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The joy of new friendships that comes with having kids


I met Jane when I was 16, the only friend I still have from my brief pre-motherhood years. We were romantic teenagers and the currency of our friendship, what mattered to us, was what was poetic, beautiful, remarkable.

It was okay to express motherly pride or motherly shame, without judgment.

Soon after leaving school, we hitch-hiked around New Zealand and ended up staying for several years. Just before my 21st birthday, in a share house in Auckland, I had a golden-haired son and suddenly my life was radically different from hers. She was single and working in IT, although it wasn’t called that then; I was at home, washing nappies and doing artist modelling on the side. But our shared sensibility, our way of looking at the world, ran like a glowing thread through the change in our circumstances.

For us both, my child was part of what was poetic, beautiful, remarkable – our lives were outwardly different, but still the same inner compass.

I met Miriam in another share house back in Sydney when my first son was three. She was shy and gentle and, at first, her friendship was with the three-year-old rather than with me. He’d wake early, take a book off his shelf and trot into Miriam’s room and snuggle up with her. She was a potter and I have a photograph of the two of them armed with spoons, burnishing pots nearly as large as him – each of them, pots included, rounded and softly shining. We became friends, slowly and quietly, not through him, but through her art-making and my writing.

By the time my next child arrived, we had moved to the Blue Mountains, still in a share house with Miriam. The new child was an angel who wouldn’t sleep, but she was there, picking him up, cuddling him, rocking him. When she could see I was worn out, she took him without a word and walked around the garden with him, softly humming.


For birthdays and Christmases she gave him delicate presents – a paper Balinese puppet, a plaster copy of a Donatello cherub, which he loved better than any of his other gifts. She was his “other mother”, always there for him – and for me. Later on, when she married a man who already had a three-year-old son, I thought, lucky little boy. Over the years, as she mothered the boy, our connection grew to include our lives as mothers, a central thread for us both.

I recently went to visit Connie in her new one-bedroom apartment. We have known each other through many changes and both of our sons now have their own children. When she opened the door, I saw the wall was covered in photographs – and there in the middle was the magic-potion photograph, the two little faces still glowing in the morning light after all these years.

True Friends (UQP) by Patti Miller is out now. She also gives memoir-writing workshops in Paris.

To read more from Sunday Life magazine, click here.

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