We all need Remember Whens


St Francis Bay freelance journalist Beth Cooper Howell takes a look at the other side of life in Woman on Top, her weekly lifestyle column for The Herald.


They were blistering hot, so I broke Daniel’s fried chips into little pieces.

My friend Sandra, his mother, watched. He studied the bit I’d mushed and blown on, then took a full chip and cooled it down himself.

“Just a word of advice,” said Sandra behind her hand, stage-whispering and surreptitious, as moms are. “Don’t cut the chips. He doesn’t want the chips cut. Don’t risk tossed chips. Not worth it really.”

I have a thing about hot food and little mouths – to the point of paranoia.

I also fantasise horribly about dangerously open gates and large bodies of water, even when there are parenting eyes and ears all over the blessed place. I need to get a grip.

So, any other time, I’d have felt like an interfering control freak. I mean, seriously, I’ve met the gorgeous wee man all of three times and I was trying to foist my chip issue onto him already.

But because it was Sandra, and this was her son, I just giggled. It was okay because Sandra is one of my beloved Remember Whens.

We all have one or mostly a few. We need them more than we realise and, frankly, Remember Whens are an intrinsic part of a well-balanced woman’s life.

There’s that e-mail doing the rounds about friendship. You know, the one about how people are in our lives for a reason, a season or for life. Something soppy like that.

Remember Whens are like super-glue at a children’s craft session.
They stick to you long after everyone’s gone home and you’re trying to put on face cream with the only two clean fingers you have left.

I possess a tiny handful of Remember Whens and I love them “stukkend”.

They’re the ones who’ve given you a life sentence in the most positive way.

Take Sandra. Before our slap-up lunch reunion that day, I’d last seen her a year ago and before that, maybe three years had passed since we’d had a hug and a coffee.

I’ve known her for more than two decades and we’ve been friends for at least 10 years.

The beauty of Remember Whens is that they knew you BK (before kids) and BS (before stuff).

They thought you were fab then and they still think you’re swell now.

Life has happened, but the core “you and me” is solid as concrete, no matter how much time passes or weight creeps.

This type of mateship – it’s more intimate and chilled than a basic friendship – doesn’t depend on SMS conversations or weekly supper clubs. In fact, months might go by before I remember that I need to tell a Remember When something salacious or grossly unimportant.

Then I’ll make contact and we may or may not decide to meet or gossip on the phone, glass of wine in hand.

It just doesn’t matter that I don’t see Sandra often. Or my other Remember Whens. When I do, it’s as she says :“I haven’t seen you forever. Then, when I do, we just click right back into it.”

And that doesn’t mean that your current friendships are any less solid.

See, the beauty is that a few of the people you hang with now are quietly, beautifully, settling into a Remember When relationship with you.

Like a slow-cooked stew, you’re laying foundations with them that’ll give you things to remember and chuckle about later on.

By that time, neither of you may have any teeth left, let alone pert derrieres – but you’ll still have one helluva laugh.

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