“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali
For the past few days, I have been thinking about the importance of real friendship in our lives. The idea that there are so many people around us that are living their own lives and writing their own stories. We could see them, love them, learn from them, if only we could know them. Have you ever looked at one of your best friends and thought, ‘Imagine if we’d never met? What would my life be like without you?’ and actually never wanted to find out? There is so much purity in the feeling of getting to know someone and realising that you don’t want to be without them, and you can’t even imagine what that would be like because they are so interwoven in the tapestry of your life. They were a stranger once; at one point you lived your life without them, unaware that they even existed. What is it that now makes them a friend?
I attend a weekly activity group with older adults of African and Caribbean descent. They organised a needlework workshop, and although I have never really been very good at knitting, sewing or anything similar, I was excited to take part.
Out of canvas bags came soft wool of all colours; pastel pinks, emerald greens, inky blues and fresh whites. Tapestries boasting years and years of history, stories interwoven into the meticulously weaved threads. There were scarves, jumpers and unfinished cardigans for babies that now have babies themselves, as well as crocheted tablecloths seeped in culture and holding the laughter, tears and aromas of a thousand family meals. I held pieces that were created from a mother’s love in 1984, pieces made and loved by people that are no longer with us, pieces that made me think of home, pieces that made me laugh and pieces that could have brought a tear to my eye.
One woman brought a tapestry that she had started with a friend, and sadly, she lost this friend two years ago. It was a project that they intended to finish together, but it was sadly not to be. This lovely woman has spent two years looking at this tapestry in her bedroom but couldn’t bring herself to finish it without her friend. It must’ve taken a lot of courage to bring it with her, and allow us into this story, as well as let another lady help her take the first steps to completing what she and her dear friend started. I found this so moving, and it got me thinking about the importance of friendship, and the symbols of love that we hold so close to us. Even though her friend has passed, their friendship is still to this day interwoven in that thread, and she can keep it forever. She can run her hands over the parts that her friend’s deft fingers wove and laugh about the tricky part that she kept pricking her finger on.
As human beings, we are constantly in relationship; to each other, to animals, to objects. The meaning we attach to the things we are in relationship to manifests into a relationship with. To anyone else, that tapestry appears to be a pretty piece of cloth with some lovely embroidery on it, but to her, it holds love, loss, friendship, time, heartache, happiness and pain. This is the way I see friendship – we encounter people all the time and are in relationship to them in some way. The woman at your local corner shop, the postman, the receptionist at your gym – but it is only when we add meaning to these encounters that we become in relationship with each other – we start embroidering the piece of cloth together, until it manifests into a beautiful tapestry that we can call a strong and lasting friendship.
Kiki Brown is a singer/songwriter and poet whilst being a Friendship Producer for Tiata Fahodzi. With a background that also encompasses acting and community theatre, she has co-run two small-scale theatre companies, touring nationally and is also a drama facilitator.