There are moments that linger in your mind for a long, long time, images so strong that time does not erase them. Two girls sitting outside on a terrace on a late April afternoon that felt like summer, eating an ice cream and celebrating a birthday.
I often remember that day. I wonder why I consider it so special. After all, it was not a great party or celebration – just the two of us sitting together as we did so many times, talking and enjoying a delicious ice-cream on a warm afternoon. Maybe because it was a hot day, not so usual in April; maybe because it had been warm for some time, and we had already been to the beach several times, so we were feeling on top of the world with a great tan that much improved our looks. As much as I think about it, I cannot find an answer.
The odd thing is that you feel the same. Even last weekend, when we had our usual video call in these times of confinement, we talked about how this year we will not be celebrating your birthday together; you suddenly mentioned that ice-cream of long ago, and I was startled, because I was also thinking about it. I can’t remember what flavour mine was, let alone yours, but I can still remember having that the exhilarating feeling that we were having the time of our lives, that anything could happen, and we were ready to grasp it. Most of all, love was in the air: we were in love with someone, for sure – weren’t we permanently in love back then? – but most of all we were in love with life, believing all our dreams would come true. Maybe that’s what made that moment so unique, that feeling that everything was possible, that nothing, absolutely nothing was beyond our reach.
As we sat there on that terrace, slowly savouring the ice cream and feeling the warm afternoon sun on our faces, the world out there for us to conquer, we felt invincible, immortal.
Almost four decades later, we know better.
Not all of our dreams came true, but some of them did. We laughed, we cried, we loved, we hated too, we had moments of great happiness and hours of despair – we have lived full lives. Not always perfect, with things not always turning out as we would have wished them too, but we have learnt so much in the process. Both of us. We have met our challenges, and overcome them, for better or for worse. Through the years, many things have changed. We married, we had our precious children, we divorced, we found love – and disappointment – again, but one thing has not changed. It has remained exactly the same as it was on that April 22 of long ago, when we were eating our ice cream on a Summer-like Spring day. And that is our friendship. Never changed, and I know it never will. For it is the kind of friendship that grows with time, made of moments shared, of long silences simply because we do not need to tell each other what is going on in our minds; made of laughter, of sorrow, of supporting each other during the bad times and celebrating together the happy occasions; of being totally honest with each other even when what we have to say is not pleasant; most of all, of always being there for one another, and knowing it.
My dear, dear friend. We have celebrated your birthday so many times, in so many unforgettable ways, such as those weekends at your country house. And we remember them too, and how we laugh when we recall the crazy adventures we had there. But somehow, the image of that birthday, when we had that special ice cream, that maybe was not so special after all, will not fade away.
As for that ice-cream, no matter how it tasted – something none of us remember – it turned out to be the best of our lives.