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Remember the days at the old school yard? We used to laugh a lot. Don’t you remember the days at the old school yard? When we had imaginings and we had all kinds of things and we laughed and needed love.. Yes I do… Oh and I remember you!……… Cat Stevens

February 5th… For some reason I always associate this day with the start of the new school year although I know it must have been different every year.  Today, I went back to do a new course in photography.  It was a whole lot easier than that first day at high school where you don’t know if you’re going fit in.  Will you know anyone? Will they like you? Will you be one of the cool kids??  Well today, I didn’t care about that.  I think I’ve finally grown up.  Yes it has taken 51 years, but I’ve finally gone and grown up.  I was comfortable just going in to the class to learn.  I don’t care if people don’t like me, I’m there to learn.  It also always reminds me of my friend Alys.. Her birthday is today and we always seemed to go back to school on her birthday.

Going back to 1973, the first year of high school and I was terrified. Not only was I going to a new school, but I was going in as the bottom of the pecking order having just come from Grade 6 where we were all top of the said order.  We went from wearing whatever we wanted (or our Mum’s told us to wear) to a school uniform.  We went from having one teacher for every subject in the one classroom to having different teachers for every subject and a timetable that told us what room we had to be in, and by when.  It was nerve wracking.

The high school I went to was fed students from about 9 different schools in the district so we went from a school of around 50 students to one of 500.  Of course lots of my friends from Primary School went to the same school but we were split into Forms depending on our surname. Oh yeah great.. My surname started with L… My best friends both started with a W.  Then there were the B’s & C’s..   Still nowhere near my name.. So I was pretty much on my lonesome in the form. Peter and Brendan were in my form with surnames starting with H & M… but in Form 1.. at the tender age of 12, you don’t care if the boys are in your grade.. you want your besties.  It wasn’t to be.

So full of trepidation, I went in to Room 24.  It was a portable classroom and our Form teacher was Miss Phelan.  She took an instant dislike to me which never waivered over the 5 years I spent at Queenscliff High School.   At least she was completely consistent in her torture of me.  I remember feeling scared, lonely and completely overwhelmed.  I made friends pretty quickly with a very pretty dark haired girl called Joanne.  With the ease of children, she very quickly became my firm friend.  (She is still that same firm friend all these years later.)

At playtime… ooops we had to start to say recess, playlunch was soooooo childish, I met up with my Primary School friends, Margaret & Gaylene.  They had just happened to make friends with Joanne’s friend from Primary School, Alys.  It made for a good little group of friends during recess and lunchtimes.  Margaret was white blonde, Gaylene and I both mousy brown and Joanne & Alys both had dark hair.  Alys’s coloring was unique.  She had beautiful straight chestnut hair with straight dark eyelashes, the bluest of eyes and the skin of a porcelain doll.  It was so beautiful & white and was such a contrast to her dark hair.

Eventually Joanne left school and I nagged till I got put in the same form as Margaret, Gaylene & Alys.  I made friends with Janine that year too.  Another wonderful friend.  Our friendship just grew stronger.  Oh we all had fights and disagreements.. that’s teenage girls for you.  But we spent so much time at each other’s houses.  We went to school socials together. Alys & I even made our debut at the same time.  We were all firm friends. When we left school, Alys, Margaret and I even lived together for a few months, which strained the friendship but didn’t break it.  The days spent listening to Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell, Billy Joel’s 52 Street and Cold Chisel’s East albums were fun times.  We thought we were so grown up, living independently.

Eventually the inevitable happens of course, you all start to meet boys, get married etc….. Alys was my bridesmaid as I was hers.  She was Godmother to my first born.  If Lachlan had been a girl his name was going to be Laura Alys.  but he got Lachlan instead (he didn’t look much like a Laura).  When children come along, friendships do sometimes go by the way side.  I would have loved to say that didn’t happen with us, but it did.  We remained in touch but there were lots of misunderstandings.  To make it worse, her husband and I clashed and of course, her loyalty was with her husband as it should have been.

When I divorced, my ex stayed friends with her husband and since there were numerous AVO’s against my ex, it just became fraught with difficulties. There was never a real falling out, just a dropping away.  It was sad but we all know it does happen if you don’t work really hard.  We didn’t.  I remember seeing her at my daughter’s funeral.  She didn’t have to speak.  Her face told me how she was feeling and how she was hurting for me.  Old friends don’t have to speak, they just have to be.

I ran into her a few years later after my Mum died.  She was sick at the time of mum’s funeral and told me how upset she was at not attending.  Again, I only had to see her face to know.  We spent so much time at each other’s houses that we were both close to each other’s parents. She loved my Mum and felt her loss deeply.  I think that’s the last time I saw Alys.

Things got hectic and crazy with trying to get our lives back on track after having lost both Aimee and Mum plus having lived through the trauma of being stalked and hounded by my ex.  It was a very difficult time and I have to say, for me, a very selfish time.  I needed to only concentrate on my boys and me.  We needed to consolidate again as a much reduced family and those years were difficult.

When I shifted up here from Victoria, I had heard from another old friend that Alys had been sick but they told me she was on the improve.  It struck me that I hadn’t had contact with her in such a long time, so I wrote out a card.  I told her I had heard about her illness (though I had no idea what it was) and that I hoped she was on the improve.  I told her I often thought of her and remembered all the good times we had.  I never heard anything back and that was okay.  I needed to say those things.  That was what was important.

About a year after that, I had a phone call from my sister telling me that Alys had passed away.  She hadn’t been recovering from her illness after all.  If I had known, I would have picked up the phone to speak to her.  If I had known I would have flown home to spend some time with her.  If I had known………. but I didn’t.  I thought she would always be around and there would be time for random meetings again.  Not only could I not afford to go home for the funeral, but I knew my ex would be there and I couldn’t risk there being a scene.  I also couldn’t put myself through the hell of seeing him.  I felt selfish and horrible but my doctors and the police advised against it.

On the day of her funeral, I was beating myself up.  What a bad person I was.  I had let  the friendship go and I deserved all the pain I was feeling.  I was sure she had died hating me and that broke my heart as I loved her as much as I did when we were at school, sharing clothes and secrets. I got called out on a job and had to go out which I didn’t want to do.  On the drive a double rainbow appeared in the sky.  I knew, without a shadow of doubt she was telling me she was okay.  When I got home, I turned the TV on and the movie Beaches came on.  That movie always reminded me of our friendship.  I cried and cried until I had no tears left but I knew deep down, she was saying goodbye to me too.

The song from Beaches says it all really.. I know you by heart.. You’re always a part of me.. I know you by heart.. Can’t you see.. It’s no wonder I can love you the way that I do.. I can finish any sentence you  start. I know you.. I know you by heart.  I started a new school today on her birthday.. Just like in the old days.. but this time, she was in my heart.. walking with me, the same as always.  Missing & loving you always Alys..

Happy Friendships… Livvy 🙂