This week's gallery theme is friendship.
Friendship is something I regularly agonise about. Even at my age (39!), I still feel sad about certain aspects of the way I grew up - moving to a new country or school every few years meant saying goodbye to friends - good friends, great friends and could've-been-the-greatest-of-friends, far too often. I know people who had a similar childhood to mine but instead of finding it hard to make friends are just the opposite. They can talk to anybody easily. My brother's one of these people. But not me.
As I grow older I notice with painful awareness that I am a lot less open than even I used to be. In addition to leaving friends every few years, perpetually being the new kid breaking into existing circles of friends, I've moved to a country where most of the people I met and meet now already have lifelong best friends, or who are busy with lives too full to make new ones, or much time to turn new acquaintances into new friends. Plus, over the years, many of the few close friends I've made in the 10 plus years of living in London have moved away or drifted away. We're still in touch, but we see each other rarely. Once a year, if that. It does make me more grateful for the one or two I still have in my life, but I fear the whole issue of friendship has made me feel bitter and disillusioned.
I'm much more hopeful about Jake making friends. He's not quite at that age yet though. In the playground, he is wary and cautious of other children, who tend to be bigger than him and more boisterous. He goes to nursery two mornings a week and his keyworkers call the other children his friends, but I don't know how he feels about them.
The one child he does seem to have made friends with is E. She is 2.5 years old and lives across the road from us. I kept seeing E's mum coming and going with her when we first moved here, and she just seemed nice. So one day, I crossed the road and said hello. And she is nice. Lovely, kind, generous and cheerful. After many months of seeing each other, standing at each other's windows and pointing at each other, playing in the playground and in each other's houses, E is the only person whose name Jake knows and uses. When he sees her, he points and calls her by name. I'm told by E's mum that she does the same. And that when she's lonely, she suddenly say's Jake's name, over and over again. "She's very serious about her friendships", E's mum told me. "Just like me."
"Me too," I replied. I'd like to think that E's Mum and I have become friends too. We've known each other for over a year now, but it still feels like early days. Some weeks we bump into each other or go to the playground or playgroups together and talk often. Then weeks go by without much contact. I'm still hoping that they won't move away. But these things don't concern Jake & E. They aren't even aware of them yet.
That's why I've posted these photos of them together. Friendship - simple, serious, joyful. Just like friendships should be.