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t unhappy and everyone seemed to like me. I wasn’t bullied, I wasn’t scared and I was quite un-phased about the whole thing… but I knew I didn’t fit.
One day, a new girl came to school. She was called Daphne. She was from Holland. She had white blond hair, big blue shoes, thick red glasses, was really tall, was excited about everything and held the door open for everyone.
We shook hands. And it was true love.
We became Best Friends immediately and needed no one else. We sat together at lunch (she had Dutch bread and cheese and NO RIBENA), we played together in the playground, we visited each other’s houses after school and stood up to bullies together. (Although sometimes I stood behind Daphne – she was taller, after all).
We were warriors. Fighters for justice – we wrote letters to our teachers, alerting them to classmates getting bullied in class. We wrote songs. We read books. We rode bicycles. We had sleepovers. And if we’d had a treehouse, we’d have sat in it all the time.
Daphne was my kindred spirit, and so when her dad’s job took her family back to Holland three years later, I was heart broken.
Daphne left me her hamster (which I think I managed to kill soon after, although I suspect it might have been because he was heart broken too) but it wasn’t enough. We missed each other terribly. And we both went back to not quite fitting in.
We started to write to each other. It started with letters and postcards… and progressed to Daphne inventing her own newspaper, me writing songs and a cassette tape also flew back and forth between us, with us both recording a new little message (or radio play in Daphne’s case) each time…
Slowly, as our lives changed, we met new people, life had new routines and less time was spent on nurturing our friendship… but we were always there in each other’s hearts and minds… keeping each other feeling safe and stable throughout the crazy difficult teens, university and our confusing twenties… and now into our thirties, we still make each other happy, hug each other tightly and love each other more than ever.
Last year, LM and I went to Holland for Daphne’s wedding.
She is a mother of two, a wife, a daughter, a sister… and the most wonderful, beautiful friend I could ever have wished for.
I am so grateful that Daphne with her blue shoes arrived in my class all those years ago, as without her, life would have been very different and I suspect, not nearly as magical.
And now that we have Whatsapp… there’s just no stopping us.
If there is someone in your life, who makes you happy, why not send them a message and let them know… Go to www.we-makehappy.com, upload your #wemakehappy message and your message will be included in Kipling’s amazing, colourful, beautiful balloon installation, taking place at London South Bank on the 18th June… and why not come along!