The greatest gift of all…

…is not financial freedom – although that would be kinda nice.  Not health – though as I age, this one’s definitely in the top three.  Love, you say?  It has to be love…well…kind of.  The greatest gift of all, ladies and the odd gent, is friendship.

Having just recovered from Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving, we are now thrown via Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the fear that the toy of the year is nowhere to be found into the Christmas Holiday season.  And in between the mad dashes to Costco, Toys R Us, WalMart, Best Buy and (when I was 15, my sanctuary) the dreaded mall, I’m reminded that while we can buy virtually anything we want, we cannot buy friends…at least not the good ones.

white-bunnyMy very first friends in life mostly did whatever I said – and offered some great advice when I was troubled.  They were my Nabasdag (bunny) and my younger sister.  We never really quarreled except, of course, when Nabasdag would talk back.  In all seriousness, though, my sister was my very first friend.  Not one for my kind of over-the-top exuberance, she was generally very supportive of my highly vivid imagination (like when I created that weird game where we “fed” our My Melody and Hello Kitty bags with paper) and my greatest defender – particularly when my mouth (or my hyper-sensitivity) would get me into trouble.  I loved making her laugh and she, in turn, would indulge me.

They say early friendships have a significant role in shaping and moulding a child into the person they become…and that couldn’t be more true.  As my sister would say, we had a harmonious childhood and despite the odd tug of war over toys and later, clothes, our relationship really was idyllic with no room for sibling rivalry.

Every friend I’ve had, and kept, I can trace back to the fundamental principles of that very first friendship…loyalty, camaraderie, fun, and of course, the freedom to be ourselves.

Friendships change as we go from our elementary years through to the college/university years, and finally to our more steady, stable years of adulthood.  I am often amazed, and truth be told, somewhat envious, when I encounter friendships that started in kindergarten or elementary school – for those friendships have truly stood the test of time.

When you’re in your early years all you look for is someone who can play with you.  Someone on the same page:

Me:  I like to run really, really fast, play hide and seek and pretend that I can tap dance.  What about you?

Potential friend 1:  I like to play Barbies.

Potential friend 2:  I’m the best seeker there ever was and I bet I can run faster than you!  By the way, did you know I’m a spy for MI-5?

I choose friend number 2.  And still do, each and every time.  Friendships were pretty easy and somewhat fluid then.  The circle would change frequently though having learned loyalty early on, I latched on to a couple while the periphery came and went.

heartbreak-finalAs I got older, my needs changed and my friendships became more complex.  My circle of friends helped me through the anxieties of school, rebellion and of course, boys.  Once again, while I had many friends, I also had a core group who walked alongside me from my teenage years right up until my late-twenties.  Together we navigated through many firsts:  first dates, first club nights, first vacations away, first cars and of course, first road trips.  These were the girls who held back my hair when I’d had one too many, and the girls who were responsible for that one too many to begin with.  They saw me through many a heartbreak, my chubby years and my evolution into adulthood.  And yet this group would change and morph once more as we got engaged, got married and started our own families.

It is now that friendships take on so much more meaning.  Besides my injured, purple-toe having, obstacle racing, and judo tournament competing (& winning!) Mr. Niceguy, my girlfriends are the ones that get me through.  They share in a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, a warm cup of coffee and even a board game and in those moments the thoughts of running away from my problems to my imaginary hideaway apartment in the West Village melt away.  I am not alone…

As I experience life more, its ups and downs, from the loss of loved ones, to the birth of my children, to all of my successes and especially my failures it is my friendships that get me through it all.  My friends celebrate with me, commiserate with me, share the burden with me and give my moments meaning – most especially the moments that are most bewildering, gutt wrenching and awe-inspiring.

aristotleThe great philosopher Aristotle said, “In poverty and other misfortunes of life, true friends are a sure refuge.”

It’s true.  It’s easy to recognize the importance of friendships especially when things are difficult or don’t go our way.  So how about we take a moment when we’re celebrating the holidays with our families to take a moment and give thanks for our wonderful friends?  To take a moment and recognize the people who give us wings to soar and provide a soft landing for when we fall?

And hey, if you’re ever looking for someone to play hide-and-seek, hold back your hair, party with, road trip with, grieve with, celebrate with, or just have someone listen to you or fight for you, I’m your gal.  You’re not alone…and neither am I. 

This holiday season while I’m grateful for winning the lottery of life when it comes to my family and extended family, I won the lottery of a lifetime when it comes to my friends.  Old friends, new friends and future friends, I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…

friendship

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Que Sera, Sera…

Despite my resistance, the unavoidable has happened. I am now officially, most definitely a not-cool-middle-aged-mom-person. I was still cool when I first had the 10 year old now over a decade ago, when none other than Rob Lowe said he was the cutest thing ever at a very hip Yorkville restaurant – I took it as a personal compliment because of course, I made this child and so must have rubbed off on him? I even clung onto my coolness (though just barely) when I gave the 10 year old a brother. At that point, I could still be considered “young” with a new family. Still fresh to the job and still just a young, hip, downtown chick.

vintage-laundryNot anymore. My delusions of cool have most certainly faded and now I’m just middle aged. And most definitely like one of the moms you see in the laundry detergent.

I felt the shift last week while I was driving the boys to school when I came to the realization that their favourite music just sounded like a whole lot of loud noise, that playing “this much” with Nerf guns was a sure sign that they may grow up deranged especially in this unhinged world we live in, and that my irrational fear of them one day turning into that which I most dread in this world (teenagers) would inevitably materialize. NOTE: Not only will this be sad because they are growing up much too fast (cliché, but true) but also because it means that I am even more of an uncool middle aged person than I thought!!!

When I first became a mother, I recall thinking, “I am going to be the coolest mom and this job will not define me. I will be my own person, my own self and still a hip trendsetting renegade. True, I love this little human being more than my own life and would sacrifice anything for his happiness. But get those Gap sweatshirts and mom jeans away from me, and I refuse to just roll out of bed, no makeup on, sleep still in my eyes and tie my un-brushed, unwashed, and unkempt hair in a ponytail just to make lunch and get them to school on time! That’s for the birds!” Today was day 4 dirty hair day and I don’t remember brushing my teeth…check toothbrush, bone dry…nope, didn’t make it.

Could it be that I’ve just deluded myself into thinking I was ever cool? That I could fight the forces of nature and just skip middle age and go straight to coolly eccentric older person?

Recently, I’ve taken on a boatload more work…or should I say, work and volunteering opportunities. I’m still volunteering for the Zoryan Institute (a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and analysis of genocide and human rights violations – which fills my soul and is definitely my contribution to my genocide-surviving-grandparents’ legacy), and now I’m also co-chairing the telethon committee of the one and only ARS Armenian Private School which I attended as a child and which is now passing on my culture and heritage together with a top-notch education to my boys – and the kids of my relatives…and those of my friends!

But the bills have to get paid and so I’m also doing some work for a fantastic newspaper you may have heard of…TorontoHye (!!) and finally, putting my training to work, I’m helping to sell a metal fabrication business. And there are even more things in the pipeline so yes, I’m busy. Maybe I’m just too busy and need to dedicate more time and effort to being cool…but then, that’s just SO NOT COOL!!

While it’s incredibly liberating to be comfortable in your skin, to know what you want and to know how to go and get it, is a consequence of this ‘mid-age liberation’ letting go to the point where the delusions of grandeur completely fade away and we just don’t care at all? And so we let things just go to the wayside and don’t make an effort anymore? Is THAT what causes our cool to fade and the mom jeans take over???!

mom-jeans

Years ago, before I had the boys, I remember looking at old photo albums in Mr. Niceguy’s basement of his mom. We lost her too soon and it was my way of trying to get to know the person that she was in an effort to get to know the man that I married. I recall that in her early years as a mother she had a very elegant figure, long, glossy, blonde hair and would wear cool blue jeans – even a bandana! Then as the children got older, her hair got shorter, her clothes became more conservative and she transformed into the woman that I came to know, into Mr. Niceguy’s mother. A steady, warm, loving and selfless matriarch.

I remember when people would say, “You couldn’t possibly be a mother! You look so young!” and with a small smile and polite, “thank you” I would hide the fireworks going off inside me. Those days are falling further and further behind…

I once met a psychiatrist who said something very interesting to me, she said that what I sometimes labelled as crazy (as in, I’m acting crazy, I feel crazy, my kids are making me crazy), she labelled as passion. She also mentioned that passionate people were often guilty of over-analysis…and that perhaps it was best to just accept things for what they are…and let other things, go.

So here it is, I accept you, not-so-cool-middle-aged-mom-person. For I cannot change you. But in an effort to still see vestiges of my “true, twenty-year-old self” I will remember to every now and then break the “I’m-a-proper-mom-and-good-example-to-my-kids” rules and climb over the construction tape just to scrape my name into a freshly poured, concrete sidewalk – and then promptly walk (run) away with a smile on my face when I get in trouble…like today.

I leave you, readers, with a song that my mother used to sing to me and my sister – in the wise, wise words of Doris Day:

When I was just a little girl I asked my mother
What will I be?
Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
Here’s what she said to me

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera, what will be, will be

When I grew up and fell in love I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead?
Will we have rainbows? Day after day?
Here’s what my sweetheart said

Que sera, sera…

Now I have Children of my own they ask their mother
What will I be?
Will I be handsome? Will I be rich?
I tell them tenderly

Que sera, sera…