by Tina Hofman
This blog is not dedicated to theatre, or arts, or working parents. It is dedicated to old friendships: those that date from the time of crooked teeth and falling of our bicycles, over the first experiments with vodka and tears spilled over the first love.
There is a friend I have known since we were seven. She is one of the closest friends I have. I don’t get to see her very often; we live in different countries and lead very different lives. When time permits we talk on the phone, and we are very efficient in that: considering the amount of topics we touch on, an hour of conversation equates to good three hours of seeing each other (we have 4 kids between us ages ranging from 2 to 6 years old).
These phone conversations date from early Nineties, or precisely from the time we were permitted to use our home phones. Although we lived very near each other, our phone conversations could be so long that our mothers used to shout at us to “ for goodness sake hang up, you could have met each other in the park during this time!!”.
My friend makes no attempt in searching for peace and quiet from her kids (2 and 4) during our phone calls. In all honesty, if she did, we would only ever be able talk on very, very rare occasions. Like this, she would call me when she thinks her kids have settled into some sort of an activity. With me on the phone, she is still quite actively involved in their activity, whether by guiding, supporting or chiding them. Often I can barely distinguish whether the remark is directed at me or at her children. She simultaneously talks to all of us.
For instance, I took part in her elder son’s potty training. During one of our conversations I witnessed his failed attempt at getting it right. The upshot was that we managed to keep the conversation going. The downshot was that her younger boy felt desperately excluded and made even greater mess of his elder brother’s accident. All this did not stop our phone conversation, but the accident got sorted and cleaned.
My friend never expresses frustration at not being able to lead a calm conversation and does multi-tasking, multi-talking thing up with natural ease. She makes no issue of her circumstances. Yet, during another particular conversation she has:
- Changed a very soiled nappy
- Breastfed the younger child
- Took her older child to the toilet and supervised
- Made sure they finished their breakfasts
- Prepared hot cocoa for them
- Started waking up her partner gently (he works nights)
- Put me on hold, sorted her childminding
- Nursed again
- Went again to wake up her partner. This time she was not as gentle. At all.
- Helped the older child to dress
- Dressed the younger child
- Helped the younger build a Duplo gun
- Put their shoes on ready for their weekend walk in the park.
We finally stopped out conversation when it was time for them to go out.
My friend and I have a 31-year-long friendship. It sounds amazing. I look today at her face, as to me she is still that same face I met at English language classes at the age of 7. We have lived through a lot together: an earthquake, numerous air-raids, homework, getting drunk together for the first time, we both shared anxieties around our parents’ divorces, she carried me when she though I broke my hip, we climbed mountains and picked mushrooms, we talked sex, love, pain, and worry in depth. I was by her bed in a hospital when she woke up from a general anaesthetic, she helped me handle my Dad during his worst depressions, and when I decided to leave my previous partner and came home to Zagreb she held me for long time and stayed overnight to give support and comfort. We buried our fathers in space of 3 months from each other, both at late stages of our pregnancies.
Children have come only in the last 6 years. This has added a new dynamic between us, no doubt, but change is the only constant thing. This dynamic is so eclectic and rich and real. It the best reminder of the stuff we are all made of.
Part of the inspiration for our show ‘Wonderwoman: the Naked truth” was friendship and it’s endurance and strength. The show is going on a UK tour in Spring 2017, and we need a little help in making the staging that will tour in the back of our car. This is the link for our Crowdfunding campaign, if you feel like chipping in.