It’s not notes passed between seats, or allocated bits of time to play. Nor is it seeing our best friends (or worst enemies!) every day.
Friendship is running wild, wooden swords clutched in the hands of every child. It’s being half naked at the zoo, splashing in the stream or chasing pigeons. Friendship is bouncing on beds, and rolling down hills, and building towers out of rocks in a shallow river.
It’s holding hands and spinning in a group circle in a (decidedly not very hot) hot tub, to see if we can make the water current strong enough to keep whirling us when we lift our feet up.
It’s helping each other down when someone is stuck at the top of a five story soft play and is weeping because she can’t get down. It’s eating biscuits in the rain, in the garden of your pottery class. It’s running in circles at gymnastics, laughing and making everyone else laugh, too.
Friendship is crawling under the hole in that one fence. It’s being able to be naked, or wear your pajamas, or dress up in any variety of costume and have your friends not bat an eye. It can be sitting next to each other on the couch, trying to beat a tricky Angry Birds level.
It is increasingly wild roughhousing, or being pirates on the top bunk of someone’s bed, or poking fungus with a stick. Entering pumpkin carving competitions and painting faces. Holding hands at the farm and stomping in mud.
We dance at the front of churches holding free concerts (even when our mama feels uncomfortable and a mean old man grumps at us), we hide in bedrooms and stage huge wars, we watch favourite cartoons together.
Friendship is your friend giving up her pushchair to allow you to be pushed when you’ve just broken your collarbone. It’s someone coming over to check you are okay when they see you crying. It is holding hands and spinning, it is chasing, it is watching dance recitals given to an audience of four.
It’s hunting for Gromits, looking at fake brains, playing in tubes of starlight, dressing up as animals. Sending each other texts when the only thing we can halfway reliably write is our name. Emailing each other pictures we think the other people might like.
It’s climbing up the world’s longest slide. Sharing scooters. Eating popsicles in the garden, sun beaming down in the instant before you decide to jump in the paddling pool. It’s trying new things, and going back to old things, and doing it together.
But the key is doing it when we want to. Seeing our friends when we all want to and have the time, doing things we enjoy and people have chosen to do. Spending hours, and sometimes whole days, with the people we want to be with. Being friends with people because we like each other, and I’ll tell you: friendship is something we treasure.