Monday, January 26, 2009


I feel so sad. We have just come back from a good bye lunch with Jemima’s beloved friends Marina and Amanda. The three of them are great friends and class mates at school, and Marina is going back to Iceland tomorrow. Even though I am sure we will meet again sometime, I still had to stop myself from squeezing and sniffing the life out of the poor girl as I kissed her goodbye. I just wanted to imprint a bit of her in my memory, she has become such a constant part of our transient lives out here in Cambodia.

Jemima first met Marina when they were two, nearly two and a half years ago, at the little kindergarten they went to a few mornings a week. I remember the day I first met Marina. Jemima was upset about something and Marina marched up to her, sat on the swing next to her and put her arm around her, a tiny fairy godmother with attitude.

Soon after that I took Jemima out of the kindergarten to stay at home with me and we did not see Marina again. Then on their first day at Garden and Gecko school, a year later, the two girls just reconnected like old friends. Neither remembered the other, at least not consciously. But I am sure that on a deeper level they both knew exactly who the other was. These two were always meant to be friends.

“Of course neither of them quite understands”, we parents have been saying to each other. “It will sink in later”. Today I think we were proved otherwise. The two of them argued throughout lunch, like passionate couples often do before a time of separation. Actually they reminded me of James and me when we were first together, each of us travelling for a few weeks at a time. Of course we could put it down to the fact that the girls are both tired, it has been a long week, and Marina must be feeling unsettled at all the goodbyes and packing and changes afoot. But I also believe they are both more aware than we realise that something is coming between them, and this is their way of expressing the uncomfortable not quite understood feelings this sensitivity arouses. You would agree with me if you could see these two together.

For the last 18 months Jemima and Marina have been class mates, and played together at least two afternoons a week – mostly arranged by them. We are only informed of their plans at going home time. I would often be greeted with a laughing Marina saying: “Why did you come to get Jemima? She is coming home for lunch with me today!”

As we drive home from school in opposite directions every day they call out each others’ names from the back of their respective Tuk Tuks, until each is out of sight, just like lovers. You think I am exaggerating? When I asked Jemima today what she loves most about Marina she replied without a pause, “The flowers that she brings me”! Anything else? I asked. “Her heart. The inside smells of flowers.” She once carried a pair of Marina’s pants (I mean knickers, not trousers) around the supermarket, “Because they are Marina’s (and I like looking at Snow White”). We could learn a thing or two about romance from these girls!

One of my favourite things to do is to sit on the sofa and just listen and watch as they play, often with Amanda as well. They get into role more of less the minute they are together and the next hours are spent lost in imaginary games of Mummy, Sister and Baby: “Sister! Sister! You forgot your shoes! We’ll be late for school”, travelling on planes, pulling buggies and suitcases behind them and wearing fleeces in 35 degrees, because “Marina, it is so cold in Iceland, yeah?” “Yeah, and it is so cold in England Jemima, right?”, making houses with all the cushions in the house, painting each others faces... and much more.

Whatever the game, it would inevitably involve changing clothes at least five times each. When they’ve all departed at the end of the day the house resembles my home when I was a teenager, one of four sisters... Knickers, scrunched up inside out t-shirts, odd shoes, pretty much the entire contents of Jemima’s drawers actually, strewn all over the place.

I knew clothes would be an issue with girls at some stage, but I was bargaining on a few more years yet. Jemima, Marina and Amanda come home each day from school with each others’ clothes and flip-flops on. Sometimes they share the shoes out between the three of them, so that they all have one of the other’s; or over the months one of them amasses three pairs of another’s. Our drawers are full of Marina’s knickers. However often we sorted it all out and returned them all, a week later they would be back. I love the fact that we have traces of Marina all over the house.

I feel sure that Jemima and Amanda will miss their darling friend but happy that they will continue to enjoy their own lovely and unique relationship. Until the summer, and then we have to put them through it all again. Hmmm, won’t dwell on that just yet.

If you liked this post have a read of this.

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