The two characters in the following anecdote/story/parable will go by the names of Girl A and Girl B.
The mothers of Girl A and Girl B were good friends, but the girls were not particularly close. They spoke when they occasionally met, and they were unfailingly civil to each other. They had been out together for a couple of movies (the trips were planned by their mothers) and visited each other’s homes (the mothers wanted to meet), but neither hankered for the other’s company in the way that genuine friends do.
Girl A minded the fact that Girl B pronounced her own name so as to rid it of its ethnic origin. Girl A thought that Girl B was cocky on occasions. Girl A found Girl B’s brother to be a bit of a brat, and, on their odd visit to Girl A’s home, was anxious that he would wreak havoc on her books and DVDs.
Girl B found Girl A too quiet and withdrawn. She found her, in fact, a bit stuck up. Girl B felt Girl A needn’t run to her father for approbation every so often. And while she often found her own brother noisome, she resented that Girl A should want to keep him at an arm’s length whenever they met.
One afternoon, during the summer holidays, they went again for a film (again, planned by the mothers who wanted to meet). Girl A and Girl B sat next to each other – in part because neither wanted to sit alongside Girl B’s brother.
They enjoyed the film. They had pizzas for lunch. And to make a full day of it, they went over to Girl B’s home to play.
Something happened there.
What happened was this: without being prompted, and with the instinct — and instinct for cruelty — that children have, Girl B kept her brother out of the games they played.
But that wasn’t the main thing.
The main thing was that Girl B gave Girl A a miniature poodle made of iron. Girl B had bought lots of these intricately made, beautiful animals on a holiday in Wales, and, after having spent seven hours together, gave the poodle away to Girl A as a declaration of undying friendship. “It’s for you for ever,” Girl B told Girl A. Girl A now considers Girl B to be her best friend.
She can’t wait for Girl B to visit her at home next week. And she is busy making posters and other paraphernalia for a themed party.
It is to be called a Scary Party. Skeleton fingers in oil (bread sticks in olive oil), slippery sewer slugs (spaghetti) and toad’s blood (watermelon juice) are on the menu. Girl A and Girl B will collude to keep Girl B’s brother out of things.
With my adult’s scepticism, I doubt that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. It is the magic of being eight years old, of the easy trust, optimism and innocence that are unique to childhood.